Sunday, May 26, 2013

Strike One: Wings Whiff on First Chance to Eliminate Hawks

Did you get to watch Game 5? If you didn't, don't worry. You didn't miss much.

Detroit entered the United Centre with their first of three chances to end the Chicago Blackhawks' season yesterday evening.  They had spoken to the media prior to the game and admitted that the toughest game of any series to win is the fourth and final victory.  The Red Wings knew they had to stay on top of their game and play as well as they had over the previous three games.

They KNEW it, but they certainly didn't execute it.  The Wings were slow out of the gate, and flat from then on as Chicago dictated the play all night long.  Eventually the Blackhawks just wore down the Wings and before we knew it, we were staring at a 4-1 deficit that was not to be overcome, bringing the series lead for Detroit down to 3-2.

I was watching the CBC feed, so I don't know if it felt this way to anyone watching the NBC broadcast, but to me it felt like our bottom two lines completely vanished in this game.  The line of Brunner, Nyquist and Andersson faded into complete obscurity after the 1st period and the fourth line was scarcely any better, leaving Chicago with only two of our lines to really focus on shutting down.  Pavel Datsyuk, though a magician he is, was smothered the entire game.  Even still, he did get off a shot that rang the post behind Corey Crawford, but that was the closest he would get to the back of the net.

Jimmy Howard was good.  Some would argue a goal or two against that could be called soft, but he once again made critical saves to keep his team in it as long as he could, but when you're basically on your own, watching your teammates chasing the puck with no real sense of urgency, you know you're in for a long night.  In contrast to the many one-and-dones the Red Wings got out of their offense, Chicago maintained puck possession and were so deeply entrenched in our zone they may as well have set up tents.  This loss was not on Howard, it was on the entire group of skaters who didn't skate--they literally watched Chicago win this game.

Overall, it was just a terrible effort from a team that could use the luxury of ending the series early and getting a little rest.  The only good thing to come out of this loss is that, should Detroit advance, it potentially postpones the Conference finals for an extra couple days, giving injured defenseman Danny DeKeyser more time to heal and possibly make it back into the lineup, something Detroit would desperately love to see happen.

Game 6 is tomorrow night at 8 PM Eastern.  The Wings will need to learn from their mistakes in Game 5 and come out with a much smarter and more organized game if they want to close this series out at home and advance to the Conference finals.