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MORRISSEY: Red Wings won’t just roll over

Jonathan Toews admitted thHawks failed match Wings’ “energy effort.” | Scott Stewart~Sun-Times

Jonathan Toews admitted that the Hawks failed to match the Wings’ “energy and effort.” | Scott Stewart~Sun-Times

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Updated: June 20, 2013 4:46PM



You know, the Detroit Red Wings are pretty good. That fact apparently had escaped a segment of the local population, most of them in fan gear but some of them wearing skates, helmets and toothless smiles.

The Red Wings outhustled and outmuscled the Blackhawks on Saturday, and if there had been a fight, it probably would have out-tussled them too. The result was a 4-1 debacle for the Hawks in Game 2 of this Western Conference semifinal.

That the Red Wings would come back from a Game 1 loss with fire in their eyes was predictable. That the Hawks would respond with blank looks at the United Center was not, considering they were a team that rarely let down during the regular season. But the visitors were a step ahead all Saturday afternoon. Wherever the puck was, a Red Wing was on it and a Blackhawk was chasing it.

“We let them skate around with the puck too much,’’ captain Jonathan Toews said. “We were ready to play, but we didn’t match their energy and effort. You saw the result.’’

Yes, and we can see that this is a series now. The top-seeded Hawks are the more-talented team, so if you want to say it’s a series until they decide it isn’t, go ahead. But being the more talented team doesn’t mean everything in hockey. Stanley Cup history is littered with the smoking wreckage of higher seeds.

I don’t think the Hawks lacked effort out of feelings of superiority. I think they thought they were trying hard enough. They thought wrong.

“Our game was way off as far as the pace that we needed,’’ coach Joel Quenneville said.

He’ll have his team’s attention now. I assume attention-getting was part of the reason he benched Viktor Stalberg for Games 1 and 2 — to let the Hawks know that if they don’t play hard, they’ll find themselves in hockey’s version of hell, known as the “healthy scratch.’’ No more need for games.

The seventh-seeded Red Wings won the shot battle 30-20. The Hawks’ total was 22 fewer than in Game 1. Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford is very good, but he’s not good enough to make up for the failure of teammates to catch up to flying Red Wings. Nobody is.

The Red Wings had sludge in their gas tank in the series opener, so a pace adjustment in Game 2 was a given. Everybody knew it. The Hawks had been talking about it for two days. But knowing it and doing something about it are two different things.

And so it was that on the key goal of the game, Hawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson gave up the puck, eventually allowing Brendan Smith to beat Crawford to make it 2-1 late in the second.

The Red Wings played a clutch-and-grab game, and the Hawks were slow to realize that they needed to play that way too, as long as the refs were going to allow it.

“They were tougher on the puck,’’ Toews said. “There was a lot of hooking and holding, and you couldn’t really skate with the puck. We’ve just got to be scrappier. We’ve got to find a way to get through that stuff and find our way to the net. We weren’t really battling for position out there.’’

The Hawks came out strong and died out, which is unlike them. As Toews said, they’re a team that normally wears down an opponent as the game goes on. That didn’t happen, especially in the second period, when the Hawks had only five shots on net.

So, no, this is not going to be the cake-skate that many people thought it was going to be after the Hawks’ Game 1 victory. The Red Wings have talent, and the teams have a history. Consider yourself warned.

Game 3 is Monday in Detroit.

“They had the puck a lot, and we didn’t,’’ said Patrick Kane, who scored the Hawks’ lone goal. “It felt like we were chasing the puck a lot.’’

It felt like that because it was like that. Kane would like to think it’s a wake-up call.

“Maybe after the first game, we thought it was going to be an easy series, that we had a lot of confidence in here. But they’re a good team, and they have a lot of players over there that still want to battle.’’

The Red Wings weren’t great during the regular season, but they have raised their game in the playoffs. Time for the Hawks to answer with something more than a shrug.



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