Hawks' best players were invisible in Game 2
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DETROIT — Viktor Stalberg is likely returning to the Blackhawks' lineup for Game 3 on Monday.
Never has so much been written about such a marginal player.
If the Hawks are to rebound from Saturday's horrendous effort and regain control of the Western Conference semifinal series with the Red Wings, it's not going to be Stalberg who makes the difference.
How about a goal from Jonathan Toews? He has none so far in the playoffs.
The Hawks' top four defensemen — Duncan Keith, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Brent Seabrook an Nick Leddy — all were minus-2 in Saturday's 4-1 loss in Game 2.
Patrick Sharp was minus-1 with 1 shot on goal. Marian Hossa was minus-1. Patrick Kane was minus-2, as was Dave Bolland, who also took 3 penalties.
Those are the guys who are the Hawks' difference makers — and they were all nowhere to be found Saturday.
"You name it, there are 100 things we can do (better) and it's just a matter of not talking about it, but executing," Sharp said. "It's just upsetting: Game 2, big game at home, you want to come out and you want to take control of the series and obviously that didn't happen. Any time you lose in a playoff game it sticks with you, especially when you lose at home the way that one turned out. Now it's all about Game 3."
Hawks coach Joel Quenneville blamed the lackluster effort by his team in the neutral zone, which the Red Wings owned.
"The neutral zone is probably where we were too sloppy," Quenneville said Sunday. "The predictability wasn't in place. We got stalled making extra plays. They cut off dumps and they broke up plays. Getting a cleaner neutral zone is what I think everybody would like to have."
Toews was right about one thing: The Red Wings made it a lot tougher on the Hawks' best players than the Hawks did on Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk.
The Hawks need to get up in their grills and make them pay a price. This is the playoffs, where you're supposed to punish the other team.
The Hawks have yet to punish anyone in these playoffs. They've played too soft up until now, against Minnesota and Detroit.
"I thought it was easier on their top guys then it was on our top guys," Quenneville said. "That's something that we have to look at."
The change of scenery to Joe Louis Arena should help the Hawks. It has been their home away from home since 2010 with nine wins in 11 games.
"We know that we're going to have to win a game in their building," Quenneville said. "We felt we've been a pretty good road team all year.
"I just think (Saturday's) game, losing home ice, is a situation where it was one of those days where they were much better than we were, and we'll have to be better. We knew that going into it. It certainly got our attention."
The Red Wings have no plans to play any differently against the Hawks' best players.
"We have to play physical, try to eliminate all the space we can," Detroit defenseman Niklas Kronwall said Sunday. "Because when they do have just a little bit of extra space, we know how dangerous they are."
Detroit coach Mike Babcock said Saturday the Red Wings have made themselves into a good team. Getting past the retirement on seven-time Norris Trophy-winning defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom wasn't easy.
"We felt if we just kept hanging in there, we'd have a chance to get better," Babcock said. "Our guys have gotten better. You have to give them a lot of credit."
"We were a work in progress because we didn't know what we were going to be like early. It took us a long time to kind of figure out. But it also took us a long while to figure out where everybody fit best, too. We had changes. We had guys that brought in that didn't fit the way we thought they would, or were better than we thought they were, so we just kind of watched it and let it happen."
•Follow Tim's hockey reports on Twitter @TimSassone and check out his Between the Circles blog at dailyherald.com.
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