The Malik Report
by George Malik on 05/19/13 at 05:16 AM ET
The time between the quick take, the Toews entry and the time that this recap hits the web has been an uncomfortable one for me (the norovirus apparently has death throes), so I feel like being a smarmy *#$%@&, and I'm gonna be one. Jonathan Toews most certainly let it be known that his team was hacked, whacked, hooked, held, touched, looked at and otherwise thought of in space-limiting terms, and much to the amusing chagrin of both Toews and his Hawk colleagues, the Red Wings played this mysterious game called puck possession hockey to its hilt over the course of a 4-1 win that shocked all the experts picking the Blackhawks in 2 games.
I'm not saying "seemed to pick the Blackhawks," because I sure as shit could swear, at least by what I read from everywhere on the internet and heard on the TV and radio, that there was going to be a handshake line after Game 2, when the Blackhawks would advance to play for the Stanley Cup against the Los Angeles Kings, and I was quite happy to hope that the Red Wings went out onto actual ice after a two-day break and, with determination, grit, poise and attention to detail, told the hockey world to go *#$%@& itself.
Now I don't believe that the team's really that tuned into what's being said about them--if the 48-games-in-99-nights marathon taught me anything, the players are so damn busy playing every other night that it takes a tremendous amount of effort to pay attention to what's being said about them...
But two days off and a lot of heat on Brendan Smith yielded some admitted distraction before the game...
And after he scored what would stand up as the game-winning goal...
Aww, good on ya, kid.
Oh, wait, be an *#$%@&! Be acerbic! Channel the Chief!
No, wait, I can't do that. The Chief is a phenomenon unto himself. But I can be a grumpy bastard. So we begin our non-Twitter-based game narrative:
Dear, Sweet Mr. Toews was none too happy about the attention he received from his opponents--the same kind of hard-checking and sometimes dirty play that the Hawks utilized to check Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk to a standstill in Game 1--as ESPN Chicago's Scott Powers noted...
“I’m not going to go off and complain about some calls I thought should have been called or whatever, one way or another,” Toews said. “If that’s the way they’re going to play, well, we need to play the same. There’s a lot of clutch and grab, a lot of interference. If they’re going to let that go, that’s something we need to know and maybe do to them a little bit.
“It’s tough to understand sometimes why we get roughing penalties and hooking penalties and whatever it is, and that doesn’t go both ways. It is what it is. If that’s the way it’s going to be, we need to understand that and play more physical and be tougher on them. We’ll know that going into the next one.”
The Blackhawks were called for five penalties -– two roughing, one slashing, one crosschecking, one hooking –- during Saturday’s game. The Red Wings had three penalties –- one hooking, one slashing, one delay of game.
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville wasn’t surprised to see the Red Wings make Toews a priority.
“We expect your top guys are going to get some coverage looks, be it from the forwards or D,” Quenneville said. “All year long they faced top coverage against them. Hopefully, they have to find a way to fight through it, and we got to be harder in the tougher areas, particularly at their net. We didn’t really look to shoot it. We seemed to be on the outside.”
Though the Red Wings very bluntly stated that it wasn't personal while speaking to the Chicago Tribune's Brian Hamilton...
"I wouldn't even say just Jonathan Toews — it's their whole offense," Red Wings defenseman Brendan Smith said. "You have to slow them down and play them hard. It's something you want to do to every team, but you have to be a little more conscious with some of these players. They're All-Stars. These guys are phenomenal. You have to play them as hard as you can and bump them and be on the defensive side."
"It's part of playoffs," Zetterberg said. "He plays better when it's more physical, and I play better when it's a little more physical. It's a give and take."
Despite working to create some chances, Toews remains goal-less in the postseason. The Red Wings, apparently, literally will push to keep it that way.
"We know he's really good when he gets some space," Red Wings defenseman Jonathan Ericsson said. "We want to stay really tight on him."
And what was amusing as hell to me is that Patrick Kane was downright baffled at the fact that the Wings played "The Hawks' game" so very well, as ESPN's Powers...
“They kind of used our own game against us, playing puck possession, keeping it,” Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane said. “I felt like we were chasing the puck the whole time.”
The Blackhawks made a handful of costly errors in the neutral and defensive zones leading to Red Wings’ goals, but it was the lack of offense that bothered Quenneville the most. He didn’t think the Blackhawks were good enough with the puck when they actually possessed it.
“We lost momentum of that game by what we didn’t do on our attack and offensive zone,” Quenneville said.
Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews had the same criticism.
“Last game, we played smarter defensively, and that was by holding on to the puck and making plays in their zone and keeping it out of the danger area, and we didn’t necessarily do that today,” he said.
And the Chicago Sun-Times' Mark Lazerus noted, finding that--surprise!--Kane and perhaps more than a few of his teammates thought that Game 1's 4-1 result = cakewalk series:
“I think maybe after the first game we thought it was going to be an easy series; we had a lot of confidence in here,” said Hawks winger Patrick Kane, who scored the first goal of the game before Detroit took over the game. “But they’re a good team, and they have a lot of good players over there that still want to battle and prove themselves even more than they have already. By no means is it going to be an easy series or a cakewalk.”
The Red Wings looked tired, slow and uninterested in the Hawks’ Game 1 rout, getting out-shot 42-21 and utterly dominated for the final two periods. But on Saturday, the Red Wings flipped the script. An aggressive forecheck, a relentless puck-possession game, and a brilliant harassing performance by Zetterberg in the clash of captains had the Wings flying and the Hawks foundering. A mix of sustained pressure and opportunistic play off Hawks mistakes led to goals by Damien Brunner, Brendan Smith, Johan Franzen and Valtteri Filppula on Corey Crawford (26 saves).
“They had the puck and we didn’t,” Kane said after being out-shot 30-20. “They used our own game against us.”
