Don't count the Red Wings out just yet. The Red Wings were clearly the better team Saturday in Game 2 of the Western Conference semifinals, trouncing the Blackhawks, 4-1, and evening the best-of-seven series 1-1.
Singled out by most analysts and fans for a subpar Game 1, Smith scored the eventual winning goal Saturday in the Red Wings' 4-1 victory over the Blackhawks that evened the best-of-seven Western at a game apiece.
Henrik Zetterberg assisted on two goals, including the winner when he raced past the Blackhawks defense and fed Brendan Smith late in the second period. Zetterberg shared the team lead in shots with four and was solid defensively, as well.
Help is on the way. Maybe. Red Wings forward Drew Miller (broken bone, hand) could be in the lineup for Game 2 of the Western Conference semifinals on Saturday against the Blackhawks in Chicago.
Working in wide-open swaths of ice left by Ottawa's tentative defense, the Pittsburgh superstar needed just over one period to complete his second playoff hat trick and lift the Penguins to a 4-3 victory Friday night in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Oh, the Red Wings are outmanned, and it was evident in Wednesday night's 4-1 loss. But after practicing at Joe Louis Arena on Friday before hopping on the plane back to Chicago, the Red Wings better understood the task, and felt better equipped to handle it.
Recent history suggests they can't. The salary cap is designed so they won't. But that won't stop the Blackhawks from trying to become the kind of team that dominates the NHL in a way the Red Wings and Devils did for long stretches of the last two decades.
So far in the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs, third periods are not the Red Wings' best phase. The Blackhawks and Ducks have outscored them, 15-5. But how much does it matter, and is there a specific cause?
Nobody on the Red Wings played particularly well in Game 1 of their playoff series against the Blackhawks, but few seemed to take the abuse on social media and network airwaves like Smith.
Somebody better kick the Mule again. And they'd better do it while the Red Wings are still alive and kicking because they're probably not going to be for long if they don't get something more out of Johan Franzen in the Western Conference semifinals against the Blackhawks.
Just a few years before, the Blackhawks won a Stanley Cup. A few years before that, the Red Wings had won several of them. The Hawks were an offensive juggernaut with a strong, mobile defense corps and fine goaltending.
It was something rare, but the schedule for the Western Conference semifinals between the Red Wings and Blackhawks is strange. Game 1 was Wednesday, with Game 2 on Saturday.
It's a hockey cliché, but when one team dominates another, it's often referred to as tilting the ice. In Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals Wednesday, it was the Blackhawks tilting the ice in their favor in a 4-1 victory over the Red Wings.
Boston's leading goal-scorer during the regular season scored his first of the postseason with 4:20 left in the first overtime and the Bruins beat the New York Rangers 3-2 on Thursday night in the first playoff game in 40 years between the Original Six teams.
This one was hardly Howard's fault. For nearly 50 minutes, he was about the only reason the Wings still had a chance to steal an early series lead, or at least force overtime.
Missing utterly from the Red Wings' execution was the forecheck, forwards supporting defense, defense moving the puck well and taking care of it and easy breakouts from their own zone and through center ice.
There was absolutely no drop-off in Chicago's 4-1 victory at the United Center as it killed off another three penalties to remain perfect for the postseason and allowed just four Detroit shots.
Patrick Sharp scoring six goals in 28 regular-season games was a bit of concern for the Blackhawks. Sharp was hampered early in the season by a shoulder injury, but now, six games into the postseason, he appears no worse for wear.
The final 40 minutes of Chicago's 4-1 victory in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals, the Blackhawks seemed to have all the energy and speed while leaving the Red Wings looking very pedestrian.
The Blackhawks' Patrick Sharp netted a goal and two assists in Game 1 to earn No. 1 star honors while Wings goalie Jimmy Howard stopped 38 shots in goal to garner the No. 2 star. Chicago's Marian Hossa was worthy of the No. 3 star.
Much more skilled, talented, and every bit as good as the Blackhawks' league-best record would indicate,Wednesday's 4-1 victory over the Red Wings in Game 1 of this Western Conference semifinal definitely showed this will be a difficult test.
There has been heavy speculation that Red Wings star Pavel Datsyuk will return to play in his native Russia when his contract runs out after next season. That's not going to happen, Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said Wednesday.
On Wednesday, Pavel Datsyuk and Chicago's Jonathan Toews were named finalists — along with Boston's Patrice Bergeron, who won the award last year — for the Selke Trophy.
Emmerton was a healthy scratch in Game 7 of Round 1 against Anaheim. But Emmerton will re-enter the lineup Wednesday night because of a recurring pectoral muscle injury to Mikael Samuelsson.
Coach Joel Quenneville says it's a "coach's decision" and Stalberg could get back on the ice at any point in the series. He says he has talked to Stalberg about the decision to bench him for Wednesday night's series opener.
This next meeting, which hearkens back to series filled with plot twists and turns, will be played out before fans from two working-class cities, Chicago and Detroit, The Second City vs. Motown.
Now the task is to beat the Red Wings, beginning with Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals Wednesday at the United Center. And that's something this Chicago team and its coach have yet to do, even as they've done just about everything else.
The Wings and Hawks are familiar foes, but this is how they stack up respectively in their second-round playoff series, which begins Wednesday at the United Center in Chicago.
Detroit traveled to Chicago on Tuesday night in preparation for Game 1 tonight — just as the Red Wings would during the regular season — and are planning to return home after the game.Game 2 is Saturday in Chicago.
Detroit News staff writer Ted Kulfan shares his five keys to the NHL second-round playoff series between Original Six foes the Red Wings and Blackhawks, which starts Wednesday in Chicago