The Chicago Blackhawks looked like a surprisingly slow team on Saturday. The Detroit Red Wings came out with a game plan that mixed physicality with a punishing pace, and the Hawks almost appeared disinterested as the Wings created chance after chance and rode the momentum wave to an easy 4-1 victory.
While the lack of offensive punch was a clear issue for the Blackhawks, what really cost them an opportunity to win the game was their complete lack of discipline. Yes, Dave Bolland’s three penalties and Daniel Carcillo’s ill advised cross-checking penalty in the second period all qualify as undisciplined, but there were also several key Blackhawk players who made poor decisions that ultimately resulted in Chicago’s demise in the game.
For example, Niklas Hjalmarsson looked foolish on a diving pokecheck attempt against Detroit forward Henrik Zetterberg in the second period. The play came after the Wings captain undressed Hjalmarsson with a deke, and after the failed strip attempt, Zetterberg set up Brendan Smith for an easy tally to give Detroit a 2-1 lead.
Later in that same period, Brandon Saad lazily passed the puck in the neutral zone and it was intercepted by Daniel Cleary. Ultimately, Corey Crawford was able to stop a fantastic scoring chance from Carlo Colaiacovo, but the fact is that the Hawks cannot blindly pass the puck around and expect a veteran Detroit team not to take advantage of miscues like that.
Brent Seabrook was also guilty of some bad discipline in the third period. With about eight minutes to go in the game, Seabrook got too aggressive after a won faceoff when he pinched in from the blue line to try to chip the puck back into the zone. He missed on the puck, and Detroit sprinted back down the ice on a 3-on-2 break and scored on a spectacular diving goal by Valtteri Filppula.
Finally, to put a nice glaze on the turd sandwich, Patrick Kane attempted to backcheck in the neutral zone by hooking Smith in pretty blatant fashion. The resulting power play didn’t extend the Wings’ advantage any more, but it was indicative of the kind of lackadaisical performance that the Hawks displayed in just about every area of the ice on Saturday.
The Hawks’ penalty killing unit is still perfect in these playoffs, and have only allowed two power play goals total since mid-March, but there is no reason for them to be handing opportunities to the Wings at every turn. If they continue to show the kind of lazy defense and poor judgment that they did at times in Game 2, then their status as favorites in the series could take a serious hit on Monday night.