The biggest difference — and the biggest thing the Hawks need to adjust to in order to re-take home-ice advantage in the series — was the Wings’ tighter defense (they even employed a near trap-like left-wing lock at times) and the hyper-aggressive play against the Hawks’ top two lines, particularly Zetterberg on Toews. And it’s only likely to get tougher on Toews and the Hawks, as the Red Wings will have the advantage of making the last line change for Games 3 and 4.
“It’s part of playoffs,” said Zetterberg, who pointed out that the Hawks had control of who matched up against whom, not the Red Wings. “I think he plays better when it’s a little physical and I think I play better when it’s a little more physical. So there’s a lot of give and take.”
Now the Blackhawks are probably far too young to remember, "Somebody set up us the bomb!" but the 8-bit Wings showed them 128-bit "kids" (said with beatnik hipster dude irony given that the Wings can throw five rookies over the board in the form of Damien Brunner, Gustav Nyquist, Joakm Andersson--see also, "The Wings' most reliable line without a Datsyuk or Zetterberg on it"--Jakub Kindl and Brendan Smith, and bizarrely have seasoned-but-youthful Justin Abdelkader playing an invaluable role as the Pavel Datsyuk-designated Tomas Holmstrom replacement) what happens when you take the Red Wings too lightly, even in a transitional and/or rebuilding year, and I took just as much glee--as a fan, anyway--from the media's reaction, whether it's the muted tones of the Chicago Daily Herald's Barry Rozner...
Great teams destroy mediocre teams. The Hawks merely got past Minnesota. And after losing 4-1 to Detroit in Game 2 at the United Center on Saturday afternoon, the Hawks are tied 1-1 and have lost home ice to the Red Wings.
If you think it's too soon to panic, understand that if they come out emotionally unprepared again in Game 3 Monday night in Detroit, the Hawks will find themselves down 2-1 and suddenly facing a must-win Game 4 on the road. That's how quickly series change in the postseason.
So maybe Saturday's lethargic performance is finally the wake-up call the Hawks needed, and perhaps they can flip that switch and play as they did when they were ripping apart the NHL in the regular season.
"We didn't match their effort or emotion," Toews said. "They outclassed us in those areas and you saw the result."
And the reassuring words of ChicagoBlackhawks.com's Bob Verdi (and I'm not going to knock Verdi as his take is quite balanced)...
Before the game, Quenneville received more congratulations on being nominated for the Jack Adams Award as outstanding coach. Bruce Boudreau of the Ducks and Paul MacLean of the Ottawa Senators also are on the ballot.
Quenneville is a native of Windsor, Ont.—which is actually south of Detroit—and Adams was a legend with the Red Wings as a builder and coach. Also, he ruled with an iron fist. Glenn Hall was a brilliant young goaltender with the Red Wings, but when he expressed interest in teammate Ted Lindsay’s theory about forming a players’ union, they were both banished to Chicago in 1957.
“That was hockey Siberia in those days,” recalled Hall. “It’s where players went to be punished. But I was glad to leave Detroit. I had to, anyway, after I told Mr. Adams to do something that was not physically possible and still isn’t.”
Hall was one of the last missing pieces in a revival by the Blackhawks. They won the Stanley Cup with him in goal in 1961, clinching at Detroit.
To the Chicago Tribune's David Haugh--no word where Steve Rosenbloom was...Maybe, as he suggested after Game 1, he was at Dairy Queen, waiting for Mike Babcock to show up with the kids' soccer team to which he compared the Wings' maturity level---who kind of went down Verdi's road in suggesting that the Hawks received a necessary wake-up call...
But not before tearing into Captain Serious:
Sorry, Captain, it is even tougher to understand how the Hawks can look legendary one game and lethargic the next — three days later against the same team on the same sheet of ice. Maybe, as Toews suggested, the reason has something to do with officials calling the Blackhawks for two more penalties than the Red Wings — five to three — but I doubt it. Welcome to real playoff hockey.
Were the refs responsible for the Red Wings outscoring the Hawks 2-0 during a dormant second period in which the home team meekly managed just five shots on goal? Did officiating help Henrik Zetterberg beat Hawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson to the loose puck before Zetterberg's pretty pass to Brendan Smith for the go-ahead, second-period goal?
I'm not going to complain but the best team in the NHL should be above griping about aggressive play in a playoff series they still should win. Saturday's biggest difference had more to do with the Wings out-Hawking the Hawks by playing a fast, physical, puck-possession game predicated around urgency their opponents lacked after the first period.
And perhaps some equally intriguing observations made by the Chicago Sun-Times' usually acerbic Rick Morrissey...And Toews of all people:
The seventh-seeded Red Wings won the shot battle 30-20. The Hawks’ total was 22 fewer than in Game 1. Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford is very good, but he’s not good enough to make up for the failure of teammates to catch up to flying Red Wings. Nobody is.
The Red Wings had sludge in their gas tank in the series opener, so a pace adjustment in Game 2 was a given. Everybody knew it. The Hawks had been talking about it for two days. But knowing it and doing something about it are two different things. And so it was that on the key goal of the game, Hawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson gave up the puck, eventually allowing Brendan Smith to beat Crawford to make it 2-1 late in the second.
The Red Wings played a clutch-and-grab game, and the Hawks were slow to realize that they needed to play that way too, as long as the refs were going to allow it.
“They were tougher on the puck,’’ Toews said. “There was a lot of hooking and holding, and you couldn’t really skate with the puck. We’ve just got to be scrappier. We’ve got to find a way to get through that stuff and find our way to the net. We weren’t really battling for position out there.’’
The Hawks came out strong and died out, which is unlike them. As Toews said, they’re a team that normally wears down an opponent as the game goes on. That didn’t happen, especially in the second period, when the Hawks had only five shots on net.
So, no, this is not going to be the cake-skate that many people thought it was going to be after the Hawks’ Game 1 victory. The Red Wings have talent, and the teams have a history. Consider yourself warned.
