In front of 20,066 of the best fans in hockey last night, the Detroit Red Wings defeated the Chicago Blackhawks 3-1 at Joe Louis Arena. The win was huge for Detroit, as they now have a 2-1 lead in the Western Conference semifinal series. The Wings scored the clutch goals when it counted, with Gustav Nyquist and Drew Miller scoring 31 seconds apart in the middle of the second period and Pavel Datsyuk scoring in the third to restore the two-goal lead after Patrick Kane’s goal cut it down to just one. Jimmy Howard made 39 saves on 40 shots for Detroit and Corey Crawford made 27 saves on 30 shots for the Blackhawks. A good, chippy, and entertaining hockey game that was definitely fun to watch and must-see TV for hockey fans.
In the first period the Blackhawks actually played better than the Red Wings, getting good shots on Jimmy Howard and forcing him to make some spectacular saves. The penalty kill was solid and it looked like they had the confidence and momentum going into the locker room at the first intermission. The Red Wings were playing well also; they killed their penalties, passed the puck around and played shutout defense just like Chicago. A pretty even first period that Chicago “won” simply because of the shots advantage.
The second period was looking pretty even too, until midway through when Gustav Nyquist was able to out-skate the defense, deke Brent Seabrook and put in the first goal of the game. Just 31 seconds later, forward Cory Emmerton was able to take advantage of a Blackhawks turnover by stealing the puck and wisely passing it to Patrick Eaves. Eaves shot and was stopped by the goalie Crawford, but Crawford failed to handle the rebound and Drew Miller tipped it in on the rebound to put Detroit up 2-0. That score held up going into the third period, 2-0 Red Wings. Not surprisingly, Detroit got the edge that period.
The third period was not without some controversial officiating that went against both teams. The first debatable call was a no-call four minutes in. As Detroit marched down the ice hoping to score, Johan Franzen (my key to the series) was slammed hard against the boards by Niklas Hjalmarsson. Even though the refs didn’t call the cross check, which was a bad decision, they did not blow the whistle and stop the play while Franzen stayed down on the other side of the ice, giving Kane a better chance at a breakaway goal. Refs usually want to continue the play when a scoring chance like that arises, but a potentially serious injury like that where a guy can’t get up for a defenseman to join the play should be taken care of immediately. But then it was Detroit benefiting from a poor call by the officials when Chicago’s Viktor Stalberg appeared to score the game-tying goal, but the officials ruled that Blackhawks teammate Andrew Shaw was “in the crease” and disallowed the goal due to goalie interference. This was a bad call, plain and simple. Shaw didn’t even touch Jimmy Howard, and it should have been a good goal. The Red Wings were still outplaying the Hawks all game, but with the game tied anything could have happened from that point forward. Instead, the Blackhawks looked defeated after the decision and Detroit’s Pavel Datsyuk scored the final goal for the Red Wings to ice the game at 3-1.
Detroit’s defense looked good all game long, and that’s what got them the win. Giving themselves up to block shots and protect their goaltender gave them a solid chance, and Jimmy Howard took care of the rest. They need to keep it up next game to get another win and go up 3-1. If they get up 3-1, I think they win in six. The Blackhawks looked defeated after last night’s game, and I think Detroit has more mental toughness right now. Also, Jonathan Toews is not producing at all for Chicago, failing to score in these playoffs thus far. If he doesn’t score in this series Chicago loses, it’s that simple. Great win for Detroit, sub-par performance by the Blackhawks.