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posted: 5/14/2013 7:17 PM

Blackhawks catch break facing Wings…but must be ready

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  • The Blackhawks will have to step up their game against the Detroit Red Wings if they want to be celebrating again after the second round.

      The Blackhawks will have to step up their game against the Detroit Red Wings if they want to be celebrating again after the second round.
    George LeClaire | Staff Photographer

  • Goalie Corey Crawford and the Blackhawks open their series with the Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday night at the United Center.

      Goalie Corey Crawford and the Blackhawks open their series with the Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday night at the United Center.
    George LeClaire | Staff Photographer

 
 

In order to win the Stanley Cup, you need equal parts luck and skill.

The current Blackhawks team undoubtedly has the talent -- and so far they are finding all the breaks.

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On the final night of the regular season, it fell nicely for the Hawks as they received Minnesota, rather than stronger clubs Detroit or Columbus.

Minutes before the first game against the Wild, Minnesota lost its starting goaltender, who was replaced by a rusty backup. Even after that, the Hawks faced a third-stringer, and then the injured backup again.

That's a lot of good fortune already, and yet it continues.

Gone from the Western Conference playoffs is the most physical team in Anaheim, the No. 2 seed that gave the Hawks fits. Gone is a Vancouver team, the No. 3 seed that loves to pound the Hawks. Gone is a St. Louis team, the No. 4 seed that makes targets of the Hawks' best players and tries to win games by roughing up their opponents.

Of the teams they could have faced in the second round, instead of getting a big and physical San Jose club, the Hawks get the Red Wings, a team that isn't physical and doesn't have the level of skill it did in the past.

All in all, getting Minnesota and Detroit the first two rounds was the best possible result. The Hawks couldn't have ordered it up any better. They were the two teams with the least size and desire to hit -- the bottom two seeds in the tourney -- and the Hawks are a team that doesn't always respond well to a physical beating.

Now, that doesn't mean Detroit will be an easy out. Not at all, in fact. With the exception of one game, the Wings played the Hawks tough all season, and they displayed some great hockey in taking down the Ducks with Jimmy Howard playing terrific in goal.

But the Red Wings are the Hawks, and the Hawks are the Red Wings. They play the same game and the Wings will not present a huge threat to the NHL's top seed if the Hawks can flip that switch and start to play great hockey again.

Against Minnesota, the Hawks barely put together a good period, let alone a good game, until Game 5 when they came out hard from the start and took advantage of Josh Harding's injury.

After that game, however, Jonathan Toews was honest about how much better the Hawks have to be, and Joel Quenneville did not disagree.

"We still have to get a different type of pace to our game that's catching up to the other series being played," Quenneville said, sending a clear message to his team. "This is what the playoffs are all about. It's not the regular season.

"I don't think we should be happy with our play. I'm not doing cartwheels the last two games. I still think there's another level we gotta get to and be more consistent in our game."

Quenneville is 100 percent right. Toews knows it, Patrick Sharp knows it, and Duncan Keith knows it. You don't get the sense that all the Hawks yet know that, and Detroit will offer a wake-up call if the Hawks don't hear the alarm in Quenneville's voice.

But great teams do what they have to do to get by, and the Hawks did just enough to get by Minnesota.

Now, it's time to start cranking it up. Detroit is no pushover and the Hawks better be ready from the outset.

Luckily for the Hawks, they're also not facing the biggest and meanest teams, like Anaheim, Vancouver, St. Louis, Los Angeles or San Jose.

That's a huge break.

Of course, when it's your year, it's your year, and there's a lot about this that feels like it's the Hawks' year.

I make it the Hawks over the Wings in six.

brozner@dailyherald.com

•Listen to Barry Rozner from 9 a.m. to noon Sundays on the Score's "Hit and Run" show at WSCR 670-AM, and follow him @BarryRozner on Twitter.

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