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Wings Muzzle Hawks' Big Guns

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05/17/2009 7:06 PM - From (link)

DETROIT -- In Game 1 of the Western Conference Final, the Detroit Red Wings were able to accomplish what the Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks couldn't -- they outplayed the Chicago Blackhawks' best players.

After getting off to a slow start, the Red Wings found their legs and created several quality chances against top defensemen Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook. In the defensive zone, they outmuscled the likes of Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. The end result was a 5-2 win at Joe Louis Arena.

"You've got to love watching them … they're fast," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "The tempo of the game out there is just flying. When you go up and down the ice like that, there's going to be opportunities to go the other direction."

Detroit capitalized on those opportunities in Game 1. A turnover by Brent Seabrook led to Dan Cleary's goal in the first period. Johan Franzen gave the Wings a 2-1 lead when he outmuscled Keith behind the Hawks' net, then scored on a quick wraparound.

"They've really been great this playoff," Cleary said of Seabrook and Keith. "We came in making sure we got it behind them and forced them to play defense. We try to be physical on them. But they're two good players. Seabrook's physical and Keith's a great skater, so you've got to make sure that you pick them up when he's coming up ice and you've got to have your head on a swivel with them."

Meanwhile, Nicklas Lidstrom & Co. did its thing in the Detroit zone. Toews and Kane were unable to generate any quality scoring chances, while Seabrook, Keith and the rest of Chicago's defense failed to stop the Red Wings late in the game. With the game tied 2-2, Mikael Samuelsson and Cleary scored just 1:27 apart to secure the Game 1 victory.

When the final horn sounded, the foursome of Seabrook, Keith, Kane and Toews combined for a minus-10 rating.

"I thought we had some good backside pressure … that makes our job a little easier," Lidstrom said. "You try to push them to the outside. They're good hockey players and they're good at hanging on to the puck. I think the players out there against that line did a real good job defensively."

Clearly, Chicago will have to figure out a way to limit the turnovers and generate better scoring chances before the puck drops in Game 2 on Tuesday night. After all, coming back from an 0-2 deficit against the defending Stanley Cup champions would be a pretty tall order.

"You've got to spend some time in their end because you know you're going to be in your end a little bit," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "We've got to be better."

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Author: Brian Compton | Staff Writer