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Professional

NHL: Semifinal combatants Hawks, Wings mirror images

Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews is the straw that stirs the drink for his team, much like the role his counterpart, Henrik Zetterberg, fills for the Detroit Red Wings. The teams open their Western Conference semifinal series tonight in Chicago.
Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews is the straw that stirs the drink for his team, much like the role his counterpart, Henrik Zetterberg, fills for the Detroit Red Wings. The teams open their Western Conference semifinal series tonight in Chicago.

They’re fast, they like to be in possession of the puck and they rely on finesse from their skill players rather than brute force to win hockey games.

They are the Red Wings.

And they also are the Blackhawks.

The Original Six rivals who will face off in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals tonight at the United Center play similar styles and have similar rosters, made up primarily of finesse players.

“That’s really the team we have kind of … I don’t want to say grown to be, but it’s almost like they groomed us to be the Red Wings a little bit, the way their team is made up,” Hawks winger Patrick Kane said.

The man who has done most of the Hawks’ grooming acknowledges that the Wings, who have won 11 Stanley Cups in their history – including four since 1997 – provided a blueprint.

“They’ve had a lot of success over the years and they haven’t really changed how they played, and it’s worked for them – that’s sort of been a team you look at,” Hawks general manager Stan Bowman said. “We play a similar style. We like to hold on to the puck and make plays.”

So while the Kings and Sharks figure to bludgeon each other in the other conference semifinals, the Hawks and Wings will rely on speed, deft passing and solid – but not punishing – defensive play.

The Wings’ stars are finesse players Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg.

“It’s dictated by your star players,” Bowman said. “There’s not one way to win. There are a lot of teams that have success. The Bruins won a Cup [in 2011], and they played a different style than we did. It’s not better or worse. ... You have to play to your strengths.”

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