Found May 24, 2013 on The Detroit Sports Site:
How do you beat a great hockey team in the playoffs and nullify their star players in the process? With plenty of hard work and commitment to a unique game plan. The Detroit Red Wings have immasculated the Chicago Blackhawks with this approach, especially with a dump in game buoyed by a ferocious forecheck. In football, they’d be dinking and dunking their way down the field to work the clock. In basketball, they’d be playing an efficient half court offense to limit possessions. In baseball, they’d be pitching inside to intimidate the good hitters. During two games in Detroit, the Red Wings overwhelmed the Blackhawks, mostly because Chicago could barely break out of their own zone and clear the puck during offensive chances. The Red Wings used this to their advantage late in the third period, where the Blackhawks could barely set up a power play or generate chances with the goaltender pulled. Every time Chicago broke the zone, Detroit hoisted the puck deep. Then, they chased and chased, forcing the Blackhawks to work hard just to establish breakout passes. Mostly, this dump and chase game has helped the Red Wings control the clock. The third period of both games flew by, mostly because of back and forth, open ice skating. Chicago’s stars, be them Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa or Jonathan Toews, haven’t been able to get themselves into an offensive flow.  A few times, this approach has led to offensive pressure for Detroit and turnovers in the middle of the ice. Heading back to Chicago stunningly facing elimination, the Blackhawks must find an answer to break loose. After nothing in game three, they seemed to find something early in game four by hanging behind the play and essentially cherry picking for chances at the blue line, but had nothing to show for that approach on the scoreboard by the end of the night. This was also thanks in part to Jimmy Howard. When that plan didn’t work, they had to hope for Red Wing turnovers to jump start chances. Detroit, for their part, must continue to play this way heading back to Chicago. As in game two, a confident, ferocious forecheck will rule the day on the road and help the Red Wings work towards a quick conclusion to this series. Unless the Blackhawks have completely quit, expect a much greater push at the United Center. The Red Wings must match this intensity in the neutral zone, especially when dumping the puck deep into Chicago territory and chasing it hard. With a similar amount of passion and emotion within their game plan during game five, the Red Wings could put a very quick end to the Blackhawks. As it is said, hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard. Thus far, this series has been a perfect personification of that statement. Best Play In Detroit: Pavel Datsyuk’s snapshot fools Corey Crawford in game three. As far as beauty, timing and importance go, Datsyuk’s goal might be key to the Red Wings winning this series. After Chicago had cut Detroit’s lead to one and nearly tied the game, Datsyuk went to work, taking a pass and ripping it into and out of the net in record time. It was the carbon copy of a clutch goal Datsyuk scored against Anaheim in round one, and gave the Red Wings plenty of cushion to survive a late storm. What Must Change In Chicago: Turnovers. The only reason Chicago held either game close in Detroit was turnovers. The Red WIngs continued to be mistake prone in their own zone, giving the stagnant Blackhawks plenty of free chances. Game two produced 10 turnovers, most of which came in the first period. Game one saw nine turnovers, adding to Detroit’s defensive zone frustration. While the Red Wings are in good shape in the series, they can close the Blackhawks out faster by taking better care of the puck in their own zone and not allowing multiple free chances on Howard. Stat To Monitor: Defensive ice time. As the series wears on further, the play of the blue liners will loom large. Chicago had a few interesting statistics come to light in game four, as Nick Leddy only collected eight minutes on the ice and Brent Seabrook had around 12. Seeing the bulk of the time were stalwarts Duncan Keith (who played a staggering 30 minutes) and Niklas Hjalmarsson, who saw 23 minutes on the ice. Detroit, meanwhile, had much better balance, with all their top pairs logging no more than 16-23 minutes on the ice. If Keith, Hjamlarsson and Johnny Oduya begin to wear down, will Joel Quenneville have to turn to players he doesn’t trust? That could be a big development if Chicago manages to extend the series. Max DeMara is a senior editor at The Detroit Sports Site. You can find him on Twitter @SportsGuyTheMax
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