The Red Wings were 20 minutes from advancing to the Western Conference finals when they got a full dose of the Blackhawks' ''compete level.''
It remains to be seen if the Hawks' three-goal spree at the start of the third period in Game 6 becomes the defining moment of the series. But it made an impression on Red Wings rookie defenseman Brendan Smith.
''When their backs are against the wall, they push even harder. It's pretty impressive to see that,'' Smith said Wednesday after the Red Wings' morning skate at the United Center. ''A lot of those skill guys actually got a little chippy and try to work a little bit harder and fought battles a little bit more. It's impressive to see the competition level bump up that much more.''
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville often talks about his team's compete level. All coaches refer to it in some manner. But Smith provided an on-the-ice insight into what that really means. He knew the Hawks were competitors, but they were even more competitive than he ever thought.
''I've been saying that, but every game it gets even higher and it's something that I can learn from,'' Smith said. ''I think I'm a very competitive guy. Coach always says I'm ultra competitive. I think that's just how I grew up with my brothers and stuff. I think there's still more for me to even compete at.
''You see it out here. Some of these guys that [people] say aren't competitive and their give-a-[bleep] meter is really low, you see them come out and they play really tough. I don't think I've seen guys like [Patrick] Kane and [Patrick] Sharp play as hard as I have other than this series. It's pretty cool to see and cool to see their game evolve like that.''