Whether you lambaste the Chicago Blackhawks or simply praise the Detroit Red Wings’ key players, the bottom line is that Detroit is now off to a 3-1 series lead after shutting its division rivals down 2-0 in Game 4 on Thursday.
Let’s discuss it.
- Jimmy Howard locked down a shutout and has only allowed three Blackhawks goals in four contests. Is he finally going to get credit as a key piece of the Red Wings’ puzzle. More directly: where does he rank among the best goalies in the NHL?
- More on this later, but Jonathan Toews had one of his worst nights of the playoffs (and of his young postseason career). Can he get it together? If not, will he get the sort of blame that many other star players receive when they don’t produce in big games?
- If you were building a team and you only had this series’ two coaches to choose from, would you go with Mike Babcock or Joel Quenneville?
- The Blackhawks are down 3-1 in this series. They famously roared back from a 3-0 deficit against the Vancouver Canucks to tie a series, only to lose in Game 7. Can they complete a comeback this time?
- How much of this series is about the Red Wings’ ability to stop the Blackhawks and how much of it is about Chicago’s offense short-circuiting? What do the ‘Hawks need to do to turn things around?
Damon Severson was a healthy scratch on Saturday.
It’s the last game he wants to miss this season.
“I had a good chat with a few people and just pretty much said, ‘I want to be in the next 80 games,’” Severson said, per The Record. “I sat out my game and that’s all I want to be out for for the year.”
Severson is one of the Devils’ most important young players. But this is also the 21-year-old defenseman’s sophomore season, and that’s when slumps can occur.
Hence, the early message he was sent by the coaching staff.
Severson is expected to be back in the lineup tonight when New Jersey hosts Nashville.
“He doesn’t have to be perfect,” coach John Hynes told reporters. “We’d just like to see him have a high compete level. We know he’s ready to go. We had a couple of good meetings with him. He’s in a good spot mentally. I know he’s ready to roll.”
Jake Virtanen, the sixth overall pick in the 2014 draft, will make his NHL debut tonight when his Canucks meet the Kings in Los Angeles.
The 19-year-old winger was a healthy scratch for Vancouver’s first three games of the regular season. He had two goals and two assists in six preseason games.
“I can’t wait,” he told reporters. “My energy is high. I want to get a couple of hits on my first shift.”
Big and physical with goal-scoring ability, the consensus is that Virtanen will remain in the NHL and not be returned to junior after he’s played nine games. That consensus could always change based on his play, of course.
The Canucks — who won last night in Anaheim — did not have a full skate this morning, so it’s unclear who will come out of the lineup. The best guess is rookie Jared McCann, who’s been playing third-line center.
If McCann does come out, the Canucks could move Brandon Sutter to third-line center and Virtanen could take Sutter’s spot on the first line with the Sedin twins. Or, there could be more extensive line juggling.