To paraphrase former Arizona Cardinals coach Dennis Green, the Detroit Red Wings are who we thought they were.
Wings coach Mike Babcock said after Friday afternoon’s practice at Joe Louis Arena that he would know more about this series after Game 2.
“Series on,” Babcock told FOX Sports Detroit’s John Keating after the Wings’ 4-1 victory Saturday in Chicago. “They’ve been good all year. We haven’t been, but we’ve gotten better and think we’re a good team now.
“We know when we play right, we got a determined group and we can do a lot of good things.”
Babcock is also fond of saying that your best players have to be your best players to win in the playoffs.
Star forward Pavel Datsyuk, who didn’t put a shot on net in Game 1, had a shot in each of his first two shifts of Game 2. Although he didn’t score, it indicated that the Wings wouldn’t have a repeat performance of Game 1.
The Blackhawks took a 1-0 lead into the second period, but the Wings didn’t let them dictate the tempo of the game the way they did in the opener.
Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard, who faced 42 shots in Game 1, saw only 20 Saturday. The Wings, on the other hand, increased their shot total from 21 to 30.
Damien Brunner tied the game 2:40 into the second.
“We just played way faster,” Brunner said. “I thought everyone was skating better.”
The signature moment of the game came late in the period, when defenseman Brendan Smith — highly criticized after Game 1 — joined the rush and scored what proved to be the winner on a perfect pass from captain Henrik Zetterberg.
“He creates a lot of stuff, sometimes for both teams,” Zetterberg said. “It’s nice to see he can put it away when he gets the chance there.
“He’s young, he’s still learning. He learns every game. It’s nice to see he had a bounce-back game.”
Johan Franzen and Valtteri Filppula scored in the third period, with Zetterberg assisting on Filppula’s goal.
Zetterberg and Justin Abdelkader led the Wings with four shots apiece.
“(Zetterberg’s) stepped up so big for us,” Smith said. “He’s proven that he is one of the all-time captains, only in one year.
“He’s such a clutch player, and we look up to him. I think we feed off his strength and his competition level, and it helps our team for sure.”
Veteran defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo said when the Wings saw video of Game 1, they hardly recognized themselves.
“We were more of ourselves (in Game 2),” Colaiacovo said. “We knew coming in after Game 1 that wasn’t us who played last game. They dictated the whole game.
“We gave them every opportunity they had. Not to take anything away from them, they’re a good team. But when we play like we can, that’s more of a style of hockey that we’re meant for playing.”
The way the NHL is these days with the salary cap, there’s far more parity among teams, especially among playoff teams.
So now that the Wings have gotten back to the way they can play, they can’t afford to let it slip. The Blackhawks are too good for that.
“It’s only 1-1,” Colaiacovo said. “They’re a good road team, just as well as a home team. We’re not going to take that for granted.
“It’s great we’re going home with a spilt. I know the people in Detroit are going to be ready to go.”