Coming into the second game of a back-to-back and facing a team that had two fulls days of rest, there was a significant worry the Blackhawks were walking into an ambush. That’s without taking into account they were playing in Joe Louis Arena, a place where they’ve had some serious problems throughout the years.
At the end of a scoreless first period, the Red Wings got called for too many men on the ice. The Hawks top power play unit couldn’t generate much pressure in the final minute and five seconds and the teams went into the locker room the same way they started.
With the full intermission break, the Hawks were able to throw their number one power play unit at the start of the second. After cycling the puck deep in Detroit’s zone, Patrick Kane found himself alone at the top of the blue line. He spun around to his forehand, took two steps and rifled a slap shot towards the top corner. With Troy Brouwer blocking Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard, the puck popped right off the netting for a beautiful looking first Hawk goal.
Detroit’s top line of Todd Bertuzzi, Pavel Datsyuk, and Tomas Holmstrom put together a few nice shifts in a row and the Hawks compromised by taking a couple of penalties. Antti Niemi was able to withstand the barrage of shots Detroit’s number one line threw at him and kept Detroit off the board while he waited for his team to catch their second wind.
His best sequence of saves came when Holmstrom blasted a slap shot from a tight angle. The puck laid in front of Niemi and Holmstrom threw the loose puck toward the slot. Datsyuk had a couple of point-blank opportunities but tried to beat Niemi down low. That’s not going to work very often.
After handling Detroit’s assault, the Hawks started to mount an attack of their own including a stretch at the end of the period where they had 8 consecutive shots without Detroit getting one. Howard stood tall to keep the game a one-goal margin.
Three minutes into the third, Dustin Byfuglien and Kirk Maltby went off for coincidental penalties. In what’s becoming a trend, getting the Hawks in a 4-on-4 situation is just as dangerous as giving them a man advantage. Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Marian Hossa, and Patrick Sharp played keep away from the Red Wings for a little bit, then Hossa and Keith had a give-and-go that gave Keith a ton of space.
He walked in and fired a low shot on net. Howard kicked the rebound out and Sharp got three whacks at the loose puck. His third attempt went in and the Hawks had all those cushion they’d need.
Detroit had a chance to get back in the game a minute later when Jonathan Toews went off for interference but less than a minute later, Todd Bertuzzi two-handed John Madden in the hand and that was the end of the Red Wing’s man advantage and any chance they had of making a comeback.
Perhaps one of the more impressive feats for the Hawks was how they prevented the Wings from ever pulling their goalie. In the final three minutes, the Hawks, once again, played keep-away from Detroit by constantly cycling deep in the offensive zone. The sequence ended with Toews sneaking his 11th goal past Howard.
–I’m not really sure what to make of Antti Niemi but I will enjoy the ride while it lasts. Since we’re on the topic, though, it’s time to address his real problem: his leg pads. It took me a while to finally notice but Niemi’s leg pads are simply hideous. There’s no bend at the knee-cap; they’re plain white; they basically look like Franklin Street Hockey goalie pads. And that’s all without taking into account how his pants hang off his ass. As President Obama says, “Brothers gotta pull their pants up.” This is the NHL, not the Finnish Elite League.
–Speaking of goalie equipment, kudos to Jimmy Howard’s choice of leg pads. They resemble Felix Potvin’s Cat pads from his Toronto days. If you’re going to have an inspiration for leg pads, that’s almost the best you can do. Trevor Kidd’s checkerboard pads from Calgary being number one on the list, of course.
–Here was Steve Konroyd’s advice for the Hawks going into the third period–“Just keep skating.” Whew….for a second there, I was worried the Hawks were going to come out in broom ball shoes for the final frame.