The Detroit Red Wings and goalie Jimmy Howard may have come up with a winning formula to thwart the incredible run of the Chicago Blackhawks, and can extend their 2-1 series lead Thursday night in Game 4 of their Eastern Conference semifinal playoff.
Detroit has neutralized every Blackhawks scorer other than Patrick Kane in the last two games, and has ridden the coattails of the emerging Howard.
Howard has now held the NHL’s second highest scoring offense two to goals in the last two games, totaling 58 saves and a .967 save percentage.
In a lightning-paced Game 3, Howard and two second period goals by Gustav Nyquist and Drew Miller were enough in the Red Wings 3-1 victory.
Top-seeded Chicago took a blowtorch to the league for much of the season, but may have hit a wall against the rival Red Wings. A Game 4 loss will put the Blackhawks on the brink of elimination.
Kane has scored both of the Blackhawks’s goals in the last two losses. This is now the fifth time this season Chicago has lost back-to-back games, but four of those losses were from shootouts.
This recent slide has been the worst stretch for Blackhawk goalkeeper Corey Crawford, who went 4-1 with a .950 save rate in the first round against Minnesota, but has dropped off to 1-2 against Detroit.
Kane’s production aside, the Chicago offense will need playoff-points leader Patrick Sharp to return to form. Sharp did have three points in Game 1 with a goal and two assists, but has since dropped off to one assist in the last two games.
Thus far the Red Wings have fared without five-year center Darren Helm and defenseman Danny DeKeyser. Both have been missed throughout the regular season, but Helm has ruled himself out of the Western Conference finals, should Detroit advance. DeKeyser is still holding out hope he can return from a thumb injury by the next round.
The game begins at 8 p.m. ET on the NBC Sports Network, and viewers can also watch a free live stream online with NBC Sports Live Extra.
Betting Odds: Chicago is favored by 1.5 goals.
Over/Under: 5 goals
Prediction: Chicago 3-2