Jimmy Howard Shuts Out Chicago 2-0, Blackhawks Down 3-1 in Western Semis

By Jon Fromi

The Chicago Blackhawks are officially on the brink of elimination following a Game 4 defeat at the hands of the Detroit Red Wings. Detroit takes a 3-1 series lead after beating the Blackhawks 2-0 Thursday night.

Jimmy Howard won a goalie duel with Corey Crawford, stopping all 28 shots Chicago threw at him. The Red Wings got a Jakub Kindl power-play tally that stood up as the game winner.

Coach Joel Quenneville had his random line generator on full power, sending out a myriad of combinations to try and strike upon a favorable matchup. Jonathan Toews had a 2-on-1 opportunity in the opening minutes via a hard-won board battle by Bryan Bickell. Toews came up the left side and had a clean shot on Howard only to see him handle the attempt.

Toews stole a puck from Henrik Zetterberg in the Detroit zone and set Patrick Kane up for a shot that was stopped by Howard in the sixth minute. In the ninth minute, Duncan Keith sent a shot off the end boards that bounced out in front of the net for a Michal Handzus attempt.

Toews drew a hooking penalty from Niklas Kronwall to earn the game’s first power play 10:25 into the opening period. Chicago struggled to generate any pressure and came away with nothing.

With five minutes to go in the first, Patrick Sharp took a stretch pass into the Red Wings zone and fired on goal, only to be denied by Howard. Corey Crawford turned away a shot by Daniel Cleary created by a nice move by Pavel Datsyuk.

Nick Leddy nearly completed a coast-to-coast move to the net late in the period, but the first 20 minutes saw a lot of back and forth action that failed to result in a goal for either team. There was no score going into the first intermission.

Detroit had an open net to shoot at in the opening minute of the second period when Cleary got a nice bounce off the boards. Leddy found himself in front of the net and collected a Howard rebound but sent a spinning shot off of the post.

Zetterberg hooked Toews in the fourth minute after Bickell sent a pass into the slot, setting up the second Blackhawks power play. The only threat came by the shorthanded Red Wings. As the penalty expired, Toews hooked Drew Miller at the 5:20 mark. Shortly after killing the infraction, Toews was back in the box. This time it was for high-sticking Justin Abdelkader.

With a second left on the penalty, the Red Wings Jakub Kindl broke the ‘Hawks perfect slate on the penalty kill. The shot came from the left circle, getting by Niklas Hjalmarsson’s block attempt and striking the left post to give Detroit a 1-0 advantage 10:03 into the middle frame.

Chicago’s response at the 10:54 mark was Toews committing another high-sticking penalty. Michael Frolik had an excellent chance to tie the game shorthanded get knocked away, though the ‘Hawks did kill the penalty.

Bickell and Abdelkader wound up tangling at the bottom of a scrum following a put back attempt by Abdelkader at the 15:17 mark. Handzus had another opportunity in front of the net but Howard came out and smothered the attempt. The period ended with Detroit still holding the one-goal advantage.

Neither team got a shot on goal in the first six minutes of the final period. The Blackhawks got a huge defensive stop by Johnny Oduya, who got a stick on a Damien Brunner breakaway. Crawford and Howard traded outstanding saves in the tenth minute. Crawford came out to make a pad save on Brendan Smith. Howard’s response was to deny a 2-on-1 rush by Frolik and Dave Bolland.

Handzus backhanded a shot off of a faceoff win midway through the period that hit the post but didn’t find its way into the net. Kronwall knocked away Toews’ pass attempt a moment later.

Chicago tried to get traffic in front of Howard as the game entered the final minutes. The ‘Hawks were able to get sticks on several rebounds but could not solve the Detroit goalie.

With 4:45 left, Michal Rozsival hit Brandon Saad coming into the Detroit zone. The breakaway was stopped by Kindl, who hooked Saad before he could get off a shot. This resulted in a Blackhawks power play. Once again, Chicago came away without so much as a shot on goal.

Crawford was pulled with 1:24 left for the extra skater. Not only could Chicago not get set up in the Red Wings zone, Cleary sealed the Blackhawks fate with the empty netter with 38 seconds to play.

Thoughts:

-Three power plays, one shot on goal. You just can’t suck much more than that.

-Toews is just being spanked by his Detroit counterparts. Zetterberg had his number all night.

-In fact, Detroit’s best players are just better than Chicago’s best players through four games. Did they call Marian Hossa’s name at all in this game? Kane was held in check and Toews was whistled for as many minors (3) as credited shots.

-Crawford stopped 25 of 26 shots on the night. For those who called for him to do so, he made the big stops when they were needed to keep Chicago in the game. I don’t see how Ray Emery is going to be an improvement unless he can go down and score a couple of goals himself.

-Boys, that pressure you’re feeling behind you is the wall. The one your backs are against.

-The ‘Hawks need three straight wins to salvage the series. However, they can only win one game Saturday night. That has to be where the comeback starts.

Jon Fromi

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