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Between the Dots: Blackhawks let play do the talking in Game 1 win

by Bob Verdi / Chicago Blackhawks
Bill Smith / Chicago Blackhawks

What was that they were screaming at the United Center Wednesday night?


Sounded something like that, anyway, and it might have fit for a while because the Red Wings started the Western Conference Semifinals like a team ready to grind, even after surviving three round-trips to the West Coast before erasing Anaheim in a testy first-round series that went the limit.


Or, that could have been the chant, except it was the Blackhawks who evolved as a superior group at possession—a significant reason why they won this opener going away, 4-1, with a shot advantage of 42-21, clearly indicating what head coach Joel Quenneville sought after a bland knockout of the Minnesota Wild.

“Zone time,” intoned Coach Q, on whose lower lip you could have landed a small aircraft last week.

Wednesday night, his squad gradually separated itself from the Red Wings with effort, depth and three third-period goals. That last was an empty-netter clearly deserved by Patrick Sharp, whose pressure contributed mightily to a power-play tally by Marian Hossa and a missile by Johnny Oduya, who snapped a 1-1 tie before 21,494 somewhat jumpy fans at 8:02 of the third.

Sharp was instrumental on both by absconding with the puck from the normally tidy Red Wings in their zone and all but helping to put it on a tee for Hossa, then Oduya, in the slot. Goalie Jimmy Howard bore no fault on either; he was excellent and probably the most involved visitor. His counterpart, Corey Crawford, yielded to Damien Brunner, was helped by a pipe early, a crossbar late and Brent Seabrook, who saved another jab by Brunner with something of a curling brush stroke.

By then it was 3-1 because Daniel Carcillo had fished a puck off the back of Howard’s net, and thereby arranged an insurance marker from Marcus Kruger. Now the Red Wings were beginning to look like a No. 7 seed that qualified for the playoffs at the last minute, or at least an underdog playing before a hostile audience on short rest.

“Oh, they’ll be back Saturday,” cautioned Sharp, aware of the Red Wings’ admirable pedigree. Not surprisingly, Detroit’s coach, Mike Babcock, seconded the notion. He did not seem thrilled, although after 40 minutes, it was deadlocked with Howard sprawling like Detroit’s official franchise animal, the octopus, to repel enemy fire.

With Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg buzzing around the pond—there really are three No. 13s on Detroit and two No. 40s, correct?—the thought of the guests stealing a victory cast a chill throughout the building. When the Blackhawks pulled away, those chants were heard again, as if by curtain call.

DET-ROIT DUCKS? No the Ducks are Anaheim. A theory: these taunts are a residue of when Red Wings’ fans filled the United Center because Blackhawks’ fans wouldn’t. That has changed, but that serenade lives. We’ll listen closely during Game 2 to make sure of the lyrics.

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