Saturday was not a fun day for the Chicago Blackhawks. Their second semifinals game against the Detroit Red Wings was, to put it mildly, stinky. Think of a hideously awful movie you’ve watched. Did you cringe through it? Fans cringed through this game. Patrick Kane’s goal (his first in the postseason) was a beautiful moment, but it ended up as a cute little flower in a pasture full of cow pies.
It was painful to watch the Blackhawks lose 4-1, but there’s a bit of method to their madness. We’ve seen this season that they’ve taken some really bad losses (those March games against the Colorado Avalanche and Edmonton Oilers come to mind) but have come back stronger afterward. In this postseason, their Game Three loss to the Minnesota Wild was the catalyst for two strong games that gave them the series. This loss on Saturday could be the spark that the Blackhawks have had this season after being defeated, a spark that could be the Red Wings’ downfall.
So what can the Blackahwks do coming into Game Three? First, the second line cannot be put on the ice against the line containing Pavel Datsyuk. Sure, Kane is like him in puck handling skills, but the only player equal to Datsyuk as a defensive forward is Jonathan Toews. The top line must be on the ice when Datsyuk is there to neutralize him.
Second, the Blackhawks need to put pressure on the Red Wings in their own zone. The old mantra of “put pucks in the net” can get worn out quickly, but if the Blackhawks really want that to happen, they need to actually try it and be aggressive, especially in the crease. This means putting guys like Andrew Shaw there, because he can be very effective in that position.
Lastly, the Blackhawks need to stop taking so many unnecessary penalties. Even though their 10 penalty minutes seem like nothing, they were for stupid little things like hooking, slashing, cross-checking and roughing. Those happen carelessly, and they can throw off a team’s momentum and change a game in a heartbeat. The Blackhawks need to be disciplined and focus on the game at hand, not the next one. That mindset has worked this season, so there’s no reason to stop it now.
One more note: after sitting out two games, Viktor Stalberg will be playing. We’ll see if he’s learned his lesson.