Neither Jonathan Toews nor Patrick Kane look upon the vast playoff experience of the Detroit Red Wings with bratty indifference.
But though the two young Chicago Blackhawks stars are just a couple of playoff rounds into what should be long NHL careers, and many of their opponents in the Western Conference final have a few Stanley Cup rings stuffed into their sock drawers, they don't believe they are at a major disadvantage.
"I think everyone is starting to understand the fact that yeah, we're a young team and we've never been to this point before, (but) to us, there is no difference there," Toews said during a conference call yesterday. "We know they are the defending champs. It's a huge challenge that we're excited about. In a lot of ways, the pressure is on them."
Game 1 is at Joe Louis Arena tomorrow in Detroit, where Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom expects a different game plan than the one the Anaheim Ducks threw at them in the second round. A one-goal victory in Game 7 against the Ducks on Thursday night was all that separated the Wings from booking tee times.
Where the Ducks flew low to the ground and tried to grind the Wings into the ice, the baby-faced Hawks can get past you in a flash.
"I think they're going to come at us with a lot more speed and try to score off the rush," Lidstrom said. "Anaheim wanted to get the puck behind us and grind it out more than the Blackhawks will."
It's not just Toews and Kane. Kris Versteeg, David Bolland and Dustin Byfuglien and defencemen Brent Seabrook and Cam Barker, among others who have not yet turned 25, contributed in various ways to two series wins.
"They're obviously feeling good about themselves, about being here, being hungry," Lidstrom said. "That's something we have to respect. They've beaten out some teams with experience."
Still, consider that the Wings have combined for 44 Cup wins. Just three Hawks players -- Andrew Ladd (with Carolina), Sami Pahlsson (with Anaheim) and goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin (with Tampa Bay) -- have lifted the silver mug.
But though he is just 20, Kane spoke like a guy who has been around for a while.
"With the salary cap these days, you never know how long you can keep a team together," the Buffalo native said. "We want to take advantage of the opportunity we have now. We're looking forward to seeing if we can pull something off."