The Chicago Blackhawks drew first blood in their series with the Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday night, winning a 4-1 decision and outshooting the Wings 42-21 in the game.
While the outcome will inevitably be chalked up to how well they played on the offensive side of the puck, defensively this team was just as good as they have been throughout this playoff run. Their blue liners did a great job of disrupting the flow of Detroit’s offense, which is predicated on a puck-possession style of offense similar to that of the Blackhawks, and primary among those defensive contributors was defenseman Duncan Keith.
In the game, Keith was deployed on 29 shifts, and 24 of those came against Red Wings forward Pavel Datsyuk. Despite Detroit head coach Mike Babcock pairing Datsyuk up with fellow elite forward Henrik Zetterberg in the third period of the game, Keith was still able to prevent Datsyuk from getting a single shot on goal in the game. Making the feat even more remarkable is the fact that Datsyuk had more time on the ice during the Wings’ power plays than any other player.
In the end, Datsyuk only attempted one shot in his 21+ minutes of ice time in the game, but Hawks fans shouldn’t get too comfortable with the idea of shutting him down like that two games in a row. To wit, in Game 1 of the Wings’ first round series with the Ducks, Datsyuk only managed one shot on goal, but in Game 2, he ended up with five SOG and had two assists as the Wings jumped back into the series with a 5-4 overtime win.
Even still, the Hawks’ defensive play in Game 1 won’t get enough credit in light of their sterling offensive performance, but the play of guys like Keith is what really set up the big win that the Hawks enjoyed on Wednesday night.