Q How about a quick scouting report on the Red Wings?
A. Right off the bat you look at Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, they’re two of the best players in the world in all areas of the ice. You start there and then you have goaltender Jimmy Howard, who has been very good this season— maybe their most consistent player all year. He came up big in the series against Anaheim.
They’ve got a lot of guys who have been there before and have won it, and for those guys who haven’t, they’re learning from the guys who have.
You look at that young line — Gustav Nyquist, Damien Brunner and Joakim Andersson — they’re all rookies. They see how hard guys like Datsyuk and Zetterberg work on both ends of the ice and its infectious.
They have a good hockey team and one thing they have in their favor this year that they didn’t in the past is that they’re considered underdogs, from other people, not within their locker room. They can go under the radar and have the pressure be on the other teams now. The pressure in that series was all on Anaheim. They were expected to win, they were the higher seed.
It’s a stunning upset, everyone said, but it’s not because they’re the Red Wings and they’ve got world-class players that can get it done.
When you have a winning culture like Detroit does, it breeds success.
Q. A lot of experts are looking at this as the smoothest path through the playoffs for the Blackhawks. I take it that’s not a good way to look at it?
A. Anaheim probably looked at their matchup with Detroit and thought, ‘Well, this isn’t a bad matchup, they’re not as physical ....’
Detroit can play. They’re as tough as any team in the league without having the fisticuffs. You see how hard they compete when they go into the traffic areas. They’re maybe the best team in the NHL over the last decade or so in getting to the front of the net and paying the price.
And that doesn’t mean that they have to fight. How many times did Tomas Holmstrom fight? But he was one of the toughest players who ever played the game as far as I’m concerned. He’d take a beating in front of the net but he’d get up and do it again and again and again. That’s the mentality they have.
That is a very tough team. It’s not a fighting toughness, it’s a mental toughness that’s second to none.
Q. Does it help or hurt that the Hawks won all four meetings against the Wings during the regular season?
A. That one game just got out of control for Detroit (a 7-1 Hawks win), otherwise all the other games went into extra time.
These two teams are very evenly matched. They play a very similar game: they like to create offensive opportunities, they work extremely hard at both ends of the ice and there’s high level skill in all areas.
I’ve always considered that if you’re going to win a Stanley Cup, you’re going to go through a Red Wing team.