CHICAGO – A black-and-white sign that hangs above the home bench at the Blackhawks’ practice facility offers a simple 10-word message.
“When you lose, say little,” the sign declares. “When you win, say less.”
No wonder the top-seeded Blackhawks had nothing much to say as they prepared to meet the seventh-seeded Detroit Red Wings at 7 p.m. Wednesday in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals.
OK, so maybe that’s not fair. The Hawks patiently sat in front of their lockers and answered all kinds of questions about playing against their longtime rival this week, but everything they said was too humble, too deferential, too vanilla.
So I’ll be the jerk.
The Wings are toast. And they’re not good toast, the kind covered with melted butter and strawberry jam. They’re bad toast, super bland and soon to be discarded.
The Hawks will win this series in five games, maybe six.
Trust me on this one. I’ve never been wrong except for every single day of my adult life (and most days of my childhood, particularly the time when I argued angrily with my next-door-neighbor friend that people could live to be 1,000 years old).
Anyway, I knew better than to argue with the Hawks about why they would win.
Nobody in the Hawks’ locker room wanted to hear about how they went 36-7-5 during the regular season while the Wings went 24-16-8. Nor did anybody want to hear about how the Hawks outscored the eighth-seeded Minnesota Wild, 17-7, while the Wings beat the Anaheim Ducks in seven games despite being outscored, 21-18.
Nope. Even though the Hawks beat the Wings four out of four times during the regular season, they insisted the playoff series would be a huge challenge.
“We’ve got a lot of respect for what they can do,” Hawks forward Patrick Sharp said. “It’s going to be a tough, hard-fought series right from the first shift of Game 1.”
What’s all this talk about respect?
Consider the history here. Shouldn’t the Hawks despise the Wings and vice versa?
“There’s been hatred at times,” Hawks forward Bryan Bickell said. “But we also respect each other.”
Clearly, no one was going to step forward and speak the truth.
Not Hawks forward Patrick Kane, who was quick to note the Wings’ recent play.
“They’re a scary team, for sure,” Kane said.
Except they’re not.
The Hawks are better on offense, scoring 31 more goals than the Wings during the regular season. The Hawks are better on defense, allowing 13 fewer goals than the Wings during the lockout-shortened regular season.
The Hawks are better at home, and they’re better on the road and they’re better halfway in between, which in this case is somewhere near Kalamazoo.
The Hawks have a better coach, too, even if he chooses to warn us about the Wings.
“They got better as the season went on,” Joel Quenneville said, “and they got better as the playoffs went on.”
OK, fine. But the Wings are nowhere near as good as the Hawks.
Trust me on this one.
• Shaw Media sports columnist Tom Musick can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @tcmusick.