Biggest Takeaways from Monday's NHL Playoff Action
The Chicago Blackhawks aren't taking the easy path through their Western Conference Semifinal, but they're showing that they won't go away quietly.
After falling behind 3-1 in the series and 2-1 in Game 6, the 'Hawks came back to win the game, 4-3, and tie the series at three games each. That forces a sudden-death Game 7 on Wednesday back in the friendly confines of the United Center.
Game 6 was a tightly contested match, and the Red Wings showed signs of dominance through two periods. An early goal in the third lit a fire under the 'Hawks, which they were able to ride through to the final buzzer.
Here's a look at the most important takeaways from Monday's contest.
7th Heaven Goes Wednesday
In Game 6, the Chicago Blackhawks bent, but they didn't break.
After an even first period, Detroit took charge in the second, outshooting the 'Hawks 18-10 and grabbing a 2-1 lead on a long shot from Joakim Andersson that handcuffed Corey Crawford.
The Wings are known for their discipline, but it took Chicago just 51 seconds of the third period to tie the game at two after Michal Handzus was left alone in front of the Detroit net. He made no mistake, banging the puck past Jimmy Howard.
Chicago had just eight shots in the third period but scored on three of them. That was enough to force Game 7.
After allowing just two goals in Games 3 and 4, Jimmy Howard has given up eight in the past two games. He will have to be better if the Wings hope to triumph in their second Game 7 of these 2013 playoffs.
Chicago looks like it's regained the never-say-die form of its Presidents' Trophy-winning season. You can bet the 'Hawks and their fans will be hungry for a win at home on Wednesday.
Brendan Smith, Your Seat in the Doghouse Is Waiting
Chicago's five-on-five goals during the early part of the third period both came on uncharacteristic Detroit breakdowns.
Brendan Smith let Michal Handzus go to the front of the Detroit net at the 51-second mark, allowing the enigmatic center an easy shot to pick up his first goal of the playoffs.
Less than five minutes later, Smith was outmuscled by big Bryan Bickell in the slot, who was able to pop a Jonathan Toews rebound past Howard to give Chicago a sudden 3-2 lead and control of the game.
Twenty-four-year-old rookie Smith had been inconsistent earlier in the playoffs, but he appeared to have found his form and was making up a solid defensive pairing with Kyle Quincey. He had an assist on Detroit's first goal Monday night, his fifth point of the playoffs, before his lapses led to the 'Hawks' two late goals.
Mike Babcock continued to play Smith in the third period, though he finished with 16:29 of ice time, his lowest total in four games.
Wings' Top 6 Forwards Must Match Their Bottom 6
The best part of the Red Wings' Game 6, once again, was the play of their third and fourth lines.
They provided all the scoring with goals by Patrick Eaves, Joakim Andersson and Damien Brunner. They dominated in the faceoff circle, where Andersson was an unbelievable 8-1. They were also defensively responsible.
Detroit's role players did their job. If the Wings hope to win Game 7, stars like Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg will need to match the efforts of the lesser lights.
Playoff Penalty Shots Create Big Drama
After Chicago stormed back in the third period to take a 3-2 lead, the crowd at the Joe Louis Arena was stunned when Michael Frolik was awarded a penalty shot after his breakaway opportunity was thwarted by a slash from Carlo Colaiacovo.
CBSSports.com has the video, and writer Chris Peters offers good perspective. The slash was technically a penalty, but similar plays are often overlooked, especially in important situations like we saw Monday night.
Penalty shots are rare; playoff penalty shots are rarer still. According to the NHL Guide and Record Book, the last one took place in Round 1 of the 2012 playoffs, when Dustin Brown of the Los Angeles Kings was thwarted by the Vancouver Canucks' Cory Schneider.
Red Wings goalie Howard was incensed by the call and may not have been entirely focused. Frolik made a great move, shooting a tasty backhander high to the glove side to give Chicago a 4-2 lead, and the game.
Frolik was also the last player to score on a playoff penalty shot, back in 2011 against Vancouver. With his tally Monday night, he becomes the first player in NHL history to log two successful playoff penalty shots.
Don't Try to Beat the Traffic
Once Detroit fell behind 4-2 on the Frolik penalty shot, Red Wings fans deserted the Joe Louis Arena in droves.
Didn't they learn from what happened in Boston at the end of Round 1?
Brunner put a last-minute goal past Corey Crawford to bring the score to 4-3 and lead to a frantic finish. The Wings didn't quite manage to tie it, but with a possible series win still on the line, isn't it worthwhile to stay until the end?
You know the saying... Because It's the Cup...
Thanks for reading. Feel free to follow me on Twitter for more NHL news and views:
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!