Red Wings-Blackhawks, Game Four: The Statement Game Detroit Needed

Andrew PargoffCorrespondent IMay 25, 2009

CHICAGO - MAY 24:  (L-R) Johan Franzen #93, Henrik Zetterberg #40, Jiri Hudler #26, Niklas Kronwall #55 and Brian Rafalski #28 of the Detroit Red Wings celebrate after Zetterberg scored a goal in the second period against the Chicago Blackhawks during Game Four of the Western Conference Championship Round of the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs on May 24, 2009 at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jim Prisching/Getty Images)

The Detroit Red Wings came back from a 3-0 deficit in Game Three, only to lose in a devastating manner early into overtime.

Sami Pahlsson made a fantastic play with a backhand pass to Patrick Sharp, who found the back of the net to send the United Center into a frenzy.

This all happened without Pavel Datsyuk. The Red Wings looked lost in that first period, as Chicago worked the puck and found the back of the net on a few lucky bounces and good team hockey.

The Red Wings scored three goals in 4:23 late in the second period. A stalemate in the third led to overtime, where it took just under two minutes for the aforementioned play to take place.

This sets the stage for Game Four on Sunday afternoon. Not only is Pavel Datsyuk still out of the Red Wings' lineup, but Captain and future first-ballot Hall-of-Fame defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom is also an injured scratch.

That overtime loss that surely left a horrible taste in the Red Wings mouths. If they lose Game Three without Datsyuk, they surely lose Game Four without Datsyuk andLidstrom, right? As an optimist, even I found it hard to believe the Red Wings would turn the tables after Game Three.

Marian Hossa has recently been labeled as "soft." This may be due to his unbelievable hot streak during last year's playoffs, and the performance so far this postseason not matching up to that. But he answered his critics with a shorthanded goal off a Chicago turnover in the first period.

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As we've seen in this series, a one-goal lead is not as safe as one would like. Hell, neither is a three-goal lead, given what occurred in Game Three.

As the period came to a close, Johan Franzen carried the puck up the near-side boards, and made a great play, using the Blackhawk defenseman's legs as a screen to net one over Cristobal Huet's blocker side.

As the Red Wings took a two-goal lead into the intermission, all seemed good, as the Red Wings took advantage of a few turnovers and mishaps on the part of the Blackhawks.

The Blackhawks' biggest enemy in Game Four was themselves. Ben Eager and Kris Versteeg both took questionable penalties on more than one occasion, resulting in Red Wings power plays, and the Red Wings capitalizing on those power plays. Ben Eager took two 10-minute misconduct penalties and Kris Versteeg another.

During the second period, Versteeg took a cross-checking penalty that Chicago killed off. As Versteeg was heading back to the bench after leaving the penalty box, he took another penalty before the play had come to a halt. This ill-tempered behavior is what hurt the Blackhawks—that, and timely scoring from the Red Wings.

Chris Osgood, was tested only 19 times.  That may not be much, but another reason why the Red Wings succeed is because they block shots and force opponents to make decisions before they want to. Osgood was tested only 19 times, but he gave up only one goal. Osgood played to his best when his number was called.

Jonathan Toews cracked Osgood's shutout with a power-play goal off his own rebound in the second period. As Chicago cut the lead to 3-1 in Detroit's favor, they may have had their own thoughts about a three-goal comeback in mind—but the "soft" Marian Hossa closed all thoughts of that out with a goal a mere nine seconds later.

If you've ever watched Hossa for an entire game, you more than likely are shocked to see how fast he is when he turns it on and takes it to the outside. He protected the puck with only one hand on his stick, and carried it deep near the crease and put the puck low to the blocker side of Huet.

When you chase a team's goaltender out of the game, it is always a good feeling. Huet was sent to the bench before the second period's end, but was back in the game to start the third period.

The game slowed down a little bit, but it was kept interesting. Chicago could not seem to keep their heads and continued to take stupid penalties—two of which happened to end up with Henrik Zetterberg finding the back of the net.

This was a statement game. This is scary for the three teams that aren't the Detroit Red Wings. To be able to handle a team and win 6-1 without your Hart Trophy and your Norris Trophy candidates sends a message.

I don't care whether or not The Golden Boy and Gino Malkin are playing well together. The Detroit Red Wings are on a war path heading straight to the Stanley Cup Finals. If they meet the Pittsburgh Penguins for a rematch of last year, I can't imagine it would even be a series.

The Detroit Red Wings signed away the best playoff player the Penguins had last year and their backup goaltender, Ty Conklin, who kept Pittsburgh afloat while Marc-Andre Fleury tended to an injury.

The Detroit Red Wings are licking their chops, almost tasting the champagne spilling out of the Stanley Cup one more time. It's not a done deal. I'm not saying they should call the Finals off—but regardless of what Versus, NBC, Barry Melrose, or anyone else thinks, the Detroit Red Wings are unmatched in the NHL at this moment.

The Penguins are good, the Penguins are very good. The Detroit Red Wings are deeper and better.

End of story.


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