Top five reasons the Blackhawks are on the ropes

Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard keeps the puck out of the net as Blackhawks forward Jonathan...

Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard keeps the puck out of the net as Blackhawks forward Jonathan