Detroit tops Blackhawks 4-1, next move is Quenneville`s - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

Series on as Detroit tops Blackhawks 4-1, next move is Quenneville`s

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Maybe the Blackhawks got caught up in their own press clippings after winning the series opener. It could be the Detroit Red Wings were road weary on Wednesday and needed a few days to recharge.

Pick a reason but the 4-1 Saturday matinee result indicated a total regression by Chicago and a top performance from Detroit.

For those who believe a playoff series doesn't get competitive until the home club loses, get ready and buckle up.

It looked like the Blackhawks would have a chance in Game 2 even though they were outplayed in the first frame. The Red Wings threw their best punch and the Hawks were still able to score and take the lead. As was later evident, one couldn't mistake a nifty play by Patrick Sharp which led to an odd man break and a Patrick Kane goal as a sign of good things to come. Corey Crawford kept the game close for awhile but in the end the Red Wings not only won by a convincing margin, they also made a statement.

The Wings stifled the Hawks offense and wouldn't allow the Chicago attack to control the pace of the game. As the game wore on the Blackhawks were the team with no answers as frustration and some bad penalties came about. The Hawks were held to only 20 shots on home ice and the Wings had twice as many scoring chances through two periods. It wouldn't be a stretch to say this was the Hawks worst performance at the United Center all season.

How could the Blackhawks go from so good to so bad?

It is impossible to say exactly but here are some observations. The Red Wings best players were far better than their Chicago counterparts. The Blackhawks defense, especially Niklas Hjalmarsson played as if they didn't like the early start time. A player that is supposed to be a pain to play against Dave Bolland, committed stupid penalties and didn't contribute much at all.

Last but not least, Chicago's leader Jonathan Toews had a tough afternoon and he too had one of his more disappointing performances of the season. Toews was manhandled by Detroit and was controlled by center Henrik Zetterberg. Toews was credited with three shots on goal but was held scoreless again and his frustration is beginning to show. Toews looks weary and a step slow at times. He also had a sub-par game in the faceoff circle.

Detroit does all the little things well, including taking advantage of less than aware officiating.

Zetterberg and others did just about anything they wanted to Toews. He was held, hooked, slashed, cross checked and some on Twitter mentioned Toews was a victim of a slew foot as well. Whatever the case, officiating had little to do with the loss and the Red Wings will keep playing the same way until they are whistled.

The Wings don't fight but they know how to slash and throw an occasional elbow with the best of them. There is no crying in hockey and the Hawks have to man up. Toews never backs down, but until he learns how to come back with some punishment he will continue to be abused. The Hawks captain needs to take a stand and play with a mean streak otherwise he won't be as effective.

A bigger concern beyond the loss is as a group the Chicago centers are being badly outplayed.

Bolland can't seem to have two solid outings in a row. He looks out of place at times and is taking some bad penalties. On Saturday Bolland was whistled two times for roughing and once for slashing, fortunately the penalty killing is still perfect. That said taking unnecessary penalties disrupts rhythm and expends a lot of energy.

Bolland, like quite a few others need to be better. After his last layoff, if Bolland is still nursing a nagging injury it is safe to say he won't be 100% healthy during the post season.

Michal Handzus must be hurting, he has frequently missed practice and there were some rumblings about his back acting up. Handzus is anything but a speed merchant and now he is slower than usual. That doesn't help the offense but is a bigger issue when trying to defend.

My thinking is Handzus is slotted too high. At this point in his career Handzus is a fourth line player who can play on the penalty kill. Playing Handzus on the second line with Kane and Sharp works at times, but is it enough?

Last but not least, Toews has recorded a mere three assists in seven playoff games. Strength up the middle is important and so far the Hawks come up short.

Toews contributes in many ways but he needs to ramp it up. Improvement for Bolland and Handzus is less certain. In the meantime Red Wing pivots Pavel Datsyuk and Zetterberg are proven winners and future Hall of Famers.

My guess is Viktor Stalberg returns to the scene for Game 3 and Joel Quenneville has some decisions to make.

Quenneville could look to reunite the third line and hope they can cause matchup problems for Mike Babcock. He then could hold on tight and move Bolland up to play with Kane and Sharp. That would mean Handzus goes down to the fourth line and Dan Carcillo returns to street clothes. At some point Sharp could move to center, but that might not be Quenneville's first option.

Carcillo did his job but did not add much although he had a game high seven hits. Actually the Hawks recorded 36 hits which were 10 more than the Red Wings but that didn't mean too much either.

The Hawks don't have four lines that play a dump and chase game, much of the hitting was because Chicago was chasing Detroit. Carcillo flies into players and often loses his balance after contact. He delivers some solid checks but eliminates himself from the play as well.

There isn't a need for any panic by Blackhawk faithful yet, but there is cause for concern.

Game 2 was a huge for both teams. If Detroit lost, their chances of winning the series were slim. Now they go home with momentum and have the Hawks attention. For the first time this post season the Blackhawks have encountered some real push back and it will be interesting to see how they respond.

For now it appears Babcock's Red Wings have Quenneville and the Blackhawks chasing them in more than one way. 

Babcock didn't dress two of his more physical players in Todd Bertuzzi and Jordin Tootoo. He added more speed and finesse to his lineup while Quenneville continues to sit one of his fastest players in Stalberg and opts for a more physical Carcillo.

Is Babcock forcing Quenneville to break into a different mode?

No matter who dresses for the Hawks a much better effort will be required or the Wings will take the series lead on Monday night. Next move belongs to Quenneville.

I will be back on Tuesday and you can follow me on Twitter @AlCimaglia.

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