Three Questions: Wings-Blackhawks
DRW.com analyzes Game 1 of the Western Conference Final
Detroit forward Dan Cleary had arguably the goal of his life last round, scoring the game-winner in Game 7 to send his team to the conference final. He celebrated his feat by having an outstanding Game 1 against the Blackhawks, scoring his fourth and fifth goals of the playoffs. On his first goal of the afternoon, Cleary stole the puck at the Wings’ blue line, and rushed it down to the Chicago end. With his passing lanes cut off, Cleary roofed the puck past goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin to tie the game at one. On his second, Cleary tipped a shot from Johan Franzen, fooling Khabibulin with the redirection. It extended the Wings’ lead to two goals, and it was enough to bury the Blackhawks.
Cleary played for 15:40, primarily with Franzen and Henrik Zetterberg. He finished plus-three, recording three shots and one hit.
How did the Wings win Game 1?
The most important thing the Wings did to win Game 1 was to weather the storm in the early stages of the third period. The Wings started the third period with a 2-1 lead, and a 29-19 shot advantage. A few minutes later, the game was tied at two on Kris Versteeg’s goal, and the Blackhawks had fired ten shots to the Wings’ two.
Detroit didn’t let the Chicago outburst frustrate them, however. Mikael Samuelsson scored his fourth goal of the postseason to break the tie four minutes after Versteeg’s goal. After being struck with a shot from Brett Lebda, Samuelsson grabbed the puck, skated around the top of the slot, and fired a wrist shot past Khabibulin.
From that point forward, it was all Red Wings. Cleary added his second goal, Zetterberg potted an empty-netter with 43 seconds remaining, and the Wings wrapped up a 5-2 win. At the end, the Wings had 43 shots on goal, 11 less then the Blackhawks.
How did Chris Osgood look?
The Wings’ netminder only faced the Blackhawks one time during the regular season, but that didn’t seem to be a problem. Osgood turned aside 30 shots for the Game 1 win, and he was a key contributor throughout the contest. He stood tall in the second period, making 10 saves. That allowed for the Wings to grab the lead, and the game’s momentum. And he made big saves in the third period, especially when he stopped captain Jonathan Toews on back-to-back shots just outside the crease as the ‘Hawks fought to come back. After the game, Versteeg said that the Blackhawks come back in a games often, “but when you give the Detroit Red Wings a couple-goal lead, a lot of the times that’s not going to happen”. That statement is a direct representation in Osgood’s ability to ‘close the door’ when the Wings get the lead.