The Detroit Red Wings hadn’t played a game in five days, so the chances of slow, sloppy play to begin the game against the Chicago Blackhawks on Friday were high. Especially, considering the fact this team has been notorious for slow starts during the course of the 2014-15 season.
However, the Red Wings appeared well-rested rather than rusty in a 4-1 win against their former Central Division rivals.
Detroit really shined in the second period, when it outshot Chicago 20-8 and scored two goals to take a 3-1 lead into the third. The Blackhawks, who average 37.4 shots per game, were held to 26 on the night.
Jimmy Howard told The Associated Press after the game:
I thought that was the best game we’ve played this season.
It’s hard to disagree with Howard. The team played as a collective unit, rather than individuals. Howard played his usual solid game, and he had goal support to back up his stellar performance.
Not only that, but the defense limited the offensive giants of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa to just one goal and one assist between the three of them.
Typically with the Red Wings this season, they won’t have all of their units playing well on the same night. The defense and Howard will be solid and the offense will struggle one game, or the offense will be good, but the defense will struggle another game. Against the Blackhawks, all three phases of the team were working, and it produced the most impressive win of the season thus far.
Detroit Took Advantage of Turnovers
The Red Wings’ first three goals were a direct result of turnovers.
Goal No. 1
Goal No. 2
Goal No. 3
Detroit had three glorious opportunities basically handed to them on a silver platter, and they took advantage of all three. It’s imperative the Red Wings continue to take advantage of opportunities like this, especially against teams like the Blackhawks who don’t allow many goals. In Chicago’s case, it is allowing just 2.0 goals per game this season.
Too Many Penalties in First Period
Despite all of the good things the Red Wings did do, there was one major flaw that stuck out to me in the first period: too many penalties.
Three penalties in one game is about average, but the Red Wings took three penalties in the first period alone. They were able to get out of that period with only one power-play goal against, but it could have been a lot worse.
Detroit did clean up its play and took just one more penalty the rest of the way, while drawing two penalties in the second period.
Fourth Liners Chip In
Coach Mike Babcock has done a lot of line juggling early on, either because of injuries or trying to generate some offense. However, the one line that has mostly remained intact is the fourth line of Drew Miller, Luke Glendening and Joakim Andersson.
Glendening had a goal and an assist in his first career multi-point game, and Miller and Andersson each had an assist against the Blackhawks.
The fourth liners don’t get the attention or credit the top lines do because they aren’t scoring many goals, and they seem to take the brunt of the criticism when they allow a goal because they aren’t scoring goals themselves.
Danny DeKeyser told MLive.com’s Ansar Khan:
“They’re our energy line, they set our work ethic standard for us every night. When they’re going, it definitely takes pressure off other guys and helps our team a lot.”
Games like these — even though they may be few and far between — are much-needed. Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen, Tomas Tatar and Gustav Nyquist will get their share of goals, but sometimes, a goal from a fourth-liner can really spark the rest of the team and be key in a victory, like it was against Chicago.
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Tom Mitsos is a Detroit Red Wings and Grand Rapids Griffins staff writer for The Hockey Writers. You can follow him on Twitter @tom_mitsos.