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CSSI Analysis: Red Wings 4 - Blackhawks 3

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A visual representation of the Central Division this year.
A visual representation of the Central Division this year.

So it's come down to this, the last CSSI Analysis post of the regular season.  Time for the end of this ride.  It's been fun and it's been long  (like any ride should be), but today's numbers will finish out the season-long project.  Don't worry though; I plan to reset the stats to zero and start fresh for the playoffs.  Let's jump straight into the game, shall we?

Detroit came into Chicago knowing that, no matter what, they were going to finish the season with the third seed, but needing once again to prove that they can play a full 60-minute game with good focus.  Fortunately, by the time the final horn sounded over the United Center, they had proven that and put the onus of Chicago's playoff chances squarely on the shoulders of the Dallas Stars.  The Wings fought a very hungry and desperate Hawks team for their 4-3 victory.

I don't want to talk about the reffing.  Nobody scored any power play goals.  The difference is that Chicago is the only team that got a chance.  That's the 2nd time this season.  Take a look at Johan Franzen's forehead and tell me that Detroit didn't deserve any power play opportunities.  I dare you.  Ultimately, thanks to playing with the lead for the entire third period and trying to keep Chicago from tying it, the Wings were outshot 36-31

CSSI Tracking Chart here
CSSI Methodology Explanation here

Goalie Ratings

Jimmy Howard played a phenomenal game.  His rebound control and positioning were exactly what the game situation called for and he was able to bail out his defense on several key opportunities.  He had a bit of a mis-handle on Chicago's first goal, but other than that issue, Howard played with tons of confidence.  He ended up making four big saves on Chicago's 36 shots - the first was a quick kick save on a Keith slapshot that broke Datsyuk's stick and changed direction in the first period.  The second came as he stretched out post-to-post on a cross-crease pass.  Third was another cross-ice backdoor rejection, and the last came on a very scary Patrick Kane shot through traffic.  His rating on the day is +4.

Scoring and plus/minus analysis after the jump

The Goals

Penalty Adjustment: Chicago comes out flying early and puts up some good pressure in the Detroit zone; pressure which Holmstrom relieves by throwing the puck over the glass from the wrong side of his blue line.  Homer goes to the box and earns a minus for his troubles.

2nd Period 5:18 - Chicago Goal: Michael Frolik (wrist shot) from Patrick Kane
On a dump-in to the Detroit Zone, Howard gets to it and leaves the puck behind the net for Stuart, who sweeps in and has to reverse his momentum to try to get the puck away from a forechecking Kane.  Patrick Kane chases Stuart to the corner where he "battles strongly for the puck" (read: "slew-foots Stuart") and takes it away.  Kane finds Frolik coming through the middle of the slot to wrist it past Howard's glove.  I'm still pretty angry that an obvious penalty which led directly to a goal was allowed to go uncalled here, but there are a couple of factors at play here that led to the goal after the fact.  For one, Frolik is Filppula's man on this play and he doesn't get up ice in time to prevent this pass.  However, Filppula isn't alone in the blame as just as he goes to challenge Kane in the corner following the Stuart trip, Flip looks over his shoulder and recognizes that Ericsson is a step behind Ben Smith.  Filppula is frozen into place trying to prevent a pass to Smith all alone in front, leading to the pass getting to Frolik.  Both Filppula and Ericsson will keep a half-minus on this play.  Stuart, Hudler, and Miller each have their minuses cleared.

2nd Period 6:56 - Detroit Goal: Tomas Holmstrom (slap shot)
From the Hawks' zone, Ryan Johnson gets a hold of a loose puck and throws a pass up the boards to a streaking Stalberg, who beats Stuart to the puck in the corner and tries to throw a quick centering pass to Tomas Kopecky.  Fortunately for Detroit, Kopecky is an idiot and, instead of continuing to drive the net, he's already cut off his path to start an unnecessary cycle.  The puck bounces out of the Wings zone and straight to Holmstrom at center ice cutting into the Hawks zone behind a defensive shift change.  Homer drives the zone and blasts a slapper from inside the left circle over Crawford's near-side pad and under his blocker.  No adjustment.

