5 Biggest Takeaways from Start of Detroit Red Wings' 2nd-Round Playoff Series
The Red Wings couldn't go home empty-handed after dropping Game 1 in a rather unimpressive fashion by a 4-1 score. Detroit rebounded nicely in Game 2, winning 4-1, outshooting the Blackhawks in every period.
But what can Detroit take home for Games 3 and 4 from their first two games in Chicago?
Here are the five biggest takeaways from the first two games of the Red Wings' against the Blackhawks. These "takeaways" are based off of the Red Wings' biggest successes and failures so far in the series.
1. The Red Wings Need to "Start on Time"
Mike Babcock has a saying after one-sided losses that he doesn't mind repeating from game to game: he comments that the Red Wings didn't "start on time" (courtesy of Fox Sports Detroit).
In the first two games of the series, the Red Wings have started on time, being tied 1-1 after one period in Game 1 and outshooting the Blackhawks 12-8 in Game 2. But it has been the Red Wings' play in the second and third periods that has dictated the outcome of the first two games.
Despite the importance of the second and third periods, Detroit needs to remain focused on starting out strong and "starting on time."
The Blackhawks won 89.5 percent of regular season games in which they led after one period of play. The Red Wings managed to put a dent in that mark in Game 2, when they came back to win 4-1 after trailing 1-0 after one period of play.
The key for the Red Wings is hanging around in this series, not allowing the Blackhawks to put the game away in the first period (or even the first half) of the game. That is exactly how the Red Wings won their first-round series with Anaheim: by hanging around and never allowing themselves to be completely out of it, despite trailing 2-1 and 3-2 in the series.
If Detroit can start strong and start on time for Game 3 and Game 4, they should have as good a chance as anyone in the NHL to defeat the Blackhawks in a best-of-seven series.
2. Give Jimmy Howard a Chance to Steal Games
Jimmy Howard was fantastic in Game 2, but he was even better in Game 1. The problem for Howard was that it felt like he was the only Red Wing pulling on the rope in Game 1.
Howard stopped 17 shots in the second period of Game 1, giving his team a chance to win the game going into the third period, tied 1-1. The Red Wings, naturally, fell flat on their face in the third period, giving up two more goals with Howard between the pipes and another one with Howard on the bench.
Game 2 was a better team result for the Red Wings, as they limited Chicago to just 20 shots on goal; that total was less than half of the 42 that Detroit gave up in Game 1.
If the Red Wings are to continue to hang around in Game 3 and the remainder of the series, the team defense in front of Jimmy Howard needs to be what it was in Game 2, not Game 1.
3. Third Line Needs to Keep Producing
A substantial portion of Detroit's offense in the playoffs has been coming from non-first line players such as Damien Brunner, Joakim Andersson and Gustav Nyquist.
These three players represent the Red Wings' third line. This line has done wonders in the playoffs, with a combined 13 points in nine playoff games. As two of these players weren't even on the Red Wings' NHL roster at the start of the season, it is quite remarkable what they've been able to accomplish in the playoffs.
But because of the two-way abilities of the Chicago Blackhawks' top-six forwards group, this third line needs to continue to improve and score for the Red Wings to have a chance of advancing.
Players like Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk and Johan Franzen may be counted on for offense under normal circumstances, but when the likes of Marian Hossa, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane oppose them, it is a different story.
Datsyuk, Zetterberg and Franzen will step up when they can, but the Red Wings need to win the battle of bottom-six forwards in order to turn the tide completely in their favor for the remainder of this series.
4. The Continued Growth of the Defense in Their Ability to Deny Chances
The second slide mentioned how the Red Wings were able to deny shots by the Blackhawks in Game 2, limiting them to just 20 for the entire game. That trend needs to continue, but it is the defense that will be relied upon heavily in this task.
The defense stepped up in Game 2, with Brendan Smith jumping into the rush and netting the game-winning goal. But it is not on offense where the Red Wings' defense will be asked to contribute the most. Instead, it is in clearing pucks out of the defensive zone.
This Blackhawks team is very skilled, so it goes without saying that any turnover is a chance for Chicago to score. The Red Wings have only had six giveaways in each of the first two games, but it was limiting Chicago's time and space in the Red Wings' zone that paid the most dividends for Detroit.
Head coach Mike Babcock was full of praise for his younger Red Wings' squad on NHL.com.
Our guys have gotten better. You have to give them credit. We've had great growth from within—I think the most since I've been in the National Hockey League, for sure. That might just be because we've got a different type of team. We've got a whole bunch of kids, so there is a chance for growth.
The issue for the Red Wings is whether that growth will continue going into Game 3 and the rest of the series. The Red Wings' defense, a rag-tag group to start the season, has come together well in nine playoff games so far.
The key for Detroit in the rest of the series is not taking any steps backward as a defense. They have come too far collectively to start regressing in the progress that they have made.
5. Stay Hungry, Take Shots and Be Opportunistic on Offense
In all four of the Red Wings' goals in Game 2, the player shooting the puck could have missed or not taken the shot.
When the Red Wings are at their best, they are shooting and getting the puck on net. They are not passing the puck around, looking for the best possible shot.
These are not the 2002 Red Wings with Steve Yzerman, Brett Hull and Luc Robitaille. These are the No. 7 seed Red Wings. They need to take every opportunity that they have to get pucks on net and be opportunistic on offense.
The Red Wings know now that Crawford can be beaten for multiple goals in a game despite his sub-2.00 GAA in the regular season and postseason.
Now they just need to exploit his average goaltending for their own gain.
All statistics and game recaps courtesy of NHL.com.
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