DETROIT — The Detroit Red Wings are in a place where nobody expected them to be — up 2-1 over the mighty Chicago Blackhawks.
Following up their win in Game 2 with a 3-1 victory in Game 3 at Joe Louis Arena on Monday, the Wings still don’t consider this series over by any means.
“Let’s be honest, we haven’t done anything yet,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said.
The Wings survived the Blackhawks’ 40-shot onslaught in large part because of goaltender Jimmy Howard, who had a lot more pucks thrown at him than he did in Game 2.
“He really played really well for us,” Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg said. “They had some good chances there, but he made some great saves for us.
“Maybe now people will start to say that he stole a game or that he was really good. Maybe they start to believe that he’s a good goalie.”
Howard managed to keep Chicago captain Jonathan Toews off the scoresheet despite Toews’ game-high seven shots.
Zetterberg has helped frustrate Toews, but if Toews keeps getting that many shots, it could be an entirely different story.
“I’m not going to let it get the best of me,” Toews said. “I know I’m doing good things. I’m very confident that it’s going to come.
“The team is facing a little adversity, and I am on a personal basis. Not going to let that stop us or me.”
Like many of the younger players, Howard has elevated his play in the last few weeks, perhaps in answer to the critics who don’t believe he can help a team win the Stanley Cup.
But he knows that these Blackhawks are the same team that beat the Wings four times in the regular season and dominated them in Game 1 of this Western Conference semifinal.
“They were the best team in the NHL for a reason,” Howard said. “We’re just going out there, sticking to our game plan, getting pucks to the net and getting on their D and trying not to give up too much on the transition. They’re a team the lives off the transition.
“Saying we’re better than (Chicago) is a stretch. It’s just hard work that’s paying off. Guys are paying the price to block the shots. We’re playing with a lot of heart.”
The Wings are also playing with a lot of youth for the first time in a long time, too.
Gustav Nyquist, who scored the winner in overtime in Game 2 against the Anaheim Ducks, scored the game’s first goal at 7:49 of the second period. Drew Miller made it 2-0 when he pushed a rebound past Chicago goaltender Corey Crawford 31 seconds later.
If the Wings are going to beat the Blackhawks in this series, that kind of secondary scoring will have to continue.
“Our two lines, we just want to go out and create some energy and hopefully contribute,” Nyquist said. “We can’t be relying on the top-two lines all the time.”
Babcock, who has walked an interesting line this postseason, varying from defending his young players to pointing out the team’s mistakes, was definitely cautious after Game 3.
“I didn’t think we played the full 60 as much as we had the other night because we got careful at the end instead of just going after them like we did in their building,” Babcock said.
He also said the Wings’ power play, which was 0-for-5 Monday, needs to be better.
Nyquist believes the Wings have learned how they must play to be successful against top teams like the Blackhawks.
“If we start losing small battles, they’re going to take it to us like they did in Game 1,” Nyquist said. “They skated us hard and we weren’t ready for them.
“We’ve shown up for Game 2 and 3, and that’s how we’re going to have to play. They’re a great team and it’s going to be tight throughout the whole series.