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Between the Dots: Blackhawks' strategic advances force Game 6

by Bob Verdi / Chicago Blackhawks
Bill Smith / Chicago Blackhawks

The Blackhawks achieved a few strategic advances Saturday night, the most obvious of which was a 4-1 triumph over the Detroit Red Wings at the United Center to avoid elimination in the Western Conference Semifinals.

Also, en route to forcing a Game 6 at Joe Louis Arena Monday evening, the Blackhawks learned that Jimmy Howard is human. He does not have eight legs, or four pairs of arms, like an octopus, the Red Wings’ official creature feature, nor is the Detroit goaltender covered by suction cups.

It just seemed that way at times the last week when the Blackhawks fired at him as though they were at the county fair or an amusement park. You know, hit the man wearing the funny mask in the midsection with the puck and you win a stuffed animal.

Desperate yet cohesive before a jumpy crowd of 22,014 that could not fathom the thought of a glorious season ending with such a thud, the Blackhawks finally got a closer look at Howard after keeping a polite distance during three straight defeats. They saw the whites of his eyes and discovered the back of his net.

“Maybe we’ve been making it a little too easy on him,” theorized Andrew Shaw, who scored twice, almost had a third, and generally cued an energetic effort by all with his penchant for seeking and attracting crowds.

Shaw insists he is 180 pounds, doesn’t look like it, but plays big. He says he had no choice but to grow up tough with his father and brothers as examples. For support in the gritty areas Saturday night, he had, among others, Bryan Bickell and Brent Seabrook, who was reunited with Duncan Keith on defense and it felt so good. Smooth exits from the back end were vital to the Blackhawks’ regaining a pace that was so evident during the regular season.

Shaw registered the winner on a power play with Drew Miller off for hooking Jonathan Toews at 13:08 of the second period, shortly after Daniel Cleary had tied it at 1-1. Keith blasted during a sustained possession and Shaw raised his stick for a redirect past Howard. The Red Wings were short on breath and equipment; Pavel Datsyuk had lost this stick, the same one he used to hit the pipe, a Chicago trademark this series.

Just for emphasis, Toews registered his first of the postseason, also on a power play, when he shot high from Howard’s left. Captain Serious promised that the Blackhawks would figure things out, and crashing Detroit’s net proved invaluable. Bickell opened the scoring by drilling home a Patrick Kane rebound; Shaw closed the scoring midway in the third by snaring a puck off the end boards and tucking it past Howard.

“Now we’ve got to take this game and bring it to Detroit,” concluded the Pocket Pest. “There was never any panic in this room.”

Honestly, Andrew. Are you really 180 pounds?

“Maybe 175 now,” he said. “But I am going out for a steak.”

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