Now I don't know what the *#$%@& to think about the suggestions that the Wings were doing all the clutching, grabbing, hooking and holding. I do know that the standard of officiating was so ridiculously inconsistent during the Wings-Ducks series that some periods, the Wings couldn't touch Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, and vice versa, and the other two thirds of the time, the muck-and-grind factor was tuned to a radio station somewhere between, "Call the horiztonal stick fouls and screw the rest" and, "Please do not touch the dancer while she grinds your pubic bone...Unless she moves your to wherever they may find themselves." Which is the rule at Henry the 8ths on Middlebelt in Inkster, or so Ive been told, as well as the playoffs.
What I do know is that the Red Wings looked like they were skating at the Honda Center as the lights ever-so-slowly came up in the "Madhouse on Madison" on Wednesday, meandering into the corners and turning over pucks as the Hawks checked the hell out of them but on Saturday, the Wings roared up and down the ice--with perhaps the exception of Brendan Smith being cleverly legally tripped by Patrick Sharp on what became Patrick Kane's 1-0 goal--while employing the slightly lower-skilled, more north-south version of their standard puck possession style that's served as effective crowd-killing music for everyone save the fans wearing red and white with no black stripes in the middle at the corporate, quiet United Center.
It was about skating and about competing, grinding it out, getting on the inside of puck battles individually and providing shooting and passing outlets for defensemen in their own end, sending passes from defenseman-to-forward instead of defenseman-to-partner-and-back-and-back-before-firing-one-forward-into-five-guys and trying to muscle, push, shove and sometimes pull and tug one's way into Corey Crawford's sightlines, if not eat pucks along the boards and behind the net so that the Wings played defense almost 200 feet away from Jimmy Howard.
That's Wings hockey, regardless of the personnel wearing red and white and regardless of the standard of officiating.
The fact that it was successful for Detroit on Saturday had ESPN Chicago's Jesse Rogers' demanding Blackhawk personnel changes ahead of Game 3 on Monday...
Despite an assist on Patrick Kane's goal, Michal Handzus should not be centering the second line. He’s hurting -- not practicing since before the series began -- and he slows down the likes of Kane and Patrick Sharp.
Dave Bolland or Marcus Kruger should center that line. Bolland hasn’t been used exclusively on Pavel Datsyuk, so to take advantage of some of his skills, maybe he should move up. Or else give Kruger a chance to skate with Kane and Sharp. He can keep up.
Viktor Stalberg needs to show his head from the doghouse and return to the lineup. Quenneville can no longer justify sitting the speedy forward over the plodding Daniel Carcillo. The series got a little physical in Game 2, but not enough to warrant Carcillo dressing. He played just 7:40 on Saturday after 6:04 in Game 1. Stalberg can simply create scoring chances -- especially against Detroit’s third defensive pair -- that Carcillo cannot.
The Hawks need to make depth a part of the game. They have more than Detroit, but where has Bryan Bickell been? Andrew Shaw has seemingly spent more time in the penalty box than on the ice -- though he brought a good forecheck Saturday. They need more from those guys.
That "decent enough" part is very important for me and I hope for you: the playoffs isn't about being "the better team," friends, critics and comments section trolls. It's about winning four games before your opponent does, and the Red Wings don't have to be better than the Chicago Blackhawks to at least make this series interesting and at least go for six or seven games.
They need to be better in terms of execution and attention to detail--and results--over the course of a shift, of a period, of a game. And you build those *#$%@& up until you've got a series win.
There are no magic numbers or metrics of achievement save winning on the scoreboard, though I do like to see the Wings put more shots on opposing goalies than they send wide or into opposing players, mostly because it's a good way to know when the Wings are shooting and when they're indulging in the dangerous pursuit of passing up shots in the search of more artistic ones. You probably have your favorite stat. In any case, it's really about grinding on, grinding down and grinding past your opponent.
“They had the puck a lot tonight,” Kane said. “Took a page out of our game. I felt like we were chasing the puck all the time.”
That was Detroit’s game before it was the Hawks’. The Wings never stopped playing that way; they simply haven’t been as good at it over the past few years. Saturday showed they can still bring it, if their seven-game series win over the Ducks didn’t.
“They have the momentum right now. We need to get it back somehow,” Kane said.
How does that happen for Chicago? Accountability, they told the Chicago Sun-Times' Lazerus...
‘‘Across the board, we should all assume some responsibility,’’ Quenneville said. ‘‘We have to be way better than that.’’
Crawford, who gave up only eight goals in the first six games of the playoffs, said his confidence wasn’t shaken by the rough game.
‘‘Whether I played well or it’s a game you just want to forget about, it’s always about the next one,’’ he said.
(Crawford did admit that he "couldn't get his glove" on the Damien Brunner-tipped Jakub Kindl shot to the Free Press's Vince Ellis)
Getting the puck back and working harder, they told the Chicago Tribune's Chris Kuc...
"We knew they were going to play much better than they did in Game 1," Hawks captain Jonathan Toews said. "Obviously, we didn't quite match the effort. We know we weren't good enough to win. We made a few mistakes on the rush, giving up pucks in the wrong areas. Last game we played smart defensively holding onto the puck and making plays in their zone. We kept it out of the dangerous areas and we didn't necessarily do that (Saturday)."
The series now shifts to Joe Louis Arena, where the Hawks won both regular-season games by a combined score of 9-2.
"We know exactly what we need to improve on and we need to do it right away," Toews said. "There's no time to waste in this series. We know going into their building it's going to be even more difficult than it was (Saturday). We'll turn the page and make sure we're better."
In the words of the Wings, "flushing" the game, as the Hawks told Comcast Sportsnet Chicago's Tracey Myers...
