DETROIT — Has the complexion of the NHL Western Conference semifinal series changed in the wake of the Detroit’s win in Game 3?
While a 3-1 victory Monday over Chicago gave the Red Wings a 2-1 series lead, neither team will give an inch if asked whether one has taken control.
Detroit coach Mike Babcock leveled with the media in regards to any perception that his team may hold a commanding lead entering Thursday’s Game 4 at Joe Louis Arena.
“Let's be honest,” Babcock said. “We haven't done anything yet."
Less than a month ago, the Red Wings fought simply to qualify for the postseason. Now, they’re surging against a team that entered the postseason as a favorite to win the Stanley Cup, on account of a combination of veteran leadership and young players who are delivering in the playoffs, including captain Henrik Zetterberg (three goals, seven assists) and first-year center Damien Brunner (four goals, four assists).
“You’ve got to work hard enough and play hard enough, get some confidence in yourself and I think this group has done that,” Babcock said. “I’ve talked about the fact that we’re getting better even when we know we weren’t winning on a regular basis, and then we started to win."
Given that sentiment, Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard doesn’t believe the Blackhawks will roll over in Game 4.
“They’re going to come even harder on Thursday,” said Howard, who made 39 saves in Game 3.
“They’re probably the best team in the NHL. We’re just going out there, sticking to our game plan, getting pucks deep, getting on their ‘D.’ We’re trying not to give them any freebies. They’re a team that lives off the transition and we’ve got to get above them.”
After a 4-1 loss in Game 1 in Chicago, the Red Wings showed spunk in winning the next two games, despite being outshot 101-81 and going 0 for 12 on the power play in the first three games.
The Blackhawks, instead, are in an unusual funk. Chicago captain Jonathan Toews has yet to register a goal in his first eight playoff games, and Chicago lost back-to-back games for the first time in regulation in nearly two months.
Furthermore, Chicago’s chances of mounting a comeback Monday took a hit when a goaltender interference call against Andrew Shaw waved off the apparent tying goal in the third period.
Yet after Game 3, the Blackhawks strangely remained upbeat.
“I think we're going to take some confidence away from this game,” defenseman Duncan Keith said. “I know it's a tougher situation down 2-1, but we just got to go in with the right mentality the next game.”
Toews also considered the impact losing back-to-back playoff games might have on his team.
“It takes something like this to slap you in the face, so to speak, to really understand what adversity is and how tough the playoffs can be,” Toews said. “A lot of guys in this room have been in tough positions before in the playoffs and that's never stopped us. We know this is a long series, and we're going to be fighting until the end."
Toews isn’t ready to cash in Chicago’s chips.
“I think this series is a long way from over,” Chicago’s captain said. “ And they know that too.”
Contact Rachel Lenzi at: email@example.com, 419-724-6510, or on Twitter @RLenziBlade.