Regardless of the conference realignment, the Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings continue to play excellent hockey, regardless of each other. However, after tonight’s contest in which Detroit won in a 5-4 shootout, it is clear that Detroit is a legitimate playoff contender, while Chicago will need to pick up their performances as games get closer and carry more meaning.
Chicago has yet to win a game in overtime this season, despite the logic that 4-on-four ice would improve the spacing of the NHL’s best offense. Yet the Blackhawks should be thankful to escape Detroit with a single point thanks to an overall poor effort. The team will face off with the Minnesota Wild tomorrow night, culminating a two game road trip.
The Blackhawks were outworked for a majority of the game, losing board battles and loose puck chases despite dominating the faceoff battle 44-24. On a more positive note, the Blackhawks’ special teams showed signs of life. The Blackhawks’ power play reappeared on the score sheet thanks to Patrick Sharp in the second period after inconsistencies caused slight concern about the man advantage unit.
Even better, the Blackhawks’ penalty kill was once again perfect. The team now ranks 27th in the NHL, but has found chemistry as of late; enough so to survive a late Duncan Keith penalty with the game of the line. If today’s performance is added in, the Blackhawks’ penalty kill would be within the top five of the league, with their last 11 games at nearly 86 percent.
There’s no rest for the weary, however, as the Blackhawks faces another team in contention for a final playoff spot in the Wild. The Wild may also regain one of their best players in Zach Parise, while the Blackhawks are best served putting Antti Raanta back in net.
The Blackhawks are lucky to have forced yet another overtime game, but have plenty of work to do before tomorrow’s game against the Wild.
Follow Mike Guzman on Twitter @Mike486