Blackhawks-Red Wings: Chicago Fans Still Have Hope for Game Two

Tab BamfordSenior Writer IMay 18, 2009

DETROIT - MAY 17:  Brent Seabrook #7 of the Chicago Blackhawks checks Mikael Samuelsson #37 of the Detroit Red Wings during the first period of Game One of the Western Conference Championship Round of the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs on May 17, 2009 at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, Michigan.  (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

On Sunday, the Detroit Red Wings defeated the Chicago Blackhawks 5-2 in a game that most observers should agree was played a lot closer for 60 minutes than the three-goal differential would indicate.

Unfortunately for the Hawks and their fans, that doesn't change the end result of Sunday's contest.

So where can Blackhawks' fans find a silver lining?  How about the numbers.  In Game One, the Hawks' stats were nearly identical to the first game of the Vancouver series, which had a similar final score of 5-3.

Shots

The Hawks put the puck on net 32 times Sunday, compared to 31 in the opener of the Vancouver series. The difference is that the Red Wings put 16 more shots on Nikolai Khabibulin than the Canucks did (43 shots on Sunday).

Faceoffs Won

The Hawks have won less than half the faceoffs in each of their last two Game One starts.  The Hawks won 24 to the Canucks' 40, while they won 24 to the Red Wings' 31 on Sunday.

Penalty Minutes

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In both road starts, the Hawks received double the penalty minutes of the home team. They had 14 to Vancouver's six, while Sunday, the Hawks gained 12 to the Red Wings' six. The discouraging part is that Ben Eager, one of the Hawks' chief instigators, only played 11 minutes Sunday.

Hits

The Blackhawks have out-hit their opponents in each series, but yesterday's action was more physical than the beginning of the Canucks series. The Hawks out-hit Vancouver 21-18, while yesterday they out-hit Detroit 36-35.

While there was an assumed increase in emotion because of the rivalry and what's at stake, doubling the number of hits in a game is significant.  The physical approach both teams played favored the Wings down the stretch, while it was an advantage to the Hawks in Vancouver.

Final Score

While the Hawks allowed five goals in each of these two games, there is no question that Khabibulin played a much better game on Sunday than he did in Vancouver. Excluding the 100 second rush from Detroit that gave them the 4-2 lead, Khabibulin was outstanding against the most aggressive offense he has faced in playoffs so far.

The biggest issue Joel Quenneville faces with Game Two is finding a way to balance his matchup-oriented coaching style with getting ice time for his best players. Brian Campbell saw the most ice time for Chicago on Sunday, a rare departure from the usual suspects of Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith.

Quenneville's style also created line mixing that placed some of Chicago's best players, like Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp, in unfamiliar positions.  Kane played only 15 minutes Sunday and didn't get a shot on goal, which is a huge problem.

As Quenneville has shown throughout these playoffs, he has been able to get the right mix of players that create chances and upset the balance of power in the game. He has been a master at adjusting and manipulating through two rounds, so hopefully the numbers mirror Game Two of the Vancouver series—a Hawks' win on Tuesday night.