Tonight is a big game, and the Blackhawks aren't even playing. Yes, it's Detroit-Anaheim's Western Conference semifinals Game 7, in Detroit, and it will determine who the Hawks play in the Western Conference finals. Will it be streaking Anaheim? Or dominant Detroit? Does it matter?
Well, yes, it does. We're already on record saying we'd prefer to play the Ducks. Call us a pragmatist, we guess. We just fear the Red Wings. We don't fear the Ducks. Which team is more likely to allow the Hawks to advance and play for the Stanley Cup? It's not the Red Wings. That said, we can see why fans would want a Blackhawks-Red Wings conference finals; nothing could be sweeter than beating the Red Wings on the way to a Stanley Cup, and if the Red Wings don't advance, that can't happen. We get it. It sounds nice. But it feels unrealistic, and in the real world, we just want the Blackhawks to win. You can't get picky with these things.
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville agrees, sort of. He told the Sun-Times he didn't have a preferred opponent -- diplomatic of him -- but his comments on both teams sort of make you think he does. To wit:
His take on the Ducks: ''They were the hottest team in the league going into the playoffs. They surprised everyone by their run [10-2-1 in the last 13 games of the regular season], and beating San Jose [which won the Presidents' Trophy for the best regular-season record] was a huge step. If they can beat Detroit, that's an even bigger step. They're playoff-tested, have good experience and have key defensemen [Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermayer] who know what it takes. And their top line is as good as anyone's in the league.''
OK, so that's pretty positive stuff. Frightening enough, especially given how hot Ducks have been, and given how quality their series against the Sharks was. Still, there's a hint of, not disrespect, but maybe skepticism in there, a notion that the Ducks weren't really this good all year, but have turned it on lately. Thus, they seem less fearsome? Maybe. Anyway, on the Red Wings:
Quenneville's take on the Wings: ''They have six, seven top forwards and more star power than anybody in the league. They're probably the most dangerous team in the league offensively. Detroit, physically, is more underrated than many people think. One reason they've had such success in playoffs is because of how competitive they are. They're very physical in the puck area.''
Maybe we're reading too much into this, but it just feels like Quenneville respects the Wings a bit more. As he should. And he can say he's not rooting for the Ducks, but when you throw in home ice advantage (which the Blackhawks wouldn't have if Detroit wins tonight), it's hard to imagine that Coach Q wouldn't prefer to face the Ducks. We know we would.
Eamonn Brennan is a Chicago-based writer, editor and blogger. You can also read him at Yahoo! Sports, Mouthpiece Sports Blog, and Inside The Hall, or at his personal site, eamonnbrennan.com. Follow him on Twitter.