“Our game was way off as far as the pace we needed and we weren’t smart in certain areas,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “The first 10 minutes the pace was probably as fast as any point through the first four periods (of the series). But we didn’t sustain it, didn’t do what we were hoping to do over the course of the last 50 minutes.”
Corey Crawford allowed four goals on 30 minutes. Brendan Smith got what proved to be the game-winner late in the second period off a Henrik Zetterberg pass.
“Whether I played well or it’s a game I want to forget about, it’s always about the next game,” Crawford said. “We’ll take some time to think about what we can do better and just get back at it and play hard.”
Brent Seabrook said they’ll keep it in perspective.
“We’re pissed off about this afternoon but at the end of the day it’s one game,” he said. “Both teams would be stupid if they thought they’d come in here and either team would win four straight. It’s a series. We knew it would be a battle. Obviously over the years of playing these guys, we know it’s going to be a hard, tough series. We have to prepare better for Monday.”
Perhaps playing a little more like themselves, as they suggested to CBS Chicago's Adam Hoge...
“It’s not out of frustration it’s just trying to frustrate their team,” Toews said. “That’s something we need to do a little bit more. They’re trying to do it to our top couple lines and we can do a little bit more of it. We’re letting them skate around with the puck a little bit too much.”
And the Chicago Daily Herald's Tim Sassone:
"They had the puck a lot and we didn't," Kane said. "They kind of used our own game against us, playing puck possession, keeping it in. It felt like we were chasing the puck all the time. It's a lot of different things. It could be getting the puck back, but also when we do have it don't throw it away. It seemed like we did that a lot tonight, just kind of gave it right back. They regrouped with speed and came right back at us."
The Hawks managed only 20 shots on goal, getting just 5 in the second period and 7 in the third. The power play was 0-for-2 and looked mostly miserable.
"We knew they were going to come back and play much better than they did in Game 1 and obviously we didn't quite match the effort," Jonathan Toews said. "I wouldn't say it's a wake-up call. I think we know exactly what we need to improve on and we need to do it right away. There's no time to waste in this series. We know going into their building it's going to be more difficult than it was today."
Were there positives for the Hawks? Sure, if you read the margins of Sassone's notebook...
Daniel Carcillo was in the lineup for a second straight game for Viktor Stalberg and led the Hawks with 7 hits.
Shake it off: Goaltender Corey Crawford said yielding four goals in Game 2 won't shake his confidence.
"Whether I played well or it's a game where you just want to forget about, it's always about the next one," Crawford said. "It doesn't matter what happens."
Numbers game: With his assist on Kane's goal, Patrick Sharp extended his point streak to six games (six goals, four assists). … Hawks winger Daniel Carcillo had a postseason-high seven hits. … The Hawks negated all four of the Wings' power-play opportunities and are 24-for-24 on the penalty kill in the playoffs. The Hawks are the only team not to allow a power-play goal in the postseason.
Ahem, per NHL.com's Brian Hedger:
The Blackhawks were outshot 30-20, gave the puck away seven times and -- like the Red Wings in Game 1 -- struggled to get out of their zone and through the neutral zone on the attack. After the first 10 minutes, which was Chicago's best sequence, Detroit's suffocating defense made it tough to get any offensive flow going.
Toews, in particular, was hounded by Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg, who picked up the physicality on his counterpart captain from the Blackhawks. Not long before Zetterberg found Brendan Smith with a pretty feed for Detroit's second goal late in the second period, Zetterberg knocked down Toews from behind in front of the Red Wings' net -- clipping the back of his helmet with his stick -- then gave him another shot to the back to prevent him from getting up.
What amuses the *#$%@& out of me is that the Hawks' writers were fascinated by the easy narrative that is Brendan Smith's redemption, as it were.
Now Smith's start wasn't great, as the Chicago Daily Herald's Mike Spellman noted...
[It] sure seemed like a case of "uh-oh, here we go again" late in the first period when Smith was not only outmuscled but also out-hustled to a loose puck by Patrick Sharp on a play that ended up with Patrick Kane scoring his first goal of the playoffs and the Hawks taking a 1-0 lead.
"I lost the battle with Sharp," Smith admitted. "He made a great play. That's why he's done so well in the playoffs. I maybe underestimated his strength and his speed. It's something I need to do better, and actually at the end of the game I did better with it."
To me, there's a fine line between having your stick lifted and being tripped via stick lift, but I'm Toews-quality whiny this morning. No, actually, I'm Toews-quality whiny when people touch the Wings, as those of you who read my less-than-objective in-game Tweets already know...
But before that, Smith in particular and the Red Wings in general got their redemption. For Smith it came when he took a perfect pass from Henrik Zetterberg and drilled one past Corey Crawford for what turned out to be the game-winner at 16:08 of the second period.
"He's so fantastic with the puck," Smith said of the Wings' Big Z. "I was just in the right place at the right time."
Henrik Zetterberg definitely delivered the quote of the week in describing the attributes and weaknesses of the player who remains the Red Wings' best defensive prospect, despite what Mickey Redmond told WDIV's Bernie Smilovitz is a bit of a "gamblin' man" style of play that gets burned by the house a little too regularly for comfort, as noted by the Chicago Sun-Times' Mark Potash...
“He creates a lot of stuff — sometimes for both teams,” Zetterberg said. “But it’s nice to see he could put it away when he gets the chance. He’s yong. He’s still learning. It’s nice to see he had a bounce-back game from Game 1.”
Smith is no Lidstrom — nobody is. But he learned from the best.
“If you get frustrated, that’s where the snowball effect is going to happen,” Smith said. “Just keep a level head and put things behind you. You saw Nick Lidstrom do that. He rarely made a mistake, but when he did it was like he never did it. I’m still learning. This is a work-in-progress, obviously. It’s something I want to keep getting better at.”
Ironically enough, yes, exactly. Move the puck out of your zone *#$%@& fast. Get that shit out of there. Lest you get shat upon. Or something like that.
