Chicago Blackhawks: Five Keys to Beating the Detroit Red Wings
Sunday the Blackhawks and Red Wings go at it for the 724th time
On Sunday at Joe Louis Arena the Chicago Blackhawks will find themselves in what would be the definition of a “hostile crowd.” The Detroit Red Wings are 5-4-1 in their last ten and clinging to the 6th seed by one point over the surging San Jose Sharks.
They’re also three points away from falling out of the playoff race altogether. Add in the fact that Patrick Kane’s highlight reel game-winning goal came in a shootout after everyone in the building had figured they’d finally snapped the Hawks then 25 game unbeaten streak, and you've got plenty of reason to worry if you’re wearing a Chicago jersey in Detroit this weekend.
The Hawks on the other hand are playing .500 hockey, however since the team and city for that matter have grown used to the dominant style of play turned in during the first half of the season there’s reason for concern after last night’s loss to the Anaheim Ducks. With the win the Ducks have now swept the season series (0-2-1) and shown the league that the Western Conference leaders are human after all.
Yet the Hawks have shown time and again that in the biggest games, they've come up with the biggest plays. Head coach Joel Quenneville’s going to need to come up with a game-plan to fend off what should be a desperate Red Wings team and so I figured since coach Q doesn't get nearly enough advice from the ACAA (Armchair Coaches Association of America), I’d throw in my two cents and give him a few things to key on.
Winning in Joe Louis Arena has never come easy for the Blackhawks
5. Take the crowd out of it.
This is Hockey town, USA and nobody on the planet is more hated the Chicago Blackhawks. The Red Wings are on their heels and the Hawks have taken two from them already so you know the fans are gonna be rabid. An early goal here could work miracles to take the most vicious of crowds out of it.
To beat Detroit Pavel Datsyuk needs to be contained
4. Slow down Pavel Datsyuk.
The Wings live and die with Pavel Datsyuk. He leads the team in goals (11), points (35), and is tied for the lead in assists (24) with Henrik Zetterberg. If the Hawks can figure out a way to take Datsyuk out of his game—and a good, hard forecheck has been known to do just that—then sweeping Detroit in Joe Louis could be a reality for the first time since 2010-11.
The Hawks defense needs to protect Corey Crawford
3. Don’t hang Corey Crawford out to dry.
When the Hawks lose—and yes I realize it doesn’t happen often—it usually happens because of a loss of focus. In each loss you can look back and find a miscue or a turnover that doesn’t normally occur when the Hawks are at full attention. When these miscues or lapses occur in the Chicago zone and result in a cheap goal for the opposing team, Crawford gets frustrated. When goalies are frustrated they aren’t loose, and when they aren’t loose, they press. And when goalies press they look like Crawford did last year against the Phoenix Coyotes in the playoffs. Needless to say Crawford was on the couch for the rest of the playoffs.
Traffic in front of Jimmy Howard is essential
2. Get bodies in front of Jimmy Howard.
Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard doesn't give up a lot of soft goals. The way to beat him is to stuff the crease with big bodies and make sure he spends the majority of his time trying to find the puck and not sitting on it. In March he’s 6-1-2 and has a 1.52 GAA to go along with a .948 save percentage. To say he’s hot would be an understatement, so Coach Q needs to plant big Jimmy Hayes (6’6) and Bryan Bickell (6’4) in front of Howard and tell em to raise some Cain.
Patrick Kane needs to continue to haunt Detroit fans
1. Keep the talent on the ice.
The name Patrick Kane causes nausea and vomiting in the greater Detroit area. And Marian Hossa—assuming he’s healthy—had a huge season in Detroit in 2008-09 and then abandoned them for their arch-rivals. Defensemen Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook have been thorns in the side of Detroit coach Mike Babcock for all eight years of his tenure there.
If the Hawks can keep these guys on the ice and stick to the game plan, Red Wings should be heading home Sunday afternoon with a bit of Easter egg on their face.