After his team lost Game 1 of its Western Conference semifinal series in Chicago Wednesday night, Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock offered up a theory as to why his team looked slow in the last 40 minutes.
"We did a lot of traveling in the first series, back and forth," he said. "I saw us (Tuesday in practice) and I wasn't surprised when I saw us today."
Wisely, Babcock and his team headed back to Detroit after Wednesday's game, taking advantage of the extra day between games.
Needless to say, it worked.
The Red Wings looked fresher and brought more zip to their game as a result Saturday afternoon, walloping the West's top seed 4-1 in Chicago, in a game that might not have been as close as the score indicates.
"When you do good things, good things happen over time," Babcock said afterward. "Obviously we were disappointed that we didn’t play the way we were capable of in Game 1 so we went through it and had a look at it and just felt that, if we do what we normally do we’ll be right here and it will be a tight series and we’ll have an opportunity."
One of the great things about playoff hockey is how quickly the opportunity comes to erase a poor performance, no matter the reasons for said poor performance. Short memories are a must, but most of the guys who are good enough to play at this level have already shown that trait at some point.
And while Detroit gives you the normal lines about sustaining this and playing well again in Game 3 Monday at The Joe, it's Chicago's turn to exhibit a short memory.
"I thought the first 10 minutes of the pace was probably as fast as at any point, but we didn’t sustain it," head coach Joel Quenneville said. "We didn’t do what we were hoping to do over the course of the last 50 minutes."
Top-line center and captain Jonathan Toews, who was not at his best in any way Saturday: "We knew that they were going to come back and play much better than they did in Game 1. Obviously we didn’t quite match the effort."
Toews went on to say that he felt his team did "a lot of good things," but I'd challenge him or Quenneville or anyone else to name those things. Besides netting the first goal of the game, little went right for the Blackhawks on this day.
The Red Wings deserved everything they got. They were physical. They were undeterred when some strong early play from Chicago goalie Corey Crawford kept them off the board. They outshot the home team 30-20 and easily had the better of the scoring chances. Instead of it being the Jimmy Howard Show, as it was for a good chunk of Chicago's Game 1 win, Howard was able to watch his teammates -- led by first-year captain Henrik Zetterberg -- dominate.
Of the Wings' captain, Howard says he "is just a very competitive player. This time of year, he seems to step up his game and it was no difference (Saturday)."
Zetterberg told reporters that the Wings wanted to prove they could play a better game. Now, it's time to play an even better one.
Chicago wasn't a tough team to play against for a good chunk of Saturday's game. Quenneville tweaked some lines, and it sounds like Viktor Stalberg will play in Game 3 on Monday night. You can expect a hungry visiting team on Monday, as this is the first real adversity the Blackhawks have faced in these playoffs.
(Yeah, they lost a game to Minnesota, but that series was never seriously in peril. Chicago can ill afford to play like that again in this series.)
Hockeytown should be ready. This final meeting of these legendary franchises as conference rivals took on a really interesting tone on Saturday, and now it's time for the heavy Stanley Cup favorites to respond.