Smith described his goal to NHL.com's Corey Masisak...
Smith had a strong effort in Game 2 and ended up with the game-winning goal as the highlight. Late in the second period, Smith had the puck along the left wall and sent it across the ice for Daniel Cleary. Smith actually fell down as he made the pass.
Cleary chipped the puck into the offensive zone down the left side of the ice. Detroit captain Henrik Zetterberg won a race for the puck and collected it deep in the Chicago zone. When he turned to look for a trailing teammate, there was Smith was racing back into the play on the right side.
Zetterberg put a pass through Chicago defenseman Duncan Keith's legs, and all Smith had to do was not miss.
"I don't think it was that hard of a backcheck and I seemed to have a little bit more speed than one of the [Blackhawks] forwards," Smith said. "I just beat him to the front of the net. [Zetterberg] is so fantastic with the puck. I think he put it through [Keith's] legs, feathered it through his legs, and it was a wide-open net. It is kind of a gimme for myself and just being in the right place at the right time. It was kind of a Damien Brunner goal."
And after we let the Associated Press's recap serve as our pivot point between the Blackhawks and Red Wings' perspectives...
Just as the Blackhawks did in Game 1, Detroit took control in the second period and put the game away in the third. Now, the Red Wings have a chance to take the lead when this series between Original Six rivals shifts to Detroit for Game 3 on Monday.
"Overall, I think we had more energy," the Red Wings' Henrik Zetterberg said. "We did a lot of the little things better than we did in Game 1 and when we got our chances we were able to put the puck in the net."
We'll let NHL.com's Masisak start us down the Wings-only road with strong praise for Henrik Zetterberg...
"He's taken on [the] 'C' like all the rest of the Red Wings have ever done," said Detroit rookie defenseman Brendan Smith, who scored the winning goal off a feed from Zetterberg. "He's stepped up so big for us. He's proven he's one of the all-time captains in only one year, and how much he steps up -- he's such a clutch player. We look up to him so much, and I think we feed off his strength and competition level. It helps our team for sure."
Zetterberg has 10 points in the playoffs, which puts him in a tie for fourth in the League. Zetterberg had 10 points in the final four games of the regular season, each a Detroit win, as the Red Wings secured a playoff berth on the final day. He had five points in two elimination games to help the Red Wings upset the second-seeded Ducks in seven games. He added two Saturday.
"I think that's what makes Toews and [Pavel] Datsyuk and Zetterberg different from other guys in the League is that's what they do -- they compete and when it doesn't go their way they dig down and find a way to go harder," Babcock said. "That's why you want you want them around. They are a great example for the rest of the group."
We'll let Comcast Sportsnet Chicago's Nina Falcone add two new voices--including one we don't usually hear from--to the mix...
"I don't think confidence was ever an issue for us. We knew we could compete with this team," Detroit defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo said. "Obviously the win-loss record hasn't proved that over the year, but we match up pretty well. We have guys in here who have been there and done that, and it's what we feed off of. Those are our leaders and that's what we focus on. We don't focus on them, we focus on us."
Now both teams will hit the road for Games 3 and 4 of this semifinals series. While the Red Wings were happy to get the win on the road, they believe their competition won't be getting any easier just because of a home-crowd advantage.
"Obviously tonight we were just the better team overall," Colaiacovo continued. "The series is not over. It's only 1-1. (The Blackhawks are) as good of a road team as they are a home team. We're not gonna take that for granted. It's great we're going home with the split, I know the people in Detroit will be raving and ready to go. But at the same time, our focus has to be one game at a time. It was tonight and it's got to continue over to next game."
We'll return back to the Zetterberg praise vein via USA Today's Kevin Allen...
Henrik Zetterberg inherited his Detroit Red Wings captaincy from Nicklas Lidstrom, but Saturday, he led more like Steve Yzerman. Zetterberg chipped in two assists and played a gritty, relentless overall game to lead the Red Wings to a 4-1 win against the Chicago Blackhawks that ties up the best-of-seven Western Conference semifinal 1-1.
"Maybe sometimes it doesn't show as well, but he's doing the hard work every night for us," said Detroit defenseman Jonathan Ericsson. "When he gets points, it's good for us. But he is always doing the dirty work, too."
Zetterberg drove the puck into the Chicago zone and then dropped a pass into the slot for defenseman Brendan Smith to drive home what turned out to be the game-winning goal at 16:08 of the second period.
Smith said he was simply in the right place at the right time. "It was a Damien Brunner kind of goal," he said.
And we'll add Babcock's voice to the mix per the Edmonton Sun's Derek Van Diest:
“We didn’t skate at all last game,” said Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock. “We were all right when they didn’t skate in the first period last game and then when they started skating we couldn’t keep up. This was a better game for us obviously, and we gave them less space.”
The Red Wings were able to keep up with the Blackhawks in Game 2 and were much more effective on the rush. A big reason for that was their forwards’ ability to get open on outlet passes.
“The forwards were available, it’s hard to get it to them when they’re not there,” said Babcock. “We were so far away from each other in the last game because we didn’t skate. It makes it a real hard game for your D. You tend to focus on your D not making any plays, but when there’s no one to make it to, they’re tough to make.”
For the Wings' press corps, Smith's redemptive goal was the centerpoint of their coverage, too, and the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness revealed that Kyle Quincey does in fact play a positive role in Smith's development:
“He’s a very emotional guy and I try to tell him, good or bad, it’s a job that we have,” Quincey said. “We get paid to play a game and it’s a game of mistakes and whoever makes the fewest wins. When you score everything is good, but every shift is the exact same. Overtime is the exact thing as the first period. Just keep going. We had a few bad bounces against us. I really didn’t hear what grief he took, but that’s the rumor. It’s good to see him respond. It was a tough one on the first goal but it was good to see him bounce back there.
