May 14, 2013 at 6:38 am

Gregg Krupa

Wings won't be intimidated if Blackhawks try to be bullies

Henrik Zetterberg’s two-goal performance in Game 6 and his two stellar shifts — including scoring the first goal of the game, which got the lead and set the tone in Game 7 — were most valuable for the Red Wings. (David Guralnick / Detroit News)

The Red Wings play on.

After upsetting the Ducks, they play the Blackhawks, who finished with the best record in the NHL.

Beating Chicago in Round 2 would be a major upset. It is touted as unlikely, to the point of a long shot.

Here is a bit of a look back, and a glance forward.

Who was the Red Wings MVP in the Ducks series?

Henrik Zetterberg, by a nose over Jimmy Howard.

A goaltender's job is big. Done well, they are usually the "most valuable."

But Zetterberg's two-goal performance in Game 6 and his two stellar shifts — including scoring the first goal of the game, which got the lead and set the tone in Game 7 — were more valuable for the Red Wings.

He also set up the winning goal, played outstanding defense and was essential to killing penalties.

His ability to lead by example ranks with the great Red Wings captains.

Is it time for the critics of Howard to shut up?

If they have not by now, they never will. They think they are upholding a tradition: All real men criticize the Red Wings goaltender.

Howard is a fine goaltender. If he were great, the critics would not hush regardless.

His teammates say, approaching unanimity, he was their most valuable player in the regular season.

How do you rate Mike Babcock's coaching?

Top-flight, particularly this season with the significant turnover in the lineup, the addition of lots of young guys and because players often tune out a long-term coach, even one less intense than Babcock.

Babcock pulled the right levers to keep the Ducks advantages from being too advantageous. He even forced coach Bruce Boudreau to split his big scorers, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, for Game 7.

From where did Justin Abdelkader come?

Questions about Abdekader have been and likely will continue to be: Can he score a dozen-to-18 goals per season to go along with his heavy body-checking and accomplished penalty killing? And, having demonstrated he can grind, can he develop into a reasonably effective power forward?

What we are experiencing is the growing possibility that both answers are "Yes."

Besides Abdelkader, who stepped up for the Red Wings?

Niklas Kronwall and Jonathan Ericsson were not much on the scoresheet. But neither was Corey Perry, the former winner of the Maurice "Rocket" Richard Award and the Hart Memorial Trophy. And, Kronwall and Ericsson helped keep Perry without a goal.

And, Joakim Andersson, Damien Brunner and Gustav Nyquist, who gave the Red Wings a third line for about the first time all season. Brunner and Nyquist provided some crucial scoring and offensive punch against the Ducks.

Andersson killed penalties and won faceoffs.

Rookie defenseman Brendan Smith seemed to struggle in the Ducks series. Should we be concerned?

Smith did not struggle much more than he has, especially considering the 20-25 percent increase of pace in the playoffs.

The more general concern is that young defensemen make mistakes, especially in the playoffs, and the learning process can take several years — including for the highly touted Smith.

The young Red Wings defensemen and forwards made their share of mistakes. They also played well enough to win.

Include Smith in the good and bad.

What is the biggest concern for the Red Wings against the Blackhawks?

Vast talent, deep at all positions.

Get the picture?

Will the Blackhawks try to bully the Red Wings?

Maybe. It would be a mistake, however.

The Blackhawks will not take the Red Wings off their game, let alone make them cower in some corner.

That sort of thinking is up there with the assertion Pavel Datsyuk will play in Russia rather than in the Eastern Conference next season because the big boys in the East like to play rough.


Can the Patrick Kane line be stopped?

No, but the Red Wings will seek to reduce its effectiveness.

Simple math: Three goals per game, from that line, are more than one or two.

Can the Red Wings really beat the Blackhawks?

Yes, but more likely is the small victory of a series well-played against a superior opponent, who wins out.