Coming off of a very poor performance in Game 1 against the Chicago Blackhawks, the Detroit Red Wings had to be better on Saturday afternoon.
Not only were they significantly better than they were on Wednesday night, they pulled a complete 180 from their opening game in the series and rolled over the Blackhawks for a 4-1 win to even their Western Conference semifinal series at one as it shifts to Detroit next week.
Leading the way was center Pavel Datsyuk, who once again showed why he's always one of the leading contenders for the Selke Trophy, and one of the best defensive forwards in the NHL. He didn't score or record a point on Saturday (he was on the ice for Johan Franzen's third-period goal), but his line, which was usually made up of Franzen and Justin Abdelkader, was easily Detroit's best on the day and did its part to hold Chicago's top players in check.
In Game 1 on Wednesday night the Red Wings were badly outplayed and spent most of the night pinned in their own zone while the Blackhawks fired shot after shot at Jimmy Howard. Had Howard not been as good as he was in that game it could have very easily gotten out of hand (even more than the 4-1 score in that game indicated). For as well as Howard has played this season, the Red Wings were never going to be able to compete in this series if they kept asking him to face that much rubber.
They had to be better in all phases of the game. Thanks in large part to the play of Datsyuk's line, they were.
The Red Wings limited Chicago to just 20 shots on goal and very few quality scoring chances. To put that shots on goal number into some perspective, Chicago was limited to 20 shots or fewer just once during the regular season (Feb. 2 against Calgary, a 3-2 shootout win).
They were held to 20 shots just eight times since the start of the 2009-10 season.
A big part of that success was the play of Datsyuk's line, which completely controlled the game when it was on the ice at even-strength, something that was a huge problem for the Wings in Game 1.
Just check out some of the shot numbers in the table below when that trio was on the ice during 5-on-5 play on Saturday:
|Pavel Datsyuk's line vs. Chicago: Game 2|
|Player||Shots On Goal (Det-Chi)||Total Shot Attempts (Det-Chi)|
That's nearly a 70-30 split when it comes to which end of the ice the game was being played in when those guys were on the ice, and they were usually going up against Chicago's best players, including Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa. That's about as dominant as a line can be while only scoring one goal (Franzen's).
The best way to shut down a team like the Blackhawks is to make sure they're the ones defending.
On Saturday the Red Wings did just that, and no line did it better than Datsyuk's.