By Chris Block
Coming off a 2-1 loss to Anaheim at United Center on Friday that had many Chicago hockey fans grumbling and anxious for changes, the Blackhawks flew through Detroit on Sunday and dampered Gordie Howe’s 85th birthday celebration with a 7-1 thumping of the Red Wings.
Chicago’s charge was led by its next wave of young core, with Brandon Saad, Jeremy Morin, Nick Leddy and Jimmy Hayes all figuring prominently in the scoring.
The Red Wings were without Henrik Zetterberg on Sunday. He was a late scratch due to a groin ailment. Detroit did see the return of veteran Mikael Samuelsson (finger) however. Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp continue to be absent from the Blackhawks line up, though both are close to returning.
Corey Crawford was back between the pipes for Chicago for this Easter Sunday afternoon matinee in Detroit, while Jimmy Howard started in goal for the Red Wings.
Jeremy Morin, called up from the Rockford IceHogs on Saturday, made an impact on his first shift in the NHL this season. Morin had scored 10 goals and 4 assists in 10 games in the month of March in the AHL. And he didn’t waste any time picking up where he left off there.
The Hawks fourth line of Morin, Marcus Kruger and Dan Carcillo had set up shot inside the Red Wings zone when Nick Leddy sent a shot down from the left point. Leddy’s attempt was going wide but Carcillo got his stick on it and redirected it behind Jimmy Howard’s net where Kruger battled for it. The puck then bounced out in front where Morin got inside position on Niklas Kronwall and fought off the bigger defenseman as the upstate New York native Morin forehanded the puck past Howard to give the Hawks a quick 1-0 lead.
Less than a minute later, Michael Frolik won a puck along the right side half wall in Red Wings territory and found Brandon Saad streaking to the net across the slot on the weak side. Saad deked Howard down and stickhandled the puck around the outstretched right pad of the Detroit goalie to put the vistitors up 2-0 at 3:21 of the opening period.
51 seconds later, Jimmy Howard was beat again, but this time by a member of his own team.
Dave Bolland got credit for a goal when Red Wings defenseman Jakub Kindl, under pressure from Jimmy Hayes, backhanded a puck into his own goal at 4:12 of the first period. As Kindl was attempting to send the puck behind his own net in hopes of eventually clearing the zone when Hayes complicated matters for Kindl. As Kindl was about to backhand the puck in behind his goal, Hayes whacked Kindl’s stick and the puck instead whispered by an unsuspecting Jimmy Howard and into the twine. Officially, the goal was Bolland’s since he was the last Blackhawk to actually touch the puck.
Detroit was successful in settling the game down and evening the momentum in the second half of the opening frame, keeping their deficit to 3-0, but two quick Blackhawks goals early in the middle period put the game out of reach.
The Red Wings fourth line was about to have a two-on-one opportunity when Brent Seabrook stepped up and pokechecked Jordin Tootoo in the Hawks’ end. Brandon Saad wound up with the puck and raced into the Red Wings zone. He drove wide up the left side and Jonathan Toews one-timed a centering pass over Howard’s glove. Toews’ 17th of the season widened Chicago’s lead to 4-0.
Detroit coach Mike Babcock had seen enough at this point and switched his netminders, sending Jonas Gustavsson out to replace Howard.
But 8 seconds later the Blackhawks would strike again.
Toews won the ensuing face off clean from Pavel Datsyuk and back to Niklas Hjalmarsson at the right defense position. Hjalmarsson attempted a pass which Justin Abdelkader got his stick on. This sent the puck bouncing into the Red Wings’ end. Brandon Saad stayed onside and then out-raced defenseman Brain Lashoff to the puck and released a quick shot under Gustavsson’s pads to give the Blackhawks a commanding 5-0 lead just four minutes into the second period.
The goal was Saad’s second of the day and sixth on the season. He had a 3-point game and would eventually be named the game’s first star.
Dave Bolland got his second goal of the day, and the lone goal he shot in himself, off an academic passing sequence at 7:55 of the third period. Michael Rozsival started the play by slipping a pass through a Red Wings’ stick in the neutral zone to Jimmy Hayes outside the Detroit blue line. Hayes immediately dished off to Bolland, gaining the blue line down the left side. Bolland looked off a pass to Patrick Kane and snapped off a 40 foot wrist shot that beat Jonas Gustavsson under the blocker on the short side. The bad goal surrendered by Gustavsson gave the Blackhawks a 6-0 advantage.
The Blackhawks got yet another unanswered goal late in the third when Nick Leddy went end-to-end and beat Gustavsson over the glove with a wrist shot from the left faceoff dot. The unassisted goal came at 16:21 of the third period.
