After all those years of being juggernauts, it’s weird to label the Detroit Red Wings as “underdogs,” but that’s the undeniable case in their second-round series against the Chicago Blackhawks. Whatever you want to call them, the league’s gold standard franchise now has a 2-1 series lead over the Presidents’ Trophy winners after a 3-1 win in Game 3 on Monday.
Let’s bat around some topics.
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- So, where do we start with controversial calls? Fans of both teams have plenty of reason to beef, but which calls bother you the most? Did one team receive greater benefits in your opinion?
- To be more specific, how do you feel about the Blackhawks goal that was disallowed because of goalie interference and the Patrick Kane goal that happened despite Johan Franzen’s injury? Are those rare instances of make-up calls on tallies?
- The Blackhawks power play struggles overshadow their perfect penalty kill (28 for 28 so far in the playoffs). What should Joel Quenneville do to improve the output of the special teams unit? Is Mike Haviland secretly smiling?
- This year’s Chicago team hasn’t faced many bumps in the road beyond injuries. Are they in big trouble right now? Could a season full of success become a problem in a way now that they’re down 2-1 in a series?
- Speaking of rare struggles, Jonathan Toews is still without a goal in the postseason and only has three assists. How much longer will things go before pundits wonder if he isn’t as great of a leader as he’s been billed to be? Is it just a matter of bad puck luck?
- Which Red Wings players deserve the most credit for this great work? Is it as obvious as Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk being premier two-way forwards?
- How much is this about Mike Babcock’s brilliance? Detroit is finding ways to smother one of the most dangerous offensive attacks in recent memory.
- So, who wins this series? It’s more up to question than many expected.
Ken Hitchcock wants the Blues to spend more time attacking and less time defending.
Because hockey isn’t rocket science, that’s why.
“To score and win games in the National Hockey League…you have to spend as much time in the offensive zone as you can,” Hitchcock told the Post-Dispatch.
“When you’re occupying the offensive zone more, you’re forechecking more. When you’re occupying the offensive zone more, the goalie has to make saves. They’re having to defend more. And the opposing team takes penalties on you. So they’re all connected. … What I want to see from us is staying on the puck for longer stretches.”
According to the stats, the Blues have not been spending as much time in the offensive zone as we’re used to seeing from them. In fact, in their last 20 games, they rank in the bottom third of the league in score-adjusted Corsi. That compares to their first 20 games when they were in the top third.
The result is fewer shots, and more importantly, fewer goals. The Blues have fallen all the way to 25th in offense, averaging just 2.37 goals per game. Last year, they finished fifth (2.91).
Yes, some of that may be due to the absence of Jaden Schwartz, and he should be back soon. But there’s a reason people are watching GM Doug Armstrong as the Feb. 29 trade deadline approaches. This team could probably use another piece up front.
The Blues host Minnesota Saturday.
St. Louis has scored just five goals in its last five games.
Tonight in Anaheim, Anders Lindback will make his first start for the Arizona Coyotes since Jan. 16.
The Coyotes have been riding rookie Louis Domingue since just before Christmas, but Domingue has allowed five goals in each of his last three starts, including last night’s 5-4 loss to Chicago.
Lindback’s last appearance came Tuesday in relief, when he allowed one goal on 10 shots in a 6-2 loss to the Kings.
Lindback was in goal for one of Arizona’s three victories this season over Anaheim, stopping 33 of 36 shots in a 4-3 overtime win on Nov. 9. However, his .896 save percentage ranks among the lowest in the league.
Frederik Andersen is expected to start for the Ducks.
— No word yet on a Penguins starter in Tampa, but Ben Bishop will go for the Bolts.
— Cam Ward will start for the Hurricanes in Winnipeg, where Connor Hellebuyck is expected for the increasingly desperate Jets.
— Joonas Korpisalo was solid last night in Vancouver, but the Blue Jackets have not announced their starter for tonight’s game in Calgary. Karri Ramo will be in goal for the Flames.
The latest Penguins injuries, these ones to Evgeni Malkin and Eric Fehr, have led to an opportunity for Oskar Sundqvist.
Sundqvist will make his NHL debut for the Penguins tonight in Tampa. The 21-year-old center has five goals and 11 assists in 39 AHL games this season.
“Sunny’s a pretty solid two-way player,” coach Mike Sullivan said, per the Tribune-Review.
“I don’t think he’s going to dazzle you with flashy plays, but I think he’s a guy who plays the game the right way. He’s hard to play against because of his size. He’s got a long reach, and he’s got a good stick.”
Sundqvist was selected 81st overall by the Pens in 2012. He’ll become the fourth player out of that Pittsburgh draft class to make his NHL debut, after Olli Maatta, Derrick Pouliot, and Matt Murray.
Veteran Matt Cullen will replace Malkin on the second line, skating with wingers Carl Hagelin and Phil Kessel.
Related: Nick Bonino out ‘at least a month’ with hand injury
As if John Scott wasn’t already having a great week, now he’s the proud father of twin girls.
The Montreal Canadiens shared the good news via their Twitter account today.
Scott, the unlikely 2016 All-Star Game MVP, is currently back home in Michigan; however, he’s expected to resume his career at some point with Montreal’s AHL affiliate in St. John’s, Newfoundland.
When, exactly, he suits up for the IceCaps remains to be seen, but it won’t be tonight or tomorrow.
Related: Therrien on Canadiens possibly recalling John Scott: ‘You never know’