In this Game 5 matchup, the Blackhawks knew they had to come out with guns blazing and play with a heavy sense of desperation. They definitely did so, and it looked initially like the Red Wings couldn’t really match it. The first ¾ of the 1st period was an onslaught of hits and chippy play as both sides refused to give an inch. The scoring was opened late in the period by the Blackhawks. At 14:08, Jimmy Howard turned away two consecutive shots by the rushing Hawks, caused by Jonathan Ericsson’s inability to clear the puck from the zone. Niklas Kronwall was upturned in front of the net, causing him to be unable to steer the 2nd rebound away, which found its way across to a waiting Bryan Bickell who buried it in the open side of the net to make it 1-0. Shots at the end of the period were 12-11 for the Blackhawks.
The 2nd period didn’t go much better for the Red Wings, despite them finally finding their way onto the board. At 9:37, Daniel Cleary made a wing-to-wing pass across to Henrik Zetterberg, who put the puck towards the net and had it redirected by Brendan Smith. The rebound came back to Cleary who buried it past Corey Crawford to make it a 1-1 tied game. The Blackhawks would answer a mere 1:01 later, at 10:38 on the power play. Duncan Keith fired a shot from the blue line, and had it redirected in mid-air by Andrew Shaw, giving Howard no chance at stopping it, taking the lead 2-1. They would extend on it at 15:47 on yet another power play goal. As the Red Wings were again unable to clear the puck from the zone, it found its way to Marian Hossa, who passed to a waiting Jonathan Toews to the left of Howard. He shot it high on Howard, and it ended up bouncing of his face and into the net over his shoulder, finally giving Toews his first of the playoffs, and making it 3-1 Blackhawks. Shots at the end of the period ended up being 28-22 for Chicago.
The terrors would continue for the Red Wings in the 3rd period, as their possession game continued to suffer. At 6:58, Viktor Stalberg sent a shot wide of Howard, and it trickled back towards the net. Shaw swooped in behind, grabbed up the puck and wrapped it into the goal before Howard could post up his skate, making it 4-1 Blackhawks. The rest of the period was a flurry of bad passes, turnovers, and giveaway by the Red Wings, giving the Blackhawks far too many chances at Howard, some of which while they were on a power play. They would manage to kill off the remainder of the game to keep the score 4-1, making the series 3-2 Red Wings heading back to Detroit.
When you’re throwing the puck to no one, not clearing pucks from your zone at critical moments (ahem, Eaves, Ericsson), and you’re not chasing the pucks that you’re chipping in after being choked off in the neutral zone, nothing good is going to result of it. The opposing team is simply going to hand you a loss and think nothing of it. But I’m also thinking that Babcock not being able to get the line matchups he wanted, being away, (i.e. Zetterberg on Toews like he has all series), is a good contribution to Chicago’s ability to skate wide of the Wings and keep the pressure on them. Just gotta bring it home and regroup.
Game 6 will be Monday night back at the Joe. Red Wings will get a 2nd chance to send the Blackhawks packing. See you then, Nation.