Class at Detroit Red Wings University is in session once again.
Professors Chris Osgood, Nicklas Lidstrom
, Brian Rafalski, Pavel Datsyuk
, Henrik Zetterberg
and Tomas Holmstrom
are putting a new group of students from Chicago through the same kind of curriculum that Pittsburgh youngsters Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Jordan Staal and Marc-Andre Fleury went through last year.
The Class of 2009 is highly skilled, extremely fast and close to graduating, but the syllabus each of these Blackhawks received at the beginning of this series wasn't just wasted ink on paper.
Turnovers kill. Poise counts. Experience matters. Confidence is king.
It's all part of the lesson plan when the Wings stand up at the chalkboard, and after two games in these Western Conference finals, the Blackhawks don't appear ready to turn their tassels just yet.
"You can tell Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, David Bolland, Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith to be careful, this is what you have to expect," NHL Network analyst Craig Button told NHL.com. "Until they experience it, feel it, understand it and say, 'Whoa, that is what they meant,'…that's what it comes down to. They want to win, but they're not sure of what it takes to win yet."
That's exactly what people were saying after Games 1 and 2 of last year's Stanley Cup Final. The Penguins won Game 3 and forced the series to six games, but they needed two games to figure out what the Red Wings already knew and it cost them.
For the Hawks, the whole story changes if they manage to win both games at United Center on Friday and Sunday, but should the series stay the course, Chicago, like Pittsburgh, may one day thank the Red Wings for being such good teachers.
"I think a lot of guys' goal in here is to become the Wings of the future," Chicago youngster Patrick Kane admitted. "Sometimes you have to set yourself back and realize it's not as bad as you think it is."
It would be easy to just to say the Wings' experience is why they're up 2-0, but it's where they use that experience that matters most.
For instance, look at how and when the goals were scored in Game 2.How?
Jonathan Toews scored both Blackhawks' goals; the first coming off Jonathan Ericsson
's skate and the second off a tip-in. Osgood had little chance on either and both were created off of Toews' skill and courage, not to mention Dustin Byfuglien's power.
That's great stuff until you consider the Red Wings scored two of their three goals off of Chicago turnovers, the first by Brent Seabrook and the second by Brian Campbell. With a killer instinct, Detroit found a way to strike when the Hawks gave them an opening.
Lesson No. 1: Don't give the opposition an opening.
"That kills you as a team when you know what you're supposed to do and you know what the right move is and you try to do something extra," CBC Hockey Night in Canada analyst Kelly Hrudey told NHL.com.
"The Red Wings know and they say, 'Listen, here is what we're going to here is how we're going to approach it," Button added. "The other team is trying to do something and they don't understand that's not the place to try it. Experience teaches you that that is not a play that has a high success rate."
The Wings, of course, turned the puck over in Game 2 as well, but you barely noticed their blunders. The teachers know how to overcome them. The students have to learn.
"The Red Wings don't beat themselves," Button said. "They're not just ready to take advantage of turnovers, they're looking to take advantage of them. The Hawks, with their experience, they're not ready to exploit any Red Wings' turnovers."
For the second straight game, Chicago jumped out to an early 1-0 lead and Detroit blew a 2-1 lead in the third period.
The Wings won Game 2 because of their poise, which brings us to Lesson No. 2:
"Nothing changes," Hrudey said of the Wings. "Chicago, I thought, carried the play, but that didn't affect Detroit. They just know they're going to get some saves, wait for turnovers and then pounce. They're so good at playing the waiting game. It's just uncanny how calm they are. They don't go into panic mode.
"When you look at your opponent on the ice at times you can see fear in their eyes where you might have a leg up. Detroit doesn't ever give you any of those appearances."
Steady is the name of Detroit's game and Osgood has been their most balanced competitor, even after giving up the tying goal in each of the first two games.
"Osgood looks not even affected whatsoever by the change (in score)," Hrudey said.
None of the best professors ever do.
"You need lessons to sink in so you can apply them," Button said. "In every area of our lives, experience is a really good teacher."