Detroit Red Wings: 5 Changes They Must Make to Win Series vs. Chicago Blackhawks
The Detroit Red Wings stunned the hockey world by taking a 3-1 series lead into Game 5 after getting shelled, 4-1, in Game 1 of their best-of-seven series.
Then the Blackhawks took Game 5 by that same 4-1 score, giving them renewed life going back to Detroit for Game 6.
Even though the Blackhawks are the team that must win two games in a row to move on to the next round, the pressure should squarely fall on the shoulders of the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena. The Wings are 3-4 on the road in the playoffs, while going 4-1 at home.
Here are five changes the Red Wings need to make over the remainder of this series to move on to the Western Conference Finals.
1. Let Howard Play the Shots, Defensemen Focus on Rebounds
Jimmy Howard has been far from "good" in these playoffs so far.
The fact of the matter is, Howard has been fantastic in the postseason, giving his team a chance to win almost every single playoff game that the Red Wings have played thus far.
In Game 5 of this current series against Chicago, the Red Wings' defensemen simply failed Howard too many times.
On the first and fourth goals, the Red Wings not only lost control of the rebound, but they also left a man wide open to bury the puck in the gaping net.
The second and third goals (although one could easily attribute them to Howard) were off failed clearing attempts on power plays for the Blackhawks.
As the Blackhawks were awful on the man advantage in the regular season (16.7 percent, 19th in the NHL), the Red Wings cannot afford to give up power-play goals and must succeed in clearing the puck shorthanded like they did in Games 2-4 of this series.
2. Stick with a Man on Defense
There's simply no possible explanation for letting a player on the other team have this much of a scoring chance. Brendan Smith watches the puck sit on the side of the net instead of hustling back to to pick the puck up.
If the Red Wings are going to win another game in this series, the backchecking on initial shots and the recovering of loose pucks (see the first slide) need to increase rapidly from their Game 5 effort.
Detroit gave up another preventable goal on the first goal of Game 5 (see here), giving Chicago early life and a 1-0 lead at the first intermission.
Both of these goals were preventable with better coverage in the defensive zone. Overcrowding one side of the ice and leaving a shooter in a wide-open spot is not what the Red Wings need to advance to the next round.
3. Get to the Dirty Areas and Win the Board Battles
In Game 5, the Red Wings flat out looked like they didn't want the puck enough. That has to change in Game 6 (and Game 7 if necessary). The 'Hawks outshot the Red Wings 45-26 in Game 5, with a 17-4 advantage in the third period.
Jimmy Howard was stellar on the shots that he could see, as well as the shots where the shooter wasn't left with a vacant cage on the rebound.
But the Red Wings' real problem came in how lethargic they were on the puck. Detroit was only credited with three takeaways in the entire game and didn't win many battles on the boards either.
This led to long cycles of the Blackhawks keeping the puck in the zone and cycling it for multiple scoring chances on Jimmy Howard.
The Wings' lack of hunger for the puck, combined with the inability to clear the zone, directly led to the Andrew Shaw tip-in goal on the power play.
Detroit needs to be more aggressive on the puck, because that is how the 'Wings won three games in a row to put themselves where they are now, one win away from advancing.
4. Make Like a Bad Odor and Hang Around Early in the Game
The Red Wings have won three out of five games in this series by flustering the Blackhawks and hanging around in games.
Chicago fans would obviously consider Detroit to have worn out its welcome as far as hanging around is concerned, but nevertheless, the Red Wings need to start doing that again to advance to the next round.
In Game 3 and Game 4, the Red Wings did not give up any first or second-period goals.
While shutting down the Blackhawks' offense for an entire series is almost impossible to do, Detroit needs to find a way to stick around long enough to keep give itself a chance to come up with a win.
The Red Wings have been relishing the underdog role so far in these playoffs, giving themselves a 3-2 lead in this series with a chance to close it out at home.
To make good on this underdog role, Detroit has to find a way to keep the game close and not get blown out like Game 1 or Game 5.
5. Find a Way to Disrupt the Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook Pairing
Joel Quenneville finally reunited Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith as his top-line defensive pairing in Game 5. Seabrook and Keith are very familiar with each other, obviously working well on the power play as they showed in Game 5.
The results were amazing, as Keith and Seabrook combined for three assists (on two power-play goals), 11 shots, three hits, two blocked shots and a giveaway.
The Red Wings will get flattened if there is no disruption to the Seabrook-Keith pairing for the remainder of the series.
The Wings need to attack the puck-moving defensemen at the points on the power play and force the issue like they did in the first round against Anaheim..
All statistics via NHL.com
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