It must be as good a time to be a Detroit Red Wing right now as it has been in any time since they won their last Stanley Cup in 2008 (or perhaps when they won the right to compete for another in 2009). You've got a 2-1 series lead on one of your arch rivals the season before you'll likely not face one another again in the post-season for many years. Nobody expected you to be here: in the post-season, in the second round, ahead of the Blackhawks. None of this was predicted, expected, or even believed when I told people it was happening.
That said, there's a downside in that everyone still doesn't really expect much of them. The Blackhawks will find their form in time for tonight's Game 4 and run off three consecutive wins to take the series. Jonathan Toews will find his scoring touch again. The defense will play better in front of Corey Crawford, who will also play better. The Red Wings are just biding time until the stars of the Hawks return.
Game 4 proves pivotal then. If the Hawks show up and play their game, they should win and take the series back to Chicago even. However, Detroit is ready for Chicago's best game. They know they can beat the Hawks, they've done it two in a row. If they win tonight, the Hawks need three straight to avoid one of the most disappointing post-seasons ever. Detroit has the chance to do something special this evening.
Is Jonathan Toews ever going to score again?
We've been focusing on struggling players in the Eastern Conference, like Rick Nash and Tyler Seguin and Brad Richards. Jonathan Toews, however, is still goalless in eight games this post-season, and that's a problem for the Blackhawks. He's their captain, and he put up a performance a lot of folks felt was worthy of a Hart Trophy nomination during the regular season. If Toews stays off the board, it's pretty likely going to be the longest short summer ever for Chicago.
Does Corey Crawford have a performance in him that's better than Jimmy Howard?
We all kind of agree that the Blackhawks are better than the Red Wings, even though none of us would ever say that Corey Crawford is at the same level as Jimmy Howard, especially after the first three games of this series. Crawford at least needs to equal Howard if the Hawks are going to right the ship. Oh, and remember how good Ray Emery was during the regular season? When does he become an option if Chicago keeps losing?
Who turns it around for Chicago?
Okay, so if the narrative is waiting for Godot, who is Godot for the Blackhawks? Toews? Hossa? Sharp? Kane being even better than he has been the first few games? Crawford putting up a goose egg? Some help from the defense? Nick Leddy and Nick Hjalmarsson finding their offensive touch again would be nice. Who's going to save the Blackhawks season, which is what Game 4 has to be about?
Game Time: 8 p.m. ET
National TV: NBC Sports Network, CBC