After that delightful win against the Blues it is time for the Wings to head into Chicago for the teams' second meeting of the year. We all remember the first one. On the bright side, we won't have to suffer through a banner raising, copious amounts of Eddie O, cello versions of U2 and some unintentionally hilarious moments when half the players on the ice weren't there last year. On the bad side, we won't get to ruin another banner raising. The Hawks have been up and down this year, but don't be fooled into thinking this will be easy. The Hawks still have a strong core and a lot of players that can steal a game. And they're gonna be pumped. The Wings are stealing back the division and conference crown and the Hawks aren't gonna let that go without a fight. Add in 22,000 people in the United Center cheering them on, shouting "Detroit sucks" and booing when the refs call offside and icing and the Wings are gonna have to perform. But we can win this. The Wings have a better and deeper team. The Wings have a better goalie. The Wings have Pavel Datsyuk and Nicklas Lidström. The difference though, should lay in the 3rd and 4th lines. Every time I watch the Hawks this year, I see the two top lines play real well, but the team often loses momentum when the bottom two lines come on. The Wings might have the best bottom two lines in the league and hopefully they can take advantage of this. So the Wings need to go out, get to them early and play a stable and tough game all night. And they need to say hi to Tomas Kopecky and remind everyone why he was a guy who barely placed on the roster in Detroit. And dear God, please let me get an FSD feed on ESPNPlayer.
Anyway, even in the toughest rivalries there are awesome people on both sides and Brent Zartler from the great Hawks blog Earn Your Feathers was kind enough to answer my questions about the Hawks and give us a little insight before tonight's matchup. Here are his answers:
1. The Hawks losing several players because of the salary cap was one of the big NHL stories this summer. Has this affected the team more or less than you expected? Which player do you miss the most?
Brent: I really think it's about what I've expected out of this team. I knew it was going to take some time to gel with the new line mates and I knew that the load was going to be put more on the shoulders of the core players. At times this season they've looked really tired and it shows that they had a lot of ice time last season. The player I've missed the most is Andrew Ladd. Ladd is one of those guys who shows up every night and does his job and does it great. That is why he is wearing the "C" in Atlanta. Great team player.
2. With the play of Corey Crawford lately, a goalie controversy seems to be brewing in Chicago. Do you think Crawford is good enough to take the number 1 spot and keep it?
Brent: I'll be the first person who will say I didn't have much respect for Crawford but he's not only won my respect but a lot of respect out of the fans in Chicago. I knew a lot about him but wasn't sure he could be a NHL goalie and I'll admit I was wrong this kid is good and very fundamentally sound hockey player. Knowing Joel Queneville he'll give starts to anyone who is winning and the Hawks just seem to play better and more confident in front of Corey anyways so let the kid play.
3. The Hawks have seemed a little inconsistent when I've watched them. Some games they look great, other games they look like they have big holes. How good is this team really? How far can they go?
Brent: Just like the wings last season the injury bug has been haunting us. How good are they? I really don't know still. I still think this team can make the playoffs and go deep it. When they have all of their players healthy who knows but I still think they are a good team that could surprise some teams in the playoffs.
4. What do you fear from the Wings in Friday's game? What do the Hawks need to do to beat them?
Brent: Puck possession. The Hawks should fear the Wings ability to play long stretches with the puck. The Wings also score in bunches so if and or when the Wings score they need to get momentum back and do it fast otherwise the Wings can bury you real fast and play the keep away game. The Hawks need to beat them at their own game and keep the puck in the Wings zone to have a shot at winning.
5. What should the Wings fear about the Hawks? Who will they need to shut down?
Brent: Personally these two teams don't fear each other and know each others game very well. The Wings know about the Hawks speed and aggressive style. The Hawks took a page out of the Wings play book last year and played the puck possession game all season so the Wings and Hawks know each other very well. I've heard that Patrick Kane should be ready to go Friday so the Wings will have to look at shutting down the first line of Kane, Toews and Stalberg.
Great answers from Brent, seeing how these Hawks fare for the rest of the season will definitely be interesting. And Crawford, the way fans felt about him and what he has done sounds a little like Howard last year, huh? Anyway, thanks to Brent for doing this!
8 months ago