Red Wings-Blackhawks Preview
A stellar performance by Patrick Kane and company left quite an impression on Detroit coach Jeff Blashill after his Red Wings suffered a home loss to the Chicago Blackhawks in their first of two meetings in five days.
Blashill acknowledged afterward what his team needs to do to slow down Kane, and they'll get another shot in Sunday's rematch at the United Center.
Chicago (40-21-5) got off to a quick start Wednesday against its longtime rival, taking a 1-0 lead 2:23 into the first period on Brent Seabrook's career-high 13th goal en route to a 5-2 victory. The game took a major turn in the second when the Blackhawks took advantage of a 5-on-3 power play, scoring twice in a 1:26 span to go up 3-0.
Kane assisted on the first - Artemi Panarin's first of two goals on the night - and scored the second after Seabrook found him wide open at the blue line. The superstar then skated in untouched to wrist a shot past Petr Mrazek.
''We've just got to do a better job of being tight to him,'' Blashill said of Kane, who has a career-best 37 goals and leads the league with a career high-tying 88 points. "We've got to do a better job of not giving him as much space. It's not an easy thing to do. He's great at creating space, but you have to limit his opportunities.''
The trouble with that is if too much attention is paid to Kane, linemates Artem Anisimov and Panarin also have a knack for scoring. Panarin leads all rookies with 24 goals and 59 points and has four of his six power-play scores in the last seven games.
"Him and Kane, they find each other pretty much anywhere," Detroit defensemen Jonathan Ericsson said. "We've got to be aware of them wherever they are. They're a little unpredictable on the ice, too because they maybe don't follow the standard routes, so you've got to keep an eye on them and try to stay close."
The Blackhawks haven't had a 90-point scorer since Jeremy Roenick totaled 107 in 1993-94.
Blashill also had high praise for Corey Crawford, who didn't allow a goal until midway through the third period and finished with 31 saves. Wednesday's victory gave him a career-high 34 - the most by a Blackhawks goaltender since Ed Belfour had 37 in 1993-94.
"He consistently does that," Blashill said. "He makes big saves at big moments, that's why he is who he is. He's a big piece of their team."
Crawford got the day off the following night, and Chicago came out flat Thursday in Boston, getting outshot 12-5 in the first period and losing 4-2.
''I know it's a back-to-back, but you can't really make up any excuses," defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson said.
Although the Blackhawks didn't play with much intensity, the power play continued to roll as Jonathan Toews scored with the man advantage. Chicago, tied with Dallas atop the Western Conference, is 12 for 25 with the extra skater in the last eight games. Detroit (32-21-11) had killed all 17 penalties over a six-game stretch before having its three-game win streak end Wednesday.
"We've got to stay out of the box," Ericsson said. "Their power play is really good. ... We've got to communicate a little better."
The three days' off between games for Detroit should benefit Mrazek, who returned Wednesday after sitting out Monday's 3-2 overtime win at Dallas with a groin injury. Mrazek has allowed five goals in three of his last six starts after going 9-2-2 with a 1.22 goals-against average in his previous 13.
Brad Richards, who won the Stanley Cup with Chicago last season, scored Wednesday and has been heating up, tallying three of his eight goals in the last six games.
The Blackhawks are 7-1-1 in their last nine home meetings with the Red Wings, which includes the 2013 Western Conference semifinals.