Red Wings still leading the way
MAY 22, 2013 4:56p ET
Like the Wings of old, the Blackhawks are highly skilled, roll four lines, and have a mobile defensive corps and solid goaltending.
However, the one quality that the Blackhawks haven’t been able to match the Red Wings -- then or now -- is leadership.
With their frustration level boiling over at the end of Game 3, the young Blackhawks -- captained by 25-year-old Jonathan Toews -- looked more like the Anaheim Ducks than the Wings, as far as keeping their emotions in check.
“We’ve got all kinds of different personalities, and often times there are not a lot of things that need to be said,” Detroit defenseman Niklas Kronwall said when asked about the Wings' leadership style. “Sometimes a guy needs a pat on the back, and other times, you need to say something.”
Kronwall pointed out that one of Detroit’s most inspirational leaders is veteran forward Todd Bertuzzi. Injured most of the year and in and out of the lineup during the playoffs, Bertuzzi has kept the Wings' room focused and balanced.
“He’s (Bertuzzi) been real helpful with our younger players,” Kronwall said. “He’s an older veteran guy, he’s been around a long time, and he has some great points when he talks to the guys."
Young Red Wings defenseman Brendan Smith is one of the players who has benefited from having guys like Bertuzzi around.
After Game 1 against Chicago, Smith was lambasted for his poor play. Although several in the Wings organization came to his defense, it was Bertuzzi who took Smith under his Wing, so to speak.
“To have these guys behind me is huge,” Smith said. "Before Game 2, Bertuzzi came up to me and had a little talk with me. He told me a few things -- words of wisdom.
“Bert told me, 'Hey, don’t worry about these knuckleheads that don’t know what they’re talking about. Play your game and that’s what will make you successful.'
"It was a huge boost. It helped me out a lot.”
That type of leadership is a big part of why the Red Wings have made the playoffs 22 consecutive years and won four Cups in that time frame.
Captains Steve Yzerman, Nick Lidstrom and now Henrik Zetterberg, plus a cast of other high-caliber players and personalities, have kept everything in perspective. They all understand that balance is the essential component to keeping a team’s resolve, which translates into success on the ice.
“Hank (Zetterberg) keeps talking about how you can’t get too high and you can’t get too low,” Kronwall said. “Regardless of what happened in the game before, there’s a new game coming up, so you have to stay leveled-headed and keep your emotions at bay.
“We have a lot of leaders in here that speak up, especially on the bench when the momentum switches. Our leaders make sure that we don’t get rattled, that we remain composed and try and do what we do.”
Something the Blackhawks haven't done during most of this series and why they trail 2-1 heading into Game 4 Thursday night at the Joe.