5 Keys for the Red Wings to Win Game 2

Garrett KolodziejContributor IIMay 18, 2013

5 Keys for the Red Wings to Win Game 2

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    On Wednesday night, the Detroit Red Wings began their Western Conference semifinal series with their longtime rival and Original Six companion Chicago Blackhawks

    Coming into this series, it was likely improbable that the Red Wings would squeak out the series win against the Hawks. Their play against the Ducks in the previous round was encouraging, but Anaheim's top players have a different skill set compared to Chicago's tenacious tandem. 

    The Chicago Blackhawks were the best team in the League this year. Chicago started their abbreviated season with a 21-0-3 record, setting a new NHL record. It took the Hawks 25 games to lose their first game of the season, and they actually had a small slump thereafter. 

    All of the regular-season dominance by the Hawks was irrelevant now. Game 1 took place and started out pretty slow. 

    Damien Brunner tied the game up at one apiece after Marian Hossa buried his fourth goal of the postseason at 9:03 of the first. 

    From this point on, the Hawks found their game legs and peppered Jimmy Howard all night long. He made incredible saves all night, but the defense made no effort to help him. 

    The Wings dropped Game 1, 4-1. Game 2 is on Saturday, and the Red Wings are hoping to erase the bad memories from their sluggish series opener. 

    Here are five things they need to ensure to help tie the series. 

Limit Defensive Mistakes

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    A key flaw in the Red Wings' game plan in Game 1 was the mistakes the defense created.

    In particular, the defensive mistakes that contributed to the Hawks' two third-period goals. 

    For Game 2, there will need to be a better defensive effort. It might take a change in the pairings and better puck movement in the neutral zone. The pace will need to be set early in the game if the Wings plan on winning. 

    This means the Wings need to play more assertively on the forecheck but be able to quickly press back on the speedy Chicago forwards. 

    Many times in Game 1, Chicago's top six forwards were able to dictate the neutral-zone play and press the Wings into making mistakes on line changes. 

    Coach Mike Babcock will hopefully make this change to help tie the series. 

Set the Tempo Early in Game 2

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    A key point of the Anaheim series was the Red Wings' tempo. 

    The Red Wings wore down the Ducks in Games 6 and 7 and proved they were still a powerful team in the Western Conference. 

    Playing a seven-game series over three time zones proved to be no problem for the Red Wings. Now that they are playing much closer to home, and also against a far superior opponent, it is time to set the tempo. 

    This means the Wings will need to try to force the Hawks to induce penalties and make good use out of their extra man opportunities along with even strength attack. 

    Detroit's top lines can neutralize Kane, Toews and Co. on the Hawks, and that can be done by constantly attacking. 

The Third Line Must Step Up

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    Detroit's top two lines have been spectacular throughout the postseason. The key factor in the series against Anaheim, however, was the strong play of the team's third line. 

    The line consists of Damien Brunner, Gustav Nyquist and Joakim Andersson. For all three, this is their first NHL playoff action, and they have gone through the playoffs learning on the fly. 

    It's good experience for a group of players who is slated to become the nucleus during the transition of the Red Wings. 

    However, the group has made some costly mistakes. With all of their youth, they have been able to keep up with the veterans. But the veterans inevitably force the kids to use their speed and skill to create mistakes. 

    Chicago is a very balanced team among their forwards, and while Brunner scored the lone goal for the Wings in Game 1, the line was on the ice for the third goal of the night by the Hawks. 

    Going through the growing pains in the playoffs is tough, but this group will contribute even more in Game 2. 

Preserve a Great Start from Jimmy Howard

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    Saying that Jimmy Howard carried the Red Wings on his back on Wednesday night is a vast understatement. 

    The team was struggling to beat Corey Crawford and set up their puck possession in the Chicago zone. 

    Instead, the Hawks controlled the tempo throughout the game and made Jimmy Howard stay alert the entire game. This wasn't uncommon for Howard, though, who was the best player for the Red Wings in the series against Anaheim.

    Chicago made him earn every one of his 38 saves on the night. He will need to duplicate this effort to give the Wings a great chance to win.

    But there should be more impetus from the forwards to preserve this start.

Make Opening Trip to Chicago Worthwhile

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    When on the road, a team's goal is to not be in a 0-2 hole going back home for Games 3 and 4 

    The first two periods of Wednesday's game proved the Wings can indeed steal a game, albeit with the help of the defense and Jimmy Howard. 

    Being able to win Game 2 would give the Wings a comfort in going home for the next two games and let them gain some momentum on the Hawks. 

    In addition, it serves as a precedent for the team to meet for the remainder of the postseason. Winning against Chicago would mean a lot for this group of players trying to find its playoff identity. 

    Game 2 will be the barometer for how the series will pan out in Detroit starting on Monday.