Redemption was the front page story of today’s game…at least for one of the teams playing. The Detroit Red Wings gave as good as they got from the Chicago Blackhawks in game 1 and traded a 4-1 victory back to them at the United Center. Several players who were much maligned or just plain sucked earlier in the postseason turned in remarkable performances. Brendan Smith turned in a goal and three shots tonight after playing the goat for much of the last series, Valtteri Filppula scored a highlight-reel goal and had 18:05 of ice time in which he was -NOT- a liability unlike the past few games, and Johan Franzen finally showed some of the playoff fire he’s famous for, after coming into the game with 3 goals and a -7 rating in 8 games. The team that looked like it could have been swept after game one came out and outplayed, outpossessed, and outshot (30-20) a Chicago team that looked surprised by the intensity of Detroit’s play.
The tilt didn’t start off as well as it ended, however. Chicago came out of the gate into the first period dominating and hemming Detroit into their own zone. The Zetterberg line in particular was heavily outmatched by Chicago’s trio of Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, and Brandon Saad. However, it was the second line of Patrick Sharp, Michal Handzus, and Patrick Kane that made Detroit pay. Brendan Smith mishandled a clearing attempt and fell over at Chicago’s blue line, which resulted in a 3-on-1 against – sigh – Kyle Quincey. Cleary attempted a backcheck and did a good job of blocking Sharp’s original pass, but the puck bounced off him and right to Handzus, who fed it over to Kane who made the score 1-0 with his first playoff goal in over two years.
Despite looking invigorated from being scored against, Detroit wasn’t able to equalize until the second period, from a deflection courtesy of Damien Brunner off a Jakub Kindl point shot; Kindl made a great play to keep that puck and send it toward the net – he’s finally starting to show the maturity and patience with the puck that everyone expected when the Wings drafted him 19th overall in 2005. Kindl wasn’t the only recent first round pick to shine in the second period though; Brendan Smith stepped in to join a rush at the end of the period and tapped in a Zetterberg pass to put Detroit ahead by 1 going into the third period.
Thankfully, Detroit’s third period fortunes seem to have turned, as they continued to dominate the game at both ends of the ice and wound up with two goals for and none against to show for it. The first one came off the stick of Johan Franzen, who showcased his beautiful snap shot with a blast that rocketed over the glove of Chicago goalie Corey Crawford. The Mule can be as dominant as any player in the league when he gets angry, so hopefully the ire of that game 1 loss doesn’t leave him for game 3 on Monday. Goal #2 came from another underachieving forward in Valtteri Filppula, who scored an amazing highlight reel goal from his knees to cap off scoring at 4-1. Good game.
But where does this leave Detroit?
The Wings have essentially nullified Chicago’s home ice advantage by defeating them so thoroughly at the United Center, but they absolutely NEED to win both games at home if they want to take this series. I highly doubt Chicago will play this badly again at home, so it’s imperative that Detroit takes advantage of being at home while they still can. Tonight was a big step though, as the team showed that they can stick with and dominate the apparently-superior Hawks.
Thanks for reading, and go Wings! Follow me on twitter: @dzkefalas