NHL Playoffs: 5 Reasons Why the Blackhawks Beat the Red Wings in Game 5
Needing to play their best hockey of the season, the Hawks put on a convincing performance and extended the series to a Game 6 in Detroit on Monday night.
After getting outplayed for three consecutive games and shutout for the first time against the Wings in Game 4, the Blackhawks made the necessary adjustments to play a complete game back home at the United Center.
Here are five key reasons why this series is headed back to Detroit for Game 6.
Grinders Step Up
While big-name Blackhawks Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith, Marian Hossa and Brent Seabrook all recorded at least one point in the 4-1 victory, Chicago benefited immensely from role-players and grinders bringing needed intensity and life from the first puck drop.
You'd be hard pressed to find a Blackhawk more maligned in the first four games of the series than Andrew Shaw. The 21-year-old completely turned around his play on Saturday night, netting a pair of goals including the game-winner and playing smart, aggressive hockey.
Shaw also goaded Carlo Colaiacovo into taking a hooking penalty against him late in the first period by getting to the net. He was later rewarded for doing the same thing when he redirected a Duncan Keith slap shot past Wings net minder Jimmy Howard in the second period on the power play.
Bryan Bickell was perhaps the most physical Blackhawk of the night, winning races in the offensive zone and constantly ramming into Red Wings. He laid a huge hit on Niklas Kronwall late in the third to take the Wings' defenseman out of the game. Bickell also added the Hawks' first goal of the game by driving hard to the net and cashing in on a Patrick Kane rebound.
Dave Bolland was held off the score sheet but used his wit to goad Justin Abdelkader into drawing a penalty after it appeared Bolland would be heading to the box alone for tripping Pavel Datsyuk early in the second period.
Michael Handzus took the opening draw of the game for Chicago and established a physical tone early with a sense of urgency, as well as a few big hits. He led the Blackhawks on the night with four.
Net Presence Proves Crucial
Game 5 proved one thing: Jimmy Howard is indeed a human being. After allowing just two goals to Patrick Kane in three games, the Blackhawks were finally able to light the lamp more often.
Much like Game 1 where Chicago won 4-1, the Blackhawks peppered Howard with shots all night long, out-shooting Detroit 45-26 by the end.
Chicago looked to make adjustments on Detroit in Game 4 when they made it clear they were avoiding Howard's glove side whenever possible but finally executed on that game plan in Game 5. The Blackhawks shot low, looking to create rebounds and constantly won battles down low to create traffic and screens in front of Howard.
Shaw deflected his first goal of the night past Howard in this fashion, with the Blackhawks swarming around the Detroit net throughout the game. Bickell cashed in on a rebound, as did Shaw once more to put the Hawks up 4-1 after Brandon Saad's shot deflected behind the net.
Despite out-hitting Chicago 25 to 22, Detroit lost the battle down low, enabling the Blackhawks to finally move bodies to the front and create screens, as well as second-chance opportunities.
The Power Play Lives
The biggest weakness for Chicago in the series has been their power play. The Blackhawks have had all sorts of problems with the man advantage, from weak and inconsistent entrances into the offensive zone to poor shot selection and too many turnovers.
That changed to some degree in Game 5. After scoring just one time in 12 previous opportunities against Detroit in the series, the Blackhawks capitalized on back-to-back power plays in the second period to open up a 3-1 lead.
Coming off his worst performance in the series, Chicago captain Jonathan Toews earned some personal redemption by banking one in off of Jimmy Howard's mask for the third Blackhawks' goal of the game, coming just 12 seconds into a Justin Abdelkader penalty. Toews took a clean pass from Marian Hossa before finally netting his first goal of the postseason.
The Blackhawks were able to capitalize on Detroit's mistakes with the man-advantage and finished 2 for 3 on the night. The Wings defensemen had problems clearing the puck out of their zone and Duncan Keith was fantastic at the blue line, twice keeping the play alive on clear attempts. His efforts led to two assists on the night, including one on the Shaw deflection for the game-winner.
Quenneville Keys on Last Change
Detroit bench-boss Mike Babcock used the benefit of home-ice advantage to constantly stymie Jonathan Toews by matching him against Henrik Zetterberg in Games 3 and 4. Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville capitalized on his side getting the last change to perfection in Game 5.
Toews, who skated for most of the night alongside Patrick Sharp and Patrick Kane, had an easier time of it against Pavel Datsyuk. Quenneville loaded up his remaining lines and defensive pairs, matching Duncan Keith with Brent Seabrook once more.
But it wasn't all star-power that got the job done for the Blackhawks in the victory.
Andrew Shaw, Viktor Stalberg and Brandon Saad brought a ton of speed and intensity that the Wings could not match, while Marian Hossa, Bryan Bickell and Michal Handzus bruised the Wings with big hits and a big early goal from Bickell.
Quenneville mixed things up a little during play as well but keyed in on the last change to have the Toews top-line skating against Detroit's fourth line of rookies as often as possible.
3rd Period Domination
Down 3-1 in the series and facing an embarrassing elimination against a fierce rival, the Blackhawks responded from the get-go with a must-win attitude. The intensity and sense of urgency they brought immediately allowed them to play a complete game for the first time in the series since Game 1.
Rather than trying to play into Detroit's hands by losing focus and lacking in discipline, as they had in Games 2 and 3, Chicago was cool, calm and collected, forcing the Wings to make mistakes and then capitalizing on them. In the end, they went back to simply out-skating and outworking the Wings and played a dominant third period.
Up 3-1 after a pair of second period power play goals, Chicago led Detroit 28-22 in shots. In the third, they out-shot Detroit 17-4, playing keep away on the penalty kill and making the Wings pay for errant passes. Bryan Bickell continued his physical play by lowering a huge hit on Niklas Kronwall, which knocked the Wings defenseman out after one more shift.
Babcock severely limited his top player's ice times after Shaw scored at the 6:58 mark of the period to put the home side comfortably ahead 4-1. Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford was able to rest a little after turning aside all 11 shots he faced in the first period and 10 of 11 in the second.