05/19/2009 10:57 AM - From ChicagoBlackhawks.com: (link)
It's been roughly 24 hours since the puck dropped in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals, and yet that one statistic remains glaring.
Patrick Kane: Zero shots on goal.
So with the Detroit Red Wings aiming to grab a 2-0 series lead on Tuesday night at Joe Louis Arena (7:30 p.m. ET, VERSUS, TSN, RDS), the biggest question is can they actually do a better job defensively against the Chicago Blackhawks' stud winger?
The Wings think they can.
"We can always be better," said Wings center Henrik Zetterberg, who had a goal and an assist and was a plus-3 in Sunday's 5-2 win. "I thought (Kane) was dangerous a few times. When you give him space and time, he will create something. I didn't think he played as bad as everyone says. It's small things ... one of his passes go through and it's open nets. You just have to be aware when he's out there because he can create something out of nothing."
In Game 1, though, Kane was unable to penetrate the Zetterberg line, which also features Dan Cleary and Johan Franzen. When he did manage to get into the Wings' zone, the best defenseman in the world was waiting for him.
"I think the whole group of five out there against that line did a good job," Detroit captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. "They're shifty players, they're very gifted and they're good in the offensive zone. You want to try to stay close to them all the time and not give them time and space. When they're coming with speed, sometimes you've got to back off. But I think we did a good job against that line."
So good that Wings goalie Chris Osgood did not have to face a single shot from Kane. Honestly, can Detroit really improve on that?
"He didn't have any ... you know ... I don't know," Cleary said as he chuckled. "I think we did a good job on him. You can always do better. We did a good job with their time and space and their speed and Kane's creativity. These guys are good players. They're going to have chances and they're going to score. You've just got to limit the quality."
Kane, who had six goals in Round 2 against the Vancouver Canucks, admitted it was frustrating to play against Zetterberg's line. Not only did they limit Kane's opportunities, but the Wings also scored three times when Kane was on the ice.
"Every time I got the puck, it seemed like they had two or three guys kind of collapse on me, so I had to try to find the open guy," Kane said. "I think we played against Zetterberg's line most of last night, and they want to try to have the puck, too. Sometimes the best defense is an offense when they're trying to control the puck.
"I just have to try to worry about playing defense first the next game and when we get the puck, do the right things. You want to create more and help the team out more."
Not everything was rosy from Detroit's standpoint in Game 1, though. Adam Burish scored the first goal of the game off a turnover by Osgood. While the Red Wings did pull away in the third period, they turned the puck over 11 times in the game. Chicago had only one giveaway, but it led to Cleary's goal in the first period as he stripped Brent Seabrook of the puck at the Blackhawks' blue line.
"We turned the puck over way too often," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. "Turnovers just fuel the fire of a transition team. When you haven't played a team in the playoffs, you try to adjust and tidy up and that's what we have to do. Our emotional engagement in the first 10 minutes wasn't good enough, so ideally we'll be better at that tomorrow."
The hope for Game 2, of course, is that the Wings can put forth another tremendous defensive effort against the likes of Kane and Chicago captain Jonathan Toews. If they hope to take a 2-0 lead to the Windy City, they'll have to continue to shut down such offensive weapons.
"It's so necessary ... you know how dangerous these guys are," Wings forward Kris Draper said. "Against a team like that and against players like that, you want to try to make them play in their own end as much as possible. We've got some great players that can do that. They're so good, they're going to get their opportunities. You've just got to try and limit them."
Or, give a player with Kane's ability nothing all together.
"We'll take that," Draper joked. "But they're great hockey players and they're going to respond. We know they're going to be better, and we have to be better, too."
At the end of the day, the Wings' Game 1 victory was another prime example of how committed the team is to playing a solid defensive game. While it's always fun to score goals, the Red Wings take as much pride in shutting down the opposition's most dangerous weapons.
"Just to have a chance to play against good players and try to keep them from not scoring as much as possible is fun," Zetterberg said. "It's one thing our line has been doing for a few series now. It's fun."
Contact Brian Compton at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Author: Brian Compton | NHL.com Staff Writer