Traditional teams brings hype to the Cup

RANDY SPORTAK, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 11:44 AM ET

DETROIT -- The showdown akin to Sid the Kid versus Alexander the Great isn't here.

Nor is the storyline of two Staal brothers facing each other.

Those aren't needed.

What we do have is the makings of a playoff series of the ages.

Take it in for a moment -- the Detroit Red Wings and the Chicago Blackhawks, and prepare to savour.

You have an Original Six matchup.

You have the defending champs from the Motor City.

You have the rising stars from the Windy City.

For what more can you ask?

From a pure hockey standpoint, expect this one, which begins today at the Joe Louis Arena, to deliver.

Oh sure, the cover-boy star power isn't quite there, but the luminaries who will take to the ice can light up the night.

From Detroit, the abilities of Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk are somewhat overshadowed by each other. Nicklas Lidstrom continues to shine with Father Time tapping him on the shoulder. Johan Franzen keeps scoring playoff goals at a superstar clip. Then you have uber-talents like Marian Hossa and Jiri Hudler and the league's best crease-crasher in Tomas Holmstrom.

Chicago has a bevy of up-and-coming, soon-to-be household names with wise-beyond-his-years Jonathan Toews, gifted Patrick Kane, reinvigorated Martin Havlat, man-child Dustin Byfuglien, a shutdown defence tandem that's improving every game in Duncan Keith and Keith Seabrook and a wickedly effective fourth line that can pound a team into submission.

Oh yeah, both goalies, Chris Osgood and Nikolai Khabibulin, are among only the handful throughout the league who have been main men en route to Stanley Cup glory.

The Red Wings are loaded with experience and enough Stanley Cup rings to start a jewelry store.

The Blackhawks have the fearlessness of youth and the confidence of having several comeback wins already in the playoffs.

"They are a young and a hungry team," Lidstrom said. "The young Blackhawks have the speed -- great speed -- and they're very skilled players. I think they're gonna come at us with a lot more speed and try to score off the rush. Anaheim wanted to play that kind of grind-style, get the puck in behind us and kind of grind it out more than the speedy Blackhawks will.

"They're obviously feeling good about themselves, about being here. That's something we have to respect coming in.

"They've earned the conference finals," Lidstrom continued. "They've been playing well. They've beaten out some teams with experience."

There's the word which has followed the Blackhawks since the playoffs opened: Experience.

Or a lack of experience.

The fact only three players on Chicago's roster sport a Stanley Cup title -- Khabibulin and forwards Andrew Ladd and Sami Pahlsson -- has been a hot topic.

Except they've shown no ill-effects of being new to all this.

"We know they are defending champs. There's an honour to play against a team like that and hopefully be the team that knocks them off," said Toews, the young Hawks captain. "It's a huge challenge and a huge opportunity that we're excited about. There's no reason to get overexcited and overwhelmed by it. It's a great experience that we're going to enjoy."

They won't be alone.

RANDY.SPORTAK@SUNMEDIA.CA


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