May 18, 2013 at 1:00 am

Gregg Krupa

Red Wings flip a switch, come to life in Game 2

Detroit — Game 2 made it clear the Blackhawks do not walk on water.

It also proved the Red Wings still can skate like mad on it, frozen.

It is far easier for coaches and players, who are doing the doing in the playoffs, to remain calm and optimistic.

Fans do not do, they watch.

And it can be nerve-racking.

Need help maintaining equilibrium over the next three games, at least?

Listen to and watch Mike Babcock on Friday between Games 1 and 2.

He listed the chances the Red Wings just missed converting in Game 1, when they played with the energy they had - which was not much.

"So, I guess what I'm trying to tell you is, settle down," Babcock said, with a knowing smile. "We'll be OK."

And then he put his hand high above his head and then low close to the table in front of him, moving it repeatedly up and down in the motion of waves, visually demonstrating sharply divergent emotions.

"I'm like this," he said, moving his hand slowly, evenly and smoothly, parallel to the ground.

So was his team, both in the wake of Game 1 and playing in Game 2, and regardless of all their youth.

To think that once again the zealously intense Babcock is not a finalist for the Jack Adams Trophy for coach of the year.

How ridiculous!

Wing power


The difference between Game 1 and 2 was like someone flipped the switch on a power plant and a dark city came alight.

The Red Wings skated hard, played for much longer stretches with the puck and got in front of the Blackhawks skating through the neutral zone to slow them down.

They got on the Blackhawks, got to the right places on the ice and closed the yawning gaps between defensemen and forwards to encourage quick outlets and movement through the neutral zone

Continually, they won the little and big battles all over the ice.

Frequently, they were fast enough and hard enough that they erased their mistakes.

They not only were better, they were dominant.

In a 4-1 victory, they outshot the Hawks, 30-20, after losing 4-1 Wednesday, when they were outshot, 42-21.

Night and day.

It all left the deeply talented Blackhawks frustrated and whiny, constantly approaching the referees about how the Wings were mistreating them.

Imagine that.

By the end of the second period, the energized Red Wings silenced the big crowd at United Center.

Something tells me they also lit the fuse under another big crowd, the one that will attend Game 3 in Joe Louis Arena on Monday.

Young Mr. Smith

The development of a young NHL defenseman can be a saga.

To say that in recent weeks Brendan Smith gathered some anecdotes for his particular tale is a severe understatement.

Smith, 23, has serially mishandled the puck and made passes to team mates that are the hockey equivalent of hand grenades.

He has scored; twice, now, in the playoffs — including one Saturday, the importance of which can scarcely be over-estimated.

It put the Red Wings up 2-1, and provided their first lead of the series.

After a brutal Game 1, Smith found himself surrounded by media in the Wings' dressing room Friday. To question after question the earnest, smart young Smith provided answers.

Others might have headed for the weight room, where most of the players were, long before the media was allowed in.

Not "Smitty."

He answered.

Playing Saturday, things certainly got ragged, all over again.

He hooked Marian Hossa, with no necessity, at 10:21 of the first period. Smith seemed to act out of sheer anxiety.

Three-and-a-half minutes later, he fell victim to an old, embarrassing trick.

Patrick Sharp snuck behind him at the offensive blue line, lifted his stick as the puck approach, stole it, turned and headed up the left wing, where he would eventually provide the first assist on the first goal of the game, by Patrick Kane.

With 16 minutes gone in the second, Smith made a cross ice pass near his own blue line — to absolutely no one. It was at least 10 feet behind Daniel Cleary.

But Smith is tough.

When he woke up Saturday morning, hanging out with Damien Brunner, he said he tweeted, "Sometimes it takes a full room of darkness to see a clear path to the light."

You know, even an old University of Michigan guy like me has to admit that Wisconsin is a pretty good school, too!

After Smith's bomb of a pass behind Cleary, when the play continued, his captain, Henrik Zetterberg, made a nice move up ice to beat the Chicago defense to a puck and skated toward the Blackhawks' net.

Smith did not pout. He skated.

And "Smitty" can skate, boy.

He caught the play about 10-feet in front of Blackhawks' goalie Corey Crawford and Zetterberg found him.

Smith had pinched beautifully, despite all the risks of doing so, despite the safer play being less likely to lead to the sort of mistakes, of which he had made a perhaps a dozen, already, in the series.

But, he arrived to take the pass, and he made no mistake.

Smith is a smart guy and a talented player, who bring an edge to the proceedings. He is tough mentally and physically.

His growing pains are obvious.

But he is growing. He is likely to be on the Wings' blue line for a long time to come.

'He's everywhere! He's everywhere!'

In the opening moments of the game Jonathan Toews, the Blackhawks captain, skated on the back-check and submarined Zetterberg, chopping into his legs with his body at Zetterberg's knees.

Toews might think better of such an injury-tempting approach in the future, given how the Red Wings' brilliant captain spent the next 59:30 of playing time.

"Zata" (Swedish for "Z") was everywhere.

Fore-checking and back-checking. The power play and the penalty kill. He was in the corners and in the slot.

He had four shots, two assists and 19:38 of ice time.

He beat the Chicago defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson to a puck, in a long, fast skate of sheer will, on the play that led to Smith's goal. Later, he assisted on the Red Wings' clincher, the fourth goal by Valtteri Filppula.

The afternoon was marvelous display by one of the four or five best two-way forwards in the NHL.

The previous 48 hours, the days between Game 1 and 2, was a wonderful demonstration of leadership by a player quite clearly destined to be another in a long line of great Red Wings' captains.

Irritated and flawed

Toews had no points in the game. He has no goals in the playoffs.

He does have a lot of complaints, though.

Apparently, the Chicago captain does not want the Red Wings to be tough with him. And, when they are, he is going to spend a good amount of time complaining to the referees and to his team mates on the bench.

After he submarined Zetterberg early, he complained at least four times about the Red Wings getting their sticks and bodies into him.

That is rich.

At 10:47 of the second period, Zetterberg manhandling him in front of Jimmy Howard nearly lead to a goal at the other end, while Toews lingered behind the play with a look on his face that seemed to say he is too good to be treated that way.

At the end of the game, Toews had a similar look on his face, as he lingered to watch the Red Wings celebrate.

It was as if he felt he had been deprived unfairly.

There were other signs of frustration and fading discipline by other Blackhawks, who must have thought along with their captain that this was going to be easier.

I wonder where they got that idea.

Johan's hammer

When Jonathan Ericsson fed him a wonderful, long, pinpoint pass just after the seven-minute mark of the third period, Johan Franzen was rotating near the Blackhawks blue line.

He skated right into the pass in full flight and toward the net.

Crawford is no slouch. He went butterfly, well out at the top of the crease.

There was not a lot of room, just a bit of daylight high. Most of it was short-side on Crawford's glove hand; not optimal for shooting

But Franzen brought his hammer.

On a blistering shot, top-shelf, by Franzen, Crawford could have just as well left the glove in the dressing room at the start of the period. He could barely move it before the puck was in the net.

A two-goal lead is a nice little cushion. But when it comes on a bullet from a sniper, it somehow feels just a bit cushier.

Joakim Andersson of the Red Wings tries to deflect a shot past Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford in the first period Saturday at United Center. / Daniel Mears/Detroit News
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