Blackhawks' best game too much for Red Wings
That wasn't exactly what you'd call flipping the switch.
But at least the Blackhawks weren't asleep at it.
They played their best defense of the postseason and gave the Red Wings very few good opportunities, and while the offense is still far from dominating, 3 goals in the last 12 minutes gave the Hawks a 4-1 victory over Detroit in Game 1 on Wednesday night at the UC.
They have at least put their fingers on the switch, and may be on the verge of finally turning it on.
"I thought that was probably our best game of the postseason," said Corey Crawford, who faced only 21 shots, and many of those were in the final few minutes. "We played a lot of the game in their end and there wasn't much for me to do. I had to make sure I stayed on my toes."
Joel Quenneville has tried to keep his players off their heels by poking and prodding, reminding them about the need to elevate their games individually and as a team.
But there were still times in Game 1 when it felt like the Hawks were searching for that jump that has eluded them for several weeks.
"I know I didn't feel great at the start," said Patrick Sharp, who had a goal and 2 assists and leads the Hawks with 9 points in six games. "I was a little sluggish trying to find my legs after six or seven days off, but I felt better as the game went along and I think we played better as the game went along.
"I think we can still play better, but the goal is to get better every game, and I think we're doing that.
"This was our best game of the six so far, but we need to improve. I think Joel can probably answer that better than any of us, but I thought we had more sense of urgency tonight."
Quenneville made it clear to his players after the final game against the Wild that they needed to find that next level, because playing like they did against Minnesota wasn't going to get it done.
"Much better from our prior series," Quenneville said. "I thought what we're talking about in our team game was in place. Had some pace, had some speed, zone time, and I thought everybody contributed."
One guy who didn't contribute was Viktor Stalberg, benched after complaining about special-teams time in the last series.
Quenneville sent a couple of messages with the Stalberg decision. One is that playing time is earned, not guaranteed, and the other is that you dare not openly question the boss.
Though playing Dan Carcillo continues to bring criticism, Carcillo created the goal by Marcus Kruger that increased the Hawks' lead to 3-1 midway through the third.
"I thought everybody had a good game," Quenneville said. "I thought we had a lot of good contributions in a lot of areas and certain guys were more productive offensively. But the team game was what led to our offense."
On the positive side, Sharp has come out of his regular-season funk and is creating scoring chances all over the offensive end. The Jonathan Toews line is also storming the net, but Brandon Saad had at least a half-dozen very good chances Wednesday and couldn't hit the broad side of the Old Barn if it were still standing across the street.
The Hawks will need Saad or Toews to start finding the net pretty soon or you have to think Quenneville is going to shake things up a bit, because Detroit will still have something to say about how this series shakes out.
"I thought the first period was pretty even, but I thought they skated way better than we did in the second and third," said Wings coach Mike Babcock. "I was hoping to come in here and steal this first game. To be honest with you, we're looking forward to a day off. I saw us yesterday at practice and I wasn't surprised when I saw us today.
"They were better than us. The score tonight was more than fair as far as I'm concerned."
They were better, but the Wings will be better in Game 2, so the Hawks must continue to search for another gear.
"I thought we were great to start, but then there was a little lull there, and a good finish," said Brent Seabrook. "Give Jimmy Howard credit, too, because he played great."
The Hawks did double the Wings with 42 shots, but the home team can still make life a lot more difficult for the opposing goaltender.
Don't be surprised if that's the goal for Game 2.
•Listen to Barry Rozner from 9 a.m. to noon Sundays on the Score's "Hit and Run" show at WSCR 670-AM, and follow him @BarryRozner on Twitter.