NHL 2013 Playoffs Latest – Red Wings Shock the Chicago Blackhawks

Chicago Captain Jonathan Toews and Jimmy Howard wait for the puck during Game Two of the series. (Courtesy of ca.sports.yahoo.com)

Chicago Captain Jonathan Toews and Jimmy Howard wait for the puck during Game Two of the series.
(Courtesy of ca.sports.yahoo.com)

On Wednesday, the Chicago Blackhawks destroyed the Detroit Red Wings with an unrelenting third period blitz, winning the first game in the series by a comfortable 4-1 scoreline. Many felt this result was a clear indication of the sheer power that the President’s Trophy winners possess throughout their roster and highlighted the reasons why the Red Wings wouldn’t be able to cope with them over the course of their Conference Semi-final. For me, the result was a false reflection.

Yes, the Hawks had taken over from the second period onwards, but in my eyes, it was as much to do with Detroit’s fatigue as anything else, having had minimal rest following their Game Seven with Anaheim and lengthy travel, they still dominated the opening period before visibly faltering. Yesterday, the Red Wings reminded the hockey world that they are a force of their own in the only way they could, beating the Blackhawks at United Center in Game two.

Detroit Red Wings 4 – 1 Chicago Blackhawks

With Chicago having the better of the opening period before Detroit took control and dominated the next two, this game was a mirror image of the previous contest. Outshooting the Blackhawks 30 shots to 20, the Red Wings also looked towards their stars to deliver, and sure enough, Captain Fantastic stepped up in their hour of need, Henrik Zetterberg playing a pivotal role with two assists, including one on Brendan Smith’s game-winner.

The first period ended with Chicago taking a deserved lead, their early dominance paying off despite an ineffective power-play in which they almost conceded a shorthanded effort. 6 minutes before the intermission, Patrick Sharp broke away down the left into a 3-on-2 opportunity, joined in the rapid attack by Michal Handhus and Patrick Kane. Sharp attempted to find Kane with a dish across the crease, but a sliding Detroit defenceman diverted the puck into the path of Handhus in the slot. Showing a calm head, the veteran centre slid a quick pass to the waiting Kane who tucked it past Jimmy Howard. The goal was the winger’s first of the postseason.

The Red Wings, far from disheartened, hit the post on a power-play and gained some momentum. After the timely intermission, they responded by scoring two goals in a frantic second period. Damien Brunner deflected in Jakub Kindl’s shot from the point past a helpless Corey Crawford before Henrik Zetterberg beat defenceman Niklas Hjalmarsson in a race for a loose puck and centered a pass between Duncan Keith’s legs for Brendan Smith to finish, his second goal of the playoffs.

In the third, Detroit showed the clinical side to their game, punishing blown coverages in Chicago’s defence. Jonathan Ericsson fired a pass from his own blue line to find an unmarked and ninja-like Johan Franzen, who snapped a shot just underneath the crossbar to give the Wings a 3-1 lead. The victory was sealed when despite the Blackhawks winning a faceoff in the Detroit zone, the outstanding Henrik Zetterberg found Valterri Filppula on a sudden 3-on-2 breakaway, the centre managing to back-hand the puck past Crawford even whilst being tripped.

Heading back to Detroit:

In the end, Detroit were excellent value for their 4-1 victory. Their game is simple but effective, and many of the tactics used in their series with the Ducks have already become relevant factors against Chicago. Great net-front presence and plenty of early shots from the point has been one of the hallmarks of their postseason play and they show no signs of letting up. They also continue to win key faceoffs, 31-25 in Game two, but even when losing the draw, their wingers show remarkable discipline and timing to swiftly step across the line to intercept, making keeping possession extremely difficult for opposing players. They are also now receiving production from a variety of places. Stars, veterans who continue to produce and postseason rookies are all contributing on offence. Henrik Zetterberg now has 10 points, tied fourth in the NHL, whilst Johan Franzen and Damien Brunner are tied for team-lead with four goals each.

For the Blackhawks, the worry would be that at no point were they able to maintain any consistent pressure or display the intensity that had been so successful during the third period of Game one. There was also a lethargic nature to their play which was tough to identify, Toews uncharacteristically sulking after a no-call in the second period and their forwards struggling to raise their forechecking energy to match Detroit’s level. Frustration also seemed to be their main emotion when cool heads were needed to rescue the situation. Whether this is complacency finally rearing its head remains to be seen, but heading to Joe Louis Arena for Game three, they will hope yeterday’s performance can be chalked off as a Minnesota-like bad day at the office. I’m not so sure. More like a glimpse beyond their cloak of invincibility, one that will certainly interest a few teams in the East.


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