2nd Period 7:58 - Detroit Goal: Pavel Datsyuk (wrist shot) from Danny Cleary and Todd Bertuzzi
Just over a minute later, Bertuzzi clears the zone off a Howard rebound that Cleary chases down into the Chicago end, pestering Nick Leddy all the way.  Cleary wins on the boards twice against Leddy to bring the puck from one low corner to the edge of the trapezoid on the far side before Datsyuk picks it up in the corner and moves up the boards with it.  Here, Datsyuk has to move to avoid a big hit by Jake Dowell keying in on him.  Pavel loses a glove and the puck in the process.  From here, Bertuzzi picks it up on the boards at the top of the faceoff circle and throws the puck at the Cleary screen in front.  The puck hits Nick Leddy in front of the net and hangs at the feet of the Hawks' defenseman.  Cleary outhustles Campoli to get a stick on the puck first where he can poke it over to Datsyuk. Sans-glove, Pavel gets the puck in front to Crawford's left and snaps a shot through the far side to put Detroit ahead.  Dan Cleary did some amazing work on this play to make the goal happen.  I'm going to give Cleary a bonus half-assist and a half-plus.  From beating Leddy twice behind the play, to screening, to poking it to Datsyuk for the goal, it's some great work by Buckets.

3rd Period 1:56 - Detroit Goal: Drew Miller (wrist shot) from Valtteri Filppula and Jiri Hudler
In only the third shift of the final period, Detroit earns a two-goal lead thanks to some good board work and vision.  The Hawks get the puck behind the Detroit net, but Ericsson does some good work using his big body to prevent Stalberg and Bickell from centering the puck.  Stalberg tries to carry up the boards to the corner, but Ericsson stays on him the entire way, using a stick against the boards and his body in position to prevent Stalberg from being able to move toward the middle.  Eventually, Stalberg tries to reverse behind the net, but the pass is too weak and Rafalski gets it.  From here, Raffi throws a saucer pass to Jiri Hudler on the other side of center and on the other side of Chris Campoli back on defense to get the Wings in against an outnumbered Chicago defense.  As Leddy moves over to pick up Hudler on the right wing, Filppula streaks in behind Campoli trying to cover the middle and receives a pass moving in.  Filppula being a left-hand shot and having to bring the puck across his body is all Campoli needs to keep him from getting it to the front of the net, but he streaks just wide around the side with Corey Crawford out challenging.  From behind the net, Filppula tries to bank it in off the goalie who is now completely off his line.  The puck bounces off the side of the cage and stops inside the crease just in front of the line where Miller as the late man, comes in with Fernando Pisani trailing him, and taps it in.  Ericsson is going to get a half-plus for the board play which starts this rush while Rafalski will get an assist for a great outlet pass.  I really like the work of the forwards here to turn this into a goal, but I want to see this every time.  No further adjustment.

3rd Period 4:07 - Chicago Goal: Brent Seabrook (slap shot) from Niklas Hjalmarrson and Viktor Stalberg
On a dump-in to the Detroit zone, Datsyuk sees his outlet up the boards cut off and reverses the play to Kindl behind the net.  The play breaks down as Kindl goes to Salei in the corner, who mishandles the puck.  Stalberg gets to it and tries to throw it low, but Salei blocks this.  Here, he fails a second time to clear as he tries going off the boards, but the mass of Stalberg, Holmstrom, and Hjalmarsson combine to keep the puck in.  From here, Stalberg is in good position to protect Hjalmarsson from pressure by Homer, giving him enough room to go D-to-D for Seabrook with enough room to take a step toward Howard and release a slapper around a Tomas Kopecky screen.  Salei will pick up an extra minus for losing the puck here.  I understand that the ice surface in Chicago is not good, but Salei has to have better control of the puck or better decision-making.  Kindl is in good position throughout this play and will not receive a minus.  As for Seabrook being as open as he was, there was a communication breakdown between Datsyuk, who overcommitted on the boards and Franzen, who moved to the side of the ice to cover the lane to Kopecky all alone in front.  Neither of them prevent the pass to Seabrook or the great shot on net.  Both Franzen and Datsyuk will get an extra half-minus.

3rd Period 8:11 - Detroit Goal: Danny Cleary (wrist shot) from Todd Bertuzzi and Brian Rafalski
Hold on folks, because this play starts 40 seconds before the goal is scored and there's a ton going on to create this one.  Stuart and Cleary converge on a puck dumped around the Wings boards where the puck bounces toward the middle.  Abdelkader makes a smart play to poke it around an on-charging Pisani up the boards and then gets it deep into the Chicago end as he forechecks aggressively on Keith.  Cleary picks off an attempt up the boards and throws it across the crease harmlessly, but Abby is again there to get it and restart the cycle before going off to change for Filppula.  Bert tries to carry up the middle, but has the puck knocked off his stick to Rafalski, who throws it into traffic to deflect into the corner.  Fresh on the ice, Filppula blocks another Keith clearing attempt and dangles the puck around Bickell before going deep around the boards again.  Cleary can't get the puck, but Bertuzzi bears down on Hjalmarrson in the corner and forces him to hurry a pass up the boards which misses Bickell and hits Rafalski at the blue line.  Raffi, under immediate pressure from Dowell and Bickell throws it back down to Bertuzzi fresh off nailing the Hammer to the boards.  This creates a 3-on-1 chance down low as Cleary drives the back door and Filppula hangs slightly back driving the center lane.  Bert goes to Cleary on the back door for the quick wrister redirect past Crawford for what would become the game-winner.  There's so much good stuff happening on this play.  I'm going to give Abdelkader a plus for his work to clear the zone and to create the first Keith turnover.  Bertuzzi will get a bonus plus for aggressively challenging up the boards on both sides of the ice.  Filppula's work to pick off the second Keith clearing attempt will get him an assist.  Rafalski makes two good decisions at the point when he gets the puck both times and will get a half-plus for that as well.

3rd Period 11:22 - Chicago Goal: Duncan Keith (backhand) from Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa
Toews wins an offensive zone faceoff back to Seabrook and then draws Datsyuk down into the corner.  Franzen challenges the point, but Seabrook goes off the boards to Hossa in the space that Toews just cleared up for him on the half-boards.  Lidstrom goes out to meet Hossa as he attempts to bring the puck to the middle of the ice.  Hossa throws a low wrister on net from the top of the faceoff circle that gets on Howard through Patrick Sharp and Brad Stuart battling in front.  The puck sits just outside of Howard's reach as Duncan Keith has position on Tomas Holmstrom covering him and he gets on the puck first.  As Howard sprawls out to try to stop him, Keith brings it around him and roofs it to make the game close again.  Homstrom has to be covering his man better down low.  His first reaction is to try to prevent Keith from moving back toward the blue line instead of making a move for the puck.  This mistake will get Holmstrom an extra minus.  No further adjustment.

Penalty Adjustment: Late in the third period, with Chicago pulling out all the stops to try to come back to even and earn a point, Jonathan Toews dances around behind his own net with the puck and gets Ericsson off-balance.  Big E grabs him as he goes down and then puts a leg-lock on him.  Toews worked hard to draw this penalty, but Ericsson will get a minus for taking it.

Bonus Ratings

+2 to Pavel Datsyuk:  When Datsyuk was on the ice, things just happened for Detroit.  He consistently stole the puck off Hossa's stick and twice during the game dangled the puck effortlessly through three defenders on his way to creating a scoring chance.
+1 to Drew Miller: I'm glad he was able to join 12 other Red Wings players in the ten-goal club this season, but his credit in this game comes from his work on the penalty kill.  He was consistently in good position, pressuring when needed and backing off when he had to.
+1.5 to Nicklas Lidstrom and Brad Stuart: The Wings' top pair played together through most of this game head-to-head against Chicago's most dangerous players and won the battle.  Stuart played 27 minutes of tough ice time and did a great job of clearing the net while Lidstrom was back to his calm and understated dominance.  Great game for both of them.
+1 to Jonathan Ericsson: The late penalty was awful and he got punished for that above, but I want to talk about the remainder of the game.  That "holding" penalty he took in the first no more than five minutes after Kane put somebody in a headlock was just downright shameful.  Overall, Ericsson used the body, tracked his coverages, and stepped into passing lanes.  He had a very good game.
+1 to Danny Cleary: It was a big relief to see Cleary winning board battles with such ferocity again.  I've said all season that he's the best on the Wings at fighting for the puck on the boards, but he hadn't been showing that well lately.  He turned that around in this game.

Honorable Mentions:  I liked the hustle of the entire team in this playoff preview.  Every game is going to be like this from here on out and they will have to match this intensity if they want to advance.  Hopefully, the reffing standard will at least make sense.