DETROIT – Everywhere Chicago’s Jonathan Toews went on the ice, Henrik Zetterberg was right there alongside of him.
Detroit’s captain pestered, harassed and hounded Toews all through Game 2 and it helped the Wings even their best-of-seven Western Conference semifinal series with the Blackhawks on Saturday.
And you could sense Toews’ frustrations after the game.
“They were tougher on the puck and there was a lot of hooking and holding you couldn’t really go out there and skate with the puck,” Toews said after the game. “We’ve just got to be scrappier. We’ve got to find a way to get through that stuff and find our way to the net. We weren’t really battling for position out there.”
Zetterberg did not read or hear of Toews’ comments after the game.
“It’s real tight games,” Zetterberg said. “(There are) a lot to battles out there. He’s one of the best players in the league. He has a really good work ethic, a lot of skill. We’ve got to be ready for him (Monday).”
Chicago did out hit Detroit, 36-26, in Game 2.
“I think they’re a confident team whether they win that game or not,” Chicago forward Patrick Sharp said. “They know what they’re capable of doing and we know what they’re capable of doing. I think it works both ways. As far as pushing anybody around, I feel like we can be just as physical and it’s going to be a good series the rest of the way.”
The Wings had a 43-24 advantage in hits in Game 1.
Seeing Zetterberg have a little extra in his game come playoff time isn’t anything new for the Wings.
“This time of year, he comes and he competes,” goalie Jimmy Howard said Sunday afternoon at Joe Louis Arena. “Most nights, he’s the best player on the ice. No different from (Saturday), the way he was all over Toews the whole game, shutting him down.”
“He won the Conn Smythe, he knew how to play then,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “He’s a fierce competitor. His stats show he’s scores better at playoff time. He’s normally a slow-starter in the league, this is the first time he hadn’t been a slow-starter.”
Toews was held off the scoresheet in Game 2, while Zetterberg assisted on two of the Wings’ four goals.
“Jonathan Toews is a real good player,” Babcock said. “I’ve coached him. He’s immensely tough, he works hard and he knows how to play. He’s an Olympic champion, a Stanley Cup champion, a world junior champion. I would expect that he’s going to play hard in the series, I didn’t think he didn’t play hard (in Game 2) though.”
Babcock made a concertize effort to have Zetterberg on the ice every time Toews stepped out.
During one shift in the third, Zetterberg looked around while on the ice and couldn’t spot Toews and went immediately for a line change.
“No matter who we’re playing against, their top guys, I thought it was easier on their top guys than it was on our top guys and I think that’s something we’ve got to look at,” Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said.
Although Zetterberg wasn’t credited with a hit in Game 2, he did his best to try and get a body on Toews as much as possible.
“I’m sure it’s going to be just as physical as it’s been the last two games,” defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “Toews is one of the best players in the league and he comes and he brings it every night. That’s going to be a tough battle.”
Zetterberg leads the team with 10 points this postseason.
“I don’t think it was really physical the last game,” Zetterberg said. “I’m pretty sure both clubs have played more physical games than we did in Game 2.
“You can’t just focus on Toews,” Zetterberg continued. “That line with (Brandon) Saad and (Marian) Hossa is a good line. You’ve got to play them as a five-man unit, got to be aware where everyone is. Their D jumps up in the play, so it’s not just one player, you have to focus on everyone.”
The Wings expect the Blackhawks to push back in Game 3 Monday at 7:30 p.m. at Joe Louis Arena.
“He’s stepped up so big for us,” defenseman Brendan Smith said. “He’s proven that he is one of the all-time captains in only one year. He’s such a clutch player and we look up to him. I think we feed off his strength and his competition level.”
Babcock knew Zetterberg would shoulder a lot of the responsibility after the Wings were dominated in the second and third periods of Game 1.
“That’s what makes Toews and (Pavel) Datsyuk and Zetterberg different, they just compete,” Babcock said. “When it doesn’t go their way, they dig down and find a way to go harder. That’s why they’re a great example for the rest of your group.”