“It’s taken me a long time to kind of let it roll off my back and he’ll learn the hard way,” Quincey added. “I’ve been there done it. It’s fun to watch him get better and better after every game. I just try to tell him that it’s just a game.”
Smith, who didn’t score a goal in the regular season, saw just over 16 minutes of ice time, registered three shots and blocked two shots.
“It’s huge for me confidence and just for our team because it was such a big game,” Smith said. “I had some things to work on from last game and there are still a lot of things that I have to work on. But hockey is a weird game and sometimes the bounces go your way.”
The Free Press's Helene St. James focused on the crux of the verbal-by-media exchange between Zetterberg and Smith...
Smith also had a hand in Chicago’s only goal, prompting Zetterberg to say, “He creates a lot of stuff. Sometimes for both teams.”
Jimmy Howard followed up on that thought, saying, “It’s Smitty. It’s his first playoffs and he gets really energetic, really fired up. He’s a young guy, and that’s good for us older guys, it energizes us. But at the same time, being his first time around, he’s got to learn to harness his energy a little bit and have it be a little bit more productive for him out on the ice.”
Told of Zetterberg’s bon mot, Smith chuckled, drowned out by defensive partner Kyle Quincey’s roar of laughter as he overheard the quote.
“Ah, it might be a fair judgment,” Smith said.
MLive's Brendan Savage expanded the Zetterberg quote--and the entire quote is essential reading...
"He creates a lot of stuff, sometimes for both teams," Zetterberg deadpanned. "It's nice to see he can put it away when he gets the chance there. He's young, he's still learning. He learns every game. It's nice to see he had a bounce back game."
And he offered some alternate angles on Smith's performance:
"He's my roommate on the road and it didn't seem to bother him at all," said Brunner, who scored Detroit's first goal in Game 2. "I think it's important to stay positive and obviously I was happy for him when he got that winner today."
Coach Mike Babcock, who made a point of defending Smith after his Game 1 performance, did the same thing when asked about the miscue that led to Kane's goal in Game 2.
"I don't see it like you do," Babcock said. "I thought Smith was outstanding.''
And the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan duly noted that Smith told the press that it's not as if he's just making stuff up as he goes along. He receives regular feedback from the Wings' resident alpha male, and that isn't Zetterberg:
Actually, Smith went over the video with coach Mike Babcock and the pair didn't think Smith's Game 1 performance was as bad as others believed. The fact Babcock was entirely in his corner helped Smith considerably.
"That made me feel real good. Coach will tell you how it is if you don't play very well, he'll tell you," Smith said. "We both kind went over things and we didn't think all the criticism I got wasn't as bad as people were saying. If I did play a much worse game, he would have told me and would have been honest and you guys (in the media) all know from how he talks to the media. It showed a lot of confidence and that he will stand up against somebody and show what he believes in, and that helps a young guy like myself."...
Babcock felt Smith — who in Game 2 played 16:03 and was credited with three shots, two blocked shots and no giveaways — was one of the better Red Wings on the ice.
"Smith was outstanding," Babcock said.
The Zetterbeg narrative did receive note from the Wings' scribes, with the Free Press's St. James rightly suggesting that Zetterberg's work ethic is so "robotically" efficient that his teammates kind of don't know how to speak in superlatives about him anymore....
“He’s been the captain for us all the time,” Jonathan Ericsson said. “Maybe sometimes it doesn’t show as well, but he’s doing that hard work for us every night. We couldn’t be happier with him. When he’s getting points, that’s good for us, too, but he’s always doing that dirty work, too.”...
Nine games into the playoffs, Zetterberg has a team-leading 10 points. He finished off the Ducks in Round 1 with seven points the last three games.
It’s such a regular thing with Zetterberg that when asked to come up with something new to say about him, longtime teammate Jimmy Howard burst into laughter — and then couldn’t.
“He’s just a competitor,” Howard said. “It’s nothing new. I’m not surprised. He goes out there and tonight I thought he was one of the hardest-working guys on the ice, for both teams. He’s our leader.”
“He’s stepped up so big for us,'' Smith said. “He’s proven that he is one of the all-time captains in only one year. He’s such a clutch player and we look up to him. I think we feed off his strength and his competition level.”
It is Zetterberg's work ethic more than his talent that leads the way.
“That's what makes Toews and (Pavel) Datsyuk and Zetterberg different. They just compete,'' Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “When it doesn't go their way, they dig down and find a way to go harder. That's why they're a great example for the rest of your group.''
Zetterberg said his team wanted to prove it could play better than it did in its 4-1 loss in Game 1, when the Blackhawks dominated the final two periods. Babcock said his team just needed to do the things it normally does, not reinvent the wheel.
“You lose hockey games, but the way you played (on Wednesday) is hard to take,'' Babcock said. “It was great we had an (extra) off day. It's unbelievable how well that worked out for us. Now we're freshened up. Series on.''
And Zetterberg's own take on his performance opposite Toews in English might take the cake...
“They have the last change (at home), it’s up to them who they want to match-up against,'' Zetterberg said. “Today, it looked like we had the Toews line (with Marian Hossa and Brandon Saad) most of the time. They’re real skilled, fast skaters. You have to play as a five-man unit, be aware where they are and minimize your mistakes.''
Because what he had to say in Swedish wasn't any more revealing. Zetterberg told Expressen's Gunnar Nordstrom that the Wings simply got a "wake-up call" in Game 1 and were happy that they played for a full game, which he also told the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness...
“I think we kept playing,” Henrik Zetterberg said. “We didn’t sit back, we wanted to go for the next goal and it was nice to see when (Valtteri Filppula) got that fourth one. We kind of finished the game.”...
The Wings had been outscored 15-5 in the third period heading into Game 2.
And the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan's recap will bring us back to the team's collective performance:
"When you leave the rink last game, you lose a hockey game, but it's how you play that's hard to take," coach Mike Babock said. "We were disappointed we didn't play the way we were capable of playing in Game 1. This was a better game for us. We gave them less space."...
