It has not been often in their recent history that the dominant Detroit Red Wings have been on the verge of completing the upset of the playoffs. However, they enter Chicago's United Center on Saturday night for Game 5 with the arch-rival Blackhawks with a chance to do just that. The seventh-seeded Red Wings could beat the top-seeded Blackhawks and dump a team that didn't lose in regulation for half a season. A team that won 36 out of 48 games in the regular season. Everyone's favorite to win it. They could be dunzo with a little more Detroit magic on Saturday.
After Game 4, the Blackhawks have to be as frustrated as ever. Jimmy Howard shut them out, and the Hawks offense came nowhere close to looking good. Despite outshooting Detroit, they only barely did (28-27), and they couldn't muster more than 14 shots total in the last 40 minutes of the game. That's insane, considering what many thought of Detroit's defense headed into this season. That's not good enough, and Chicago will be eliminated if they come up with another performance like that.
Game 5 on Saturday night brings a chance for a better performance, however. The Hawks return home, where the crowd will be noisy, if anxious. They'll presumably be a little more comfortable. Teams have come back from 3-1 deficits, at least moreso than they've come back from 3-0 deficits. You win tonight, you get one shot at beating them on the road to force Game 7 at your place. Of course, if you lose ... well, this becomes one of the more disappointing teams in hockey history.
Will Jimmy Howard continue to be the story on the Detroit side?
What a name the New York native is making for himself this postseason. If USA Hockey has any sense, it'll be a battle between Howard and Jonathan Quick for the starting job in Sochi, provided NHL players participate. He's thwarted the Hawks at almost every turn the last three games. You can start to see the frustration. All he has to do is out-play Corey Crawford one more time and he's in a conference final, where he might face Jonathan Quick. I like his odds.
Will Jonathan Toews' struggles continue to be the story on the Chicago side?
I mean, it can't not be, right? Toews going goalless in these playoffs will be the one thing everyone discusses in the obituaries if the Hawks go down tonight. Just because he won a Stanley Cup at a young age does not make him infallible. There is no excuse for the Blackhawks to be having this much trouble in a second-round series. The blame will be his if they fall on Saturday.
Is Detroit's 'D' the difference?
How about a little credit for this bunch, who nobody thought anything of when the season began without Nick Lidstrom. To be fair, any defense with Carlo Coliacovo on it isn't worth much thought initially. But they've gotten big performances from guys like Jakub Kindl, Jonathan Ericsson, Niklas Kronwall, and even guys like Coliacovo and Kyle Quincey to stop the star-heavy Chicago offense. Detroit just might return to prominence faster than anyone thought because of them and Howard.
Time: 8 p.m. ET
TV: NBC, CBC