Corey Crawford was within a half minute of his third shutout of the season when Cory Emmerton thwarted that bid with his 3rd goal of the shortened campaign. Detroit had set up shop in the Hawks zone in the final minute. In a battle of fourth lines, Dan Carcillo skated himself out of position, leaving Brian Lashoff unchecked on the weak side. Leddy had to step up on Lashoff, whose shot was knocked down by Crawford, who in the process lost his stick. The rebound bounced out to Emmerton who had an easy goal as Seabrook had no idea where the puck was, apparently thinking Crawford had it covered.
Chicago is now 3-0 versus Detroit this season. The fourth and final matchup of the regular season between these rivals comes on April 12th at United Center.
The seven goals against were the most Detroit has allowed this season. On opening night the Blues lit up Howard for five goals and Gustavsson another in a 6-0 rout of the Red Wings in St. Louis.
With Sunday’s win, the Blackhawks improved their record to 26-5-3 and now have a 16-point lead on Detroit in the Central Division. Chicago also moves to 5 points ahead of Anaheim for the top spot in the conference. Pittsburgh, riding a 15-game winning streak, has a 56 to 55 point edge on the Hawks for the President’s Trophy.
The Hawks now return home to host Nashville (14-14-7) on Monday night. It will be the first of three meetings this week between those two squads. Chicago will host St. Louis (17-14-2) on Thursday night before doing a home-and-home with Nashville on Saturday and Sunday.
St. Louis is currently hanging on to the 8th and final playoff spot in the West, while Nashville sits in a four-way tie for the 9th spot and just a single point behind the Blues.
-Jonathan Toews dominated Pavel Datsyuk in the faceoff circle on Sunday. Toews was 13 of 18 against Datsyuk in the game and 74% overall. As usual though, that is where the Blackhawks success at the dot ended. Dave Bolland (6 for 14, 43%), Marcus Kruger (5 for 15, 33%) and Andrew Shaw (1-8, 13%) just aren’t getting it done.
-The NHL Trade Deadline is set for Wednesday afternoon. Odds are the Blackhawks won’t do much of great substance. This dominating win at the Joe also takes some of the pressure of management that was beginning to mount to fill some perceived, and actual, holes.
-Detroit did not get a penalty in the game. Though the Hawks would argue a late Pavel Datsyuk hit later in the game should have been called interference. The Red Wings were 0 for 2 on the power play.
-Joel Quenneville mixed up his defense pairings for the first time this season. This was likely mostly in response to recent frustrations with the play of Brent Seabrook. Quenneville split the Keith-Seabrook tandem, pairing Keith with Hjalmarsson and Leddy with Seabrook. Rozsival got back into the lineup in place of Sheldon Brookbank. He skated with Johnny Oduya, who was dropped to the third pairing.
-Corey Crawford is now 14-4-3 on the season. His .925 save percentage is 3rd in the NHL. His 1.97 GAA is also 3rd-best in the league.
-Dan Carcillo absorbed a Jonathan Ericsson shot off the inside of his right foot in the first period but returned to the game.
-Viktor Stalberg was back, not missing a game, after getting hit in the face with a puck in Friday’s 2-1 loss to Anaheim. Stalberg was wearing a full shield to protect the stitches it took to close the gash.
-Jeremy Morin’s 11:19 was the least amount of ice time of any Blackhawks skaters.
-During a second period television time out, the Joe Louis Arena crowd sang Happy Birthday to Gordie Howe on the day the Hall of Famer turns 85.
Joel Quenneville’s lines, parings & scratches in Detroit
20-Brandon Saad / 19-Jonathan Toews / 67-Michael Frolik
39-Jimmy Hayes / 36-Dave Bolland / 88-Patrick Kane
29-Bryan Bickell / 65-Andrew Shaw / 25-Viktor Stalberg
13-Dan Carcillo / 16-Marcus Kruger / 26-Jeremy Morin
2-Duncan Keith / 4-Niklas Hjalmarsson
8-Nick Leddy / 7-Brent Seabrook
27-Johnny Oduya / 32-Michal Rozsival
Scratches: D-17-Sheldon Brookbank… RW-22-Jamal Mayers… LW-52-Brandon Bollig…
Injured Reserve: LW-10-Patrick Sharp (shoulder)… RW-81-Marian Hossa…
Detroit Red Wings lines, pairings & scratches vs CHI
93-Johan Franzen / 13-Pavel Datsyuk / 8-Justin Abdelkader
11-Dan Cleary / 51-Valtteri Filppula / 37-Mikael Samuelsson
20-Drew Miller / 63-Joakim Andersson / 24-Damien Brunner
17-Patrick Eaves / 25-Cory Emmerton / 22-Jordin Tootoo
55-Niklas Kronwall / 52-Jonathan Ericsson
4-Jakub Kindl / 18-Ian White
2-Brendan Smith / 23-Brian Lashoff
Scratches: C-14-Gustav Nyquist… D-28-Carlo Colaiacovo… W-40-Henrik Zetterberg (groin)…
Injuries: F-Darren Helm (back)… Todd Bertuzzi (back)… Kyle Quincey (face)…