Blackhawks passing big tests from Wings

March, 4, 2012
3/04/12
7:46
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
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DETROIT -- If nothing else, the season series between the Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings should get both teams ready for playoff hockey.

The Blackhawks need to learn how to win tight games and they’re finally doing just that, taking their third one-goal game in a row with a fantastic 2-1 victory over the Wings. The Hawks recorded a 2-1 win in Ottawa two days earlier and both victories were extremely impressive.

[+] EnlargePatrick Kane
Marc DesRosiers/US PresswirePatrick Kane scored the game-winning goal in the Blackhawks' third straight victory.
“It was comparable to how we played on Friday,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said after the game. “With details, with purpose, everyone contributing. Another big win for us.”

Quenneville had called Friday’s victory the “biggest of the year.” This one isn’t far behind. Not when you consider the Wings were 27-3-2 at home coming into the contest and sit near the top of the conference in the standings.

“They are fun games to play in,” Patrick Sharp said. “Little bit of everything out there. I’m sure we’ll see them again down the road.”

That little bit of everything included a power-play goal by Sharp, followed by his game-winning set up of a Patrick Kane score late in the second period. Make no mistake, special teams play has been the difference in the last two games. The Hawks have two power-play goals and a score on a delayed penalty, plus they’ve given up nothing when down a man. That’s a winning playoff formula.


“It makes a big difference when our power play can get one, especially early on,” Sharp said. “I thought our penalty kill was solid all [game] long. That’s the way things are going to be down the stretch.”

And that’s the way the Hawks need to play in the postseason -- once they secure a playoff spot that is.

“I think it starts with Razor [Ray Emery],” Jamal Mayers said.
“He’s played unbelievable for us. Key saves again tonight. Just playing that team game we’ve been searching for all season.”

It’s still too early to say the Hawks have completely turned the corner, but just think of the timing if they have. With 15 games to go, winning tight, low-scoring affairs is exactly what the doctor ordered for a team that has had no defensive identity. The addition of Johnny Oduya has been a plus. The Hawks are 3-0 since he joined the team earlier in the week.

“Johnny has really helped us out,” Quenneville said. “In the three games he’s been here… it seems like there is composure there.”

And more balance among the defensive pairs. Reuniting Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook feels right for the playoff push. Both played their hearts out on Sunday and it showed in the locker room afterwards as they slumped in their stalls, exhausted.

As for seeing the Wings again, the Hawks will do that on the final day of the regular season. They’re already 3-0-2 against Detroit this season with all five games being decided by a single goal. Each one has felt like a playoff contest -- and that’s just perfect for the Hawks. They need those challenges.

“Lots of pushing after the whistles,” Sharp said. “Not a whole lot of talking out there. Some bad blood that’s for sure. Good divisional game.”

How about a good division series? And the best news for Hawks fans is their team has held their own.

Jesse Rogers | email

Chicago Cubs beat reporter
Jesse joined ESPN Chicago in September 2009 and covers the Chicago Cubs for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN Radio 1000.

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Patrick Sharp
PTS GOALS AST +/-
78 34 44 13
OTHER LEADERS
GoalsP. Sharp 34
AssistsD. Keith 55
+/-M. Hossa 28
GAAC. Crawford 2.26