Franzen and Filppula scored third-period goals, breaking the game open. Jonathan Ericsson's stretch pass found Franzen behind defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson. Franzen took a couple strides and beat goalie Corey Crawford high glove side for his fourth goal of the playoffs, at 7:19.
"I had time to look up and I saw Mule (Franzen) coming with some speed at their defenseman and I was able to get it to him," Ericsson said.
Filppula scored at 12:03, backhanding a pass from Henrik Zetterberg on an odd-man rush (and nice screen by Daniel Cleary in front), giving the Wings a 4-1 lead.
"It's important confidence wise, but they also dug in," Babcock said of Franzen and Filppula, two important cogs in the Red Wings lineup. "If we can be gritty on the puck and limit their space, then series on."
The Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness let Babcock do quite a bit of the talking in his recap...
“We wanted to skate,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “We didn’t skate at all (in Game 1). I actually thought we were all right the first period when they didn’t skate the last game. When they started to skate we couldn’t keep up. This was a better game for us, obviously, we gave them less space.”
The win snaps an eight-game losing skid to the Blackhawks and now gives the Detroit home-ice advantage in the series.
“I don’t know if that makes any difference whatsoever,” Babcock said when asked about home-ice advantage. “They got a real good club. They’ve been good all year. We’ve got a real good club now. We haven’t been good all year. We just got better. So we kept getting better. We’re confident in our group. We think we can be in this series and we’re excited about the opportunity.”
But I can't quote his whole story, and Damien Brunner and Kyle Quincey offered some intriguing quips to Pleiness as well, so we'll head back to the players' takes via the Free Press's Evil Drew Sharp--though Sharp focuses on Smith while wisely pointing out that the "Bench Smith, put in White!" mentality from some Wings fans after his gaffe to Patrick Sharp yielded the 1-0 goal is not necessarily nuts, merely a little ignorant of the fact that the Wings have no alternative in terms of playing personnel who has any sort of trust of the coaching staff at this point, even if that means playing the ramblin,' gambling and very inconsistent but highly-skilled Smith:
I asked Jimmy Howard after ]Wednesday's] game if the team was “ticked off” after the uninspired Game 1 performance and the subsequent questioning — once again — of the Wings’ resolve and resiliency.
“I wouldn’t say we were ticked off, but we were definitely disappointed in how we came out in the first game,” he said. “Whatever the reasons, we knew that we were capable of playing much better.”
The Wings blamed fatigue for their lethargic Game 1 effort. That’s fine, if that’s the excuse game you desire playing. But you had damn well better play the next game as though your very playoff survival depended upon it.
And the Wings did, paraphrasing Mark Twain — the report of their demise was premature.The Wings played more proactive Saturday, better controlling their blue line. The defensemen were less careless in moving the puck and the forwards more aggressively got themselves open for the quick outlet pass into the neutral zone. As the hockey cliché goes, the Wings had more jump than the Blackhawks.
As the Detroit News's John Niyo notes, both the players and coach felt that having the extra day of rest between Game 1 and Game 2 allowed them to finally arrive mentally and physically after playing a grueling seven-game cross-country series against the Ducks...
"It's unbelievable how that worked out for us," Babcock said. "Now we're freshened up, and it's series on."
A series doesn't start until the road team wins a game, they always say. But in the Stanley Cup playoffs, the surest sign usually is one team complaining about the referees.
Which is exactly what Toews — who's hardly the whining sort, by the way — was doing Saturday afternoon. Matched most of the game against Zetterberg's line — a last-change choice by Joel Quenneville that Babcock appeared to welcome — the Blackhawks' leader struggled to find open ice. And he certainly felt Zetterberg's presence — a shove here, a push there, a stick everywhere.
"We were trying to bump 'em and give our 'D' a little more time with the puck, and today it worked," Zetterberg said, adding with a shrug, "It's part of the playoffs. I think he plays better when it's a little more physical, and I think I play better when it's a little more physical. So it's a lot of give-and-take — that's part of it."
That's the part that was missing from the Wings' game Wednesday, though, starting in their own end. For all the talk about the struggles Brendan Smith and the rest of the defensemen had clearing their own zone, it was the absentee wingers that were the biggest problem. And the biggest talking point heading into Saturday's game, as Detroit's coaching staff emphasized getting a third and fourth man back to help — and in a hurry.
And after a long journey, we'll let the Detroit News's John Niyo take us out with an excellent "spirit of the thing" column, which thankfully calls a spade a spade. In, "Hey, *#$%@&!" fashion:
In the opening moments of the game Jonathan Toews, the Blackhawks captain, skated on the back-check and submarined Zetterberg, chopping into his legs with his body at Zetterberg's knees. Toews might think better of such an injury-tempting approach in the future, given how the Red Wings' brilliant captain spent the next 59:30 of playing time....
Toews had no points in the game. He has no goals in the playoffs. He does have a lot of complaints, though. Apparently, the Chicago captain does not want the Red Wings to be tough with him. And, when they are, he is going to spend a good amount of time complaining to the referees and to his team mates on the bench.
After he submarined Zetterberg early, he complained at least four times about the Red Wings getting their sticks and bodies into him. That is rich.
At 10:47 of the second period, Zetterberg manhandling him in front of Jimmy Howard nearly lead to a goal at the other end, while Toews lingered behind the play with a look on his face that seemed to say he is too good to be treated that way.
At the end of the game, Toews had a similar look on his face, as he lingered to watch the Red Wings celebrate. It was as if he felt he had been deprived unfairly.
Well, okay, let's end on a brighter note, per Fox Sports Detroit's Art Regner:
"Today was our best 60-minute effort of the playoffs,” Red Wing goalie Jimmy Howard told FOX Sports Detroit after the game. “We did a great job from the first period of really getting out of our zone efficiently and not turning the puck over like we did in game one.” That allowed us to be faster in the neutral zone and get in on top of their ‘D’.”
