Game 3 of the Western Conference Semi-finals, the Chicago Blackhawks traveled to Detroit to play the division rival Detroit Red Wings after splitting the first two games and losing their home ice advantage. The story of game 2 was Chicago’s inability to match the speed of Detroit, the same would stay true in game 3. Detroit was out-shot in the first, but the recharged between periods and opened the scoring in the second period. Gustav Nyquist made a great move and walked around Brent Seabrook, waited for Cory Crawford to commit and scored his second goal of the playoffs. 30 seconds later, Drew Miller poked one home to give the Wings the 2-0 lead nearly half way through regulation. The score stayed 2-0 until Patrick Kane scored on a breakaway with a bouncing puck to pull Chicago back into the game. Then it was Detroit again, just a few minutes later, Pavel Datsyuk did what Pavel Datsyuk does, and scored a huge goal, on a beautiful shot to give Detroit the 3-1 lead. The Blackhawks pressed but were never able to get back into the game. Jimmy Howard stopped 39 of 40 shots from the Blackhawks and the Wings took a 2-1 lead in a series that most thought would be dominated by Chicago. The Wings killed all five penalties but still have not scored a powerplay goal in the series. Chicago kept their perfect penalty kill alive for one more game.
Game 4 started on Thursday night. The game started fast giving both teams multiple opportunities early. Once the game slowed down Chicago started pressing and the Wings turned the puck over 10 times in their own zone in the first period helping Chicago put 14 shots on net in the first period. The second looked eerily similar for Detroit. Chicago pushed and Detroit couldn’t clear the zone. Detroit gained momentum after drawing a penalty, and after eight and a half games Chicago allowed a powerplay goal when Jakub Kindl scored on a shot from the point to give the Red Wings the 1-0 lead. Detroit played better after the goal, and took the one goal lead into the second intermission. The Wings came out buzzing in the third looking to close the game out and get back to Chicago up 3-1. The Blackhawks had a few chances but Detroit’s defense shut down the plays, and when they didn’t Jimmy Howard was there to stand on his head and make a save. Chicago pulled Cory Crawford with 1:20 left, but Chicago was never able to hold the puck in the zone for long and Dan Cleary was able to get the puck into the empty net to help give Detroit the 2-0 win and a 3-1 series lead. Jimmy Howard got his second shutout in his playoff career making a total of 28 shots.
Jimmy Howard has been outstanding for Detroit during the entirety of the playoffs, but he’s really come on now in this second round. Howard’s save percentage is .961 this series and has been huge for the Red Wings. Chicago had trouble matching Detroit’s speed, but game 4 was better, Detroit’s defense was just able to clamp down when they needed too. The Wings are up 3-1 in a series that no one, including myself, thought they would be able to put up much of a fight in. This is what the playoffs are all about. Game 5 is going back to Chicago, and I don’t expect the Blackhawks to do much rolling over. It’s going to be even more physical than the last couple of games. This has been an awesome series to watch, and I am looking forward to seeing how the Hawks react to being down 3-1. They’ve had a lot of trouble controlling their anger the last few games, so it will be interesting to see if captain Jonathan Toews can collect himself and his team and get them back into this series. Game 5 is on Saturday night and it should be a good one.