The good news is, despite their laissez-faire effort Saturday night in Chicago, the Detroit Red Wings lost a hockey game, not the series to the Blackhawks.
The bad news is, if the Wings continue to go through the motions, they will allow the Blackhawks off the elimination hook.
This was a disjointed effort by Detroit. At times, the Wings lacked energy, discipline and cohesion. If it wasn’t for Jimmy Howard’s solid goaltending, the score would have been more embarrassing than the 4-1 final.
Give the Blackhawks credit – they came out firing on all cylinders, but Detroit’s 18 skaters were nonexistent for a majority of the night.
“They played better than us,” said Detroit’s lone goal scorer, Dan Cleary. “They were more desperate than us, worked harder. Lesson learned.
“We just didn’t play well. We weren’t hard enough on the puck, we weren’t hard enough on their defense, and we didn’t play like we’ve been playing.”
Despite their less-than-stellar effort, if Detroit regains its swagger for Game 6 Monday night in the Motor City, well, let’s just say that the Blackhawks gave their fans a nice memory on Saturday.
Detroit still has control of this series. Throughout these playoffs, the Wings have always rebounded well after a subpar effort. And momentum seems to be with the team that plays with energy and passion – two traits that eluded the Wings on Saturday.
“It’s in our building; we better be fired up to play,” said Wings goalie Jimmy Howard, when asked if Detroit could match Chicago’s desperate intensity in Game 6. “Our fans will be excited, and hopefully, it energizes us.”
“They’ve (Chicago) been playing pretty good, but we’ve been executing our game plan to a tee, slowing them down, and tonight we didn’t do that.”
Perhaps, Detroit’s inexperienced players were too caught up in the enormity of the situation. Far too often, the Wings’ youngsters looked tentative and a bit intimidated against the swarming Blackhawks, which is somewhat understandable.
However, Justin Abdelkader’s two bad penalties in the second period were a lethal reminder of how thin the line is between aggressive hockey and cement-head hockey, and in essence, turned the game in Chicago’s favor.
Abdelkader has been a difference-maker during these playoffs. He’s been a pest and has set up residence in the oppositions’ collective heads, but he must control his emotions and remain on the ice, not in the penalty box.
“You want to be as hard as you can be within the rules of the game, and you don’t want to get your team shorthanded,” was how Red Wing coach Mike Babcock responded when asked about Abdelkader’s rough night. “The bottom line is, when you look at the whole situation, they were better than us, they skated better, they executed better.
“So you tip your hat to them and get ready for the next game.”
Now it’s up to the players in each room. As cliché as it sounds, it really does come down to which team wants it more.
Certainly, the Wings know that the Blackhawks’ skill level gives them a clear advantage, but Detroit’s full 60-minute effort has been effective in frustrating Chicago.
Whichever team imposes their will ultimately will be the victor.
“It’s a series,” Cleary said “We’ll be ready to go Monday. It’s a big game.”
A game that Detroit needs to approach with a Game 7 mindset.