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Two of Original Six heading to Game 7 is heaven for NHL fans

Chicago Blackhawks Vs Detroit Red Wings. Chicago Blackhawks Andrew Shaw battles with Jakub Kindl. Saturday May 25 2013  I

Chicago Blackhawks Vs Detroit Red Wings. Chicago Blackhawks Andrew Shaw battles with Jakub Kindl. Saturday May 25, 2013 I Scott Stewart~Sun-Times

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Updated: June 30, 2013 6:51AM



Old-time hockey in Chicago doesn’t get better than this.

Here we go: Game 7 of the Western Conference semifinals with the Original Six Blackhawks against the Original Six Detroit Red Wings at the United Center in front of a standing-room-only crowd of lunatics. Win or go home.

Maybe you would have preferred a simpler route to get here — say, the Hawks over the Wings, four games to none.

But it didn’t happen.

What did happen is, in its way, even better. The Blackhawks came from the brink of disaster — down three games to one, one loss from elimination — and brought it all back to here.

To this.

Something’s going to end tonight, for Chitown or Motown. And something else is going to continue. Do you feel classic in the air?

The Blackhawks and Red Wings are so linked in their history they might as well share underwear. OK, hip pads.

They’ve played each other about a million times since they joined the NHL in 1926. The Red Wings were the Cougars back then, then the Falcons. Someone in The City That Henry Ford Built got some car sense, dumped the animal concept in 1932, and the flying puck/wheel was born.

Ten years later, when the Brooklyn Americans dropped out of the league, the Original Six became lore: Boston, Montreal, Toronto, New York, Chicago and Detroit.

The big organ-i-zations. The granddaddies.

Gordie Howe skated forever for the Wings. Brawler Bob Probert beat up players for both sides. The octopus became a victory glop. And Hockeytown arose.

In Chicago, Hull, Hall, Mikita, Nesterenko, Esposito, Savard and now Kane and Toews have done their best against Detroit. Not with love, mind you.

What we have now is a rivalry. In 2009, the Blackhawks and Red Wings played in the second Winter Classic, held at Wrigley Field, only the second outdoor league game in U.S. history. And the first with two Original Six teams going at each other.

But we have nostalgia building here, too. After this season, the Red Wings are moving to the reordered Eastern Conference and the Blackhawks will stay in the West, and, well, it’s pass-the-Kleenex time. It’s like losing the fighter down the block, the one who made you tougher every time you duked it out.

Bye-bye, Detroit. We’ll see you in the Stanley Cup finals someday.

For now, the dice are in the cup, ready to be rolled. Think this thing’s a lock for Chicago?

Uh, no.

Consider that in their history the Blackhawks have played in 10 series that went to a seventh game. They are 5-5.

The Blackhawks and Red Wings have played only two Game 7s against each other, in 1964 and 1965. They split.

Then, too, the Blackhawks are 0-11 in playoff series when losing three of the first four games, as they did to Detroit this year.

Of course, the Blackhawks beat the Red Wings four consecutive times during the regular season.

Does any of it mean anything?

Not a bit.

This isn’t really Game 7 of the semis.

This is Game 1 of a single-elimination tournament on the Blackhawks’ home ice that begins at 7 p.m. and ends about 21/2 hours later, with one team devastated and the other giddy with joy.

With that finality comes a separation of two great franchises, with each drifting away to the (alleged) beginnings of new rivalries with teams that never will get that bare-knuckled Rust Belt animosity going. You can’t just create history.

Not on ice, you can’t.

Until the new order, it’s all about the Blackhawks’ resurgence from the edge of the abyss, a No. 1-seeded team hopefully realizing that seventh-seeded Hockeytown is for real. As always.

All those concerns about Detroit coach Mike Babcock lying in the weeds, about overconfidence in front of a deafening home crowd, about forechecking and dumb penalties and Corey Crawford letting in random weak shots and Jonathan Toews being forced to wear Henrik Zetterberg like a shawl — it all means nothing.

This is one and done.

This almost never happens.

This is great.



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