In a turn of events that few, at least outside of Detroit, expected, the Detroit Red Wings have won two consecutive games in their series against the Chicago Blackhawks, stealing home ice advantage and possessing a chance to go up 3-1 in the series on Thursday night.
There are a few reasons for that. The gameplan that Mike Babcock prepared for this club. The play of Jimmy Howard, as well as several role players on the roster. But perhaps the biggest reason for the lead that the Red Wings possess is the play of Henrik Zetterberg.
Since Game 1, a tilt which saw Jonathan Toews get on the board with an assist in a game the Hawks cominated, Zetterberg has been matched up against the Blackhawks captain. It’s a matchup that has proven to be favorable for the Red Wings, not so much for the Blackhawks.
Comparing strictly points, Zetterberg has two assists, Toews has zero points to speak of. There’s no doubt that Z has done a number on Toews, preventing him from seeing too many good scoring opportunities, even if the Hawks captain is still looking at some pretty good possession numbers. He’s also won less than 50 percent of his draws in the past two games, a rarity for the Selke Trophy finalist.
But where we really see Zetterberg having an effect on Toews isn’t so much on what Toews has or hasn’t done on the stat sheet. It’s how he’s reacted to adversity. This is a Blackhawks team that hasn’t had their backs up against the wall for most of the season. Now they are, and it doesn’t look good.
Toews is clearly frustrated. His on-ice demeanor is much lower than we typically see it from a player with the pedigree of Toews, as well as the fact that he’s been barking at the officials more than he typically does. Zetterberg is the prime reason for that behavior.
It’s hard to imagine that Zetterberg will be able to completely shut down a player like Toews for the remainder of this series. He’s a world class player. Even a player like Z can’t shut him up forever. But the fact that Z’s been able to quiet him long enough for the Wings to steal all of the momentum in this series speaks volumes about what he’s been able to do so far against the Chicago Blackhawks.