Shots 30-20 Detroit overall. Detroit out-shot Chicago 12-8 in the 1st, 8-5 in the 2nd and 10-7 in the 3rd.
Chicago went 0-for-2 in 4:00 of PP time; the Wings went 0-for-4 in 7:22 of PP time.
Jimmy Howard stopped 19 of 20 shots; Corey Crawford stopped 26 of 30.
The 3 stars were picked by the Chicago media, and they picked Kronwall, Zetterberg and Brunner.
The Wings' goals: Brunner (4) from Kindl (3) and Andersson (3);
Smith (2) from Zetterberg (6) and Cleary (4);
Franzen (4) from Ericsson (3) and Kronwall (2);
Filppula (2) from Zetterberg (7).
Faceoffs 31-25 Detroit (Detroit won 55%);
Blocked shots 15-11 Detroit;
Missed shots 14-6 Detroit (Shot attempts 45-41 Detroit, with Detroit firing 30 shots ON Crawford and 25 wide or into Hawks players);
Hits 36-26 Chicago;
Giveaways 7-6 Chicago;
Takeaways 9-6 Chicago.
Individual stats, TMR style:
Faceoffs: Datsyuk went 11-and-6 (55%); Zetterberg went 6-and-8 (43%); Andersson went 6-and-6 (50%); Emmerton went 2-and-2 (50%); Brunner went 1-and-2 (33%); Miller went 0-and-1.
Shots: Abdelkader and Zetterberg co-led the team with 4 shots apiece; Smith, Cleary and Datsyuk had 3; Kindl, Filppula and Kronwall had 2; Nyquist, Miller, Brunner, Emmerton, Quincey, Colaiacovo and Franzen had 1.
Blocked attempts: Kindl hit Blackhawks players 3 times; Datsyuk and Colaiacovo had 2 attempts blocked; Smith, Cleary, Eaves and Franzen hit Hawks players 1 time.
Missed shots: Abdelkader missed the net 3 times; Eaves, Brunner and Kronwall missed the net 2 times; Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Filppula, Andersson and Franzen missed the net 1 time.
Hits: Abdelkader led the Wings with 5 hits; Ericsson had 4; Kindl, Cleary, Datsyuk, Miller and Emmerton had 2; Smith, Eaves, Brunner, Quincey, Colaiacovo, Filppula and Franzen had 1.
Giveaways: Franzen had 2 giveaways; Nyquist, Ericsson, Andersson and Howard had 1.
Takeaways: Kronwall had 2 takeaways; Datsyuk, Filppula, Andersson and Franzen had 1.
Blocked opponent shots: Smith, Colaiacovo and Andersson blocked 2 shots; Abdelkader, Clear, Nyquist, Miller, Brunner, Quincey, Ericsson, Kronwall and Franzen blocked 1.
Penalties taken: Smith, Kindl and Datsyuk took minor penalties.
Plus-minus: The Wings finished at a collective +15. Ericsson and Kronwall finished at +2; Kindl, Abdelkader, Cleary, Datsyuk, Nyquist, Brunner, Colaiacovo, Zetterberg, Filppula, Andersson and Franzen finished at +1.
Points: Zetterberg had 2 assists; Smith, Filppula and Franzen scored goals; Kindl, Cleary, Ericsson, Kronwall and Andersson had assists.
Ice time: Kronwall led the team with 25:52 played; Ericsson played 23:38; Zetterberg played 19:38;
Datsyuk played 19:06; Quincey played 18:27; Filppula played 18:05;
Kindl played 17:50; Franzen played 17:40; Cleary played 16:17;
Smith played 16:03; Colaiacovo played 15:55; Brunner played 15:27;
Abdelkader played 14:51; Nyquist played 13:57; Andersson played 13:12;
Miller played 12:07; Emmerton played 9:18; Eaves played 8:37.
Red Wings notebooks and also of Red Wings-related note: Drew Miller returned to the lineup and played quite well, as both the Free Press's Helene St. James and the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness noted:
“When you come back you try to be ready to go, I skated a lot and my hand felt fine,” Miller said “I had no issues with it the whole game. We go from here. First period there were a couple of shifts that I had to get the feel back of just getting back in the game. As the game went on I felt better.”
Miller did take a crushing blow near the end of the third period by Brent Seabrook.
“When I was getting the puck out and I think that was the biggest test for my hand,” Miller said. “He hit me on that hand side. I was fine. I made the play and didn’t have any problem with it.”
Did the Wings have other chances to score? Yup, as DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose noted:
Chicago goalie Corey Crawford made a tremendous stop on Daniel Cleary to preserve a 1-1 tie with 9:13 left in the second period. The Blackhawks’ goalie made the initial save on Zetterberg’s shot from the low slot, but he couldn’t prevent the rebound from going to Cleary on the left side of the net. Cleary ripped a shot that was headed to the back of the net, but Crawford, who was on his side, flashed his left catching glove up in time to snag the puck out of the air.
Fourth line center Cory Emmerton also had a glorious opportunity on the Red Wings’ first penalty kill of the game. With under eight-minutes to go in the first period, Blackhawks defenseman Nick Leddy lost an edge near the Chicago bench as he skated the puck out of his end. Emmerton cruised in for the loose puck and fired a shot from the left wing that was stopped by Crawford
Minutes later, on the Wings’ first power-play opportunity, Pavel Datsyuk hit the left post that would have tied the game at 1-1. Datsyuk had three shots in Saturday’s win after going without a single shot in Game 1.
And finally, back home, the Free Press's Steve Schrader faced the unenviable task of analyzing both the NBC and CBC broadcasts of the game, and the Detroit News's Matt Charboneau issued 3 star selections.
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