DETROIT – The hammer and the nail don’t have a rivalry anymore.
After 87 years and 800-plus games, a columnist seemingly based the Game 1 outcome – which happened to be the Blackhawks’ eighth straight win over the Red Wings in the all-time series – to declare the Wings-Hawks rivalry dead.
Far from it.
Using the momentum it stole in Saturday’s Game 2 win in Chicago, the Red Wings throttled the Blackhawks Monday before a delirious crowd at Joe Louis Arena.
“The nail may not like the hammer, but it's disdain for it does not constitute a rivalry because the hammer barely acknowledges the nail's existence. Right now the Blackhawks are the hammer and the Red Wings are the nail. That will not change during the duration of these Western Conference semifinals.”
Well, the nail is seething and it should have the hammer’s attention by now.
The nail was never on life-support and after a convincing 3-1 victory Monday night the nail made it abundantly clear that this Western Conference semifinal is going to be a long, contemptuous series. Period.
What the column failed to point out was that prior to the Easter Sunday massacre – when the Blackhawks pounded the Wings 7-1 – Detroit and Chicago played nine straight one-goal games.
Granted, the Wings were badly out-classed in a 4-1 loss in Game 1 last Wednesday, but Detroit has dominated the last two games, and now has a 2-1 series lead with Game 4 scheduled for Thursday at The Joe.
“That’s just someone’s opinion,” forward Patrick Eaves said. “I thought we had close games with them all year, they just came out on top. I feel like we can play with these guys. We know they’re a great team and we have to respect that, respect their skill. But we’ve been getting better. As long as we keep getting better on a nightly basis I think that’s all we can worry about.”
The Wings have worked harder and smarter than the Blackhawks in the last six periods. The confidence that the Red Wings got from thumping the Blackhawks in Game 2 at United Center definitely was carried over to Monday’s game.
Hustle plays by third- and fourth-line guys gave the Red Wings a 2-0 lead in the second period. Gustav Nyquist busted into the Blackhawks' zone, put a move on Brent Seabrook and fired a shot past Corey Crawford for a 1-0 edge. Just 31-seconds later, Drew Miller was rewarded for crashing the net when he slammed home a Patrick Eaves rebound that put Detroit up two-goals.
"We always want to go out there after you get a goal and get a good push," Miller said. "They turned there to (Cory Emmerton) and he got it down to Patty. Couple shots on net, and it was laying there by the goal line for me to put it in. I’ve got to credit my linemates. They did a lot of the work for me there. Nonetheless, it is a big goal for our team and we kind of kept going from there."
The Red Wings maintained their composure, while flustering the Blackhawks, who came unglued in the third period, which led to Chicago players beating a path to the penalty box with roughing, slashing, and cross-checking infractions.
“Listen, there’s no easy formula to win hockey games,” said defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo, who had a plus-2 rating Monday. “That’s still a really good team over there and the series is not over. It’s only two games. We’re playing more like ourselves. Game 1, nobody recognized that team out there. Take nothing away from them, they’re still a great team. We expected a better effort from them tonight and we needed to elevate our game one more step. We’re playing really well right now and when we play like that we’re a really tough team to play with. That’s all we worry about. We worry about the way we play.”
Until Patrick Kane scored in the third to cut the Red Wings’ lead in half, Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard had blanked the Blackhawks for 90 ½ minutes straight. The Red Wings scored six unanswered goals in 3 ½ periods.
“A lot of people were picking us to get swept by them, it sort of put a chip on our shoulders that everyone's writing us off again here in the second round,” said Howard, who has stopped 48 of 50 shots in the two wins. “It's a little bit different playing the underdog role around here. I don't think people are quite used to it. I think that's why our fans are enjoying it so much.”
NIGHT-SHIFT: During the longest shift of the game – due to the Wings’ penalty kill and their inability to get the puck out of their zone for more than three minutes, four guys managed to hold off the Blackhawks’ attack that kept the game scoreless.
Here’s the ice-time breakdown for the Wings’ penalty-killers: Drew Miller 3:15; Jonathan Ericsson 3:15, Niklas Kronwall 2:46; and Patrick Eaves 2:15.
Asked if he knew how long that particular second-period shift was, Eaves said, “I was very aware and so were my lungs, and my legs were very aware.”
NO GOAL: The Blackhawks had a third-period goal waved off when a referee indicated that Andrew Shaw interfered with Howard in the crease.It looked like Viktor Stalberg had his first goal of the playoffs, which would have tied the score at 2-2 in the third period.
“Most of the time they're going to let that one go, especially when you get pushed in there and he doesn't even touch the goalie,” Stalberg said. “If he trips the goalie or makes contact or anything, I think that's an easier call. But that's a tough one, no doubt about it, especially that would tie the game up, then they're coming right back and scoring on us.”
Moments later, Pavel Datsyuk cruised in on the left wing, and just like his goal Game 4 goal in the Anaheim series, he ripped a laser under the crossbar.
IN AND OUT: Stalberg skated 24-seconds of his first shift in the series before he was injured trying to level Jakub Kindl with a body check in the first period Monday. As the Blackhawks’ forward attempted the hit, Kindl ducked. Stalberg went head-first over the Wings’ defenseman before striking his head into the boards.
Stalberg skated off the ice under his own strength with 18:04 left in the opening period. He went to the Blackhawks’ locker room where he remained until the first TV timeout six-minutes into the contest.
THREE STARS: 3, Niklas Hjalmarsson, CHI (2 hits, 21:53 TOI); 2, Drew Miller, DET (GWG); 1, Jimmy Howard, DET (39 saves, W).
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