Bouncing back is the focus of the Chicago Blackhawks as they play the Detroit Red Wings in the Joe Louis Arena  Thursday night. Chicago currently holds a 2 – 1 deficit in the best-of-seven series against Detroit.

After sufficiently dominating Detroit in Game 1 at the United Center, the Blackhawks and Red Wings flipped roles. Toews and company were effectively shut down (one might say dominated) in Games 2 and 3 offensively, despite spending good zone time with the puck. The Hawks got plenty of chances that they simply couldn’t cash in on – Chicago hurled 40 shots-on-goal toward Howard and scored only once on a Patrick Kane breakaway.

Joel Quenneville knows they have to be better, so he has juggled up the lines during practice the past few days to see what he can produce. According to reports, Brandon Saad dropped from his first-line spot to the second line with Kane, pushing Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa aside Jonathan Toews.

It has been the focus of Detroit Head Coach Mike Babcock to stifle Chicago’s offensive stars and perhaps it took him one game to do that. The Hawks’ offense has only scored 2 goals in 2 games against Detroit’s 7 goals in 2 games. It forces Chicago to rely on the defense to bail the team out, and Detroit has been effective there, too.

Coming into this series, the only player who had been on the ice for more goals against than goals for was Nick Leddy, posting a minus 1 rating. Leddy is now a minus 4 and is joined by 10 other Blackhawks on the minus rating scale. It’s a result of allowing Detroit too much zone time and space to react to pucks in front of Corey Crawford. Crawford, though, is not concerned just yet about the play in that area of the ice.

“Our guys were doing a good job; I was seeing a lot of those pucks,” said Crawford. “We made some good plays, maybe just got cut off here or there by a good stick by them.”

Still, the team effort needs to improve. There is a distinct lack of hustle at times with the puck, that leads to turnovers and failed clear attempts. Detroit is the type of team that will make you pay for mistakes like that.

The 3 Keys for Chicago evening up the series at the Joe Thursday night:

  1. Skate with intention – no player can afford to get lazy at any point; each play must be completed as if it were an overtime rush. 
  2. Stay out of the penalty box – physicality can be a good thing, but sometimes it crosses the line and ends up sending you to the box (ahem, Andrew Shaw). Chicago needs to establish a presence against Detroit to show that they are here to play and make sure it doesn’t go overboard.
  3. Crash on Howard – Jimmy Howard is reported to have a hamstring injury, and yet is still playing very well. Right? Not so fast – he gives up plenty of rebounds that are prime scoring opportunities, but Detroit keeps a tight box around the front of the crease. It’s good fundamental hockey and great teamwork to know what the goaltender needs from teammates, but getting traffic in front of the net for Chicago is fundamental as well. Screening Howard is effective, and getting a skilled guy like Bryan Bickell or Dave Bolland to block up some lanes and get in close (but not too close – can’t blame Shaw from Monday’s game) to set up some great chances.

Both teams have done a great job of coming out of the gate hard and fast, but Chicago must maintain that intensity throughout a full 60 minutes if they want to even up the series.

Just a reminder: tonight’s game begins at 7:00 p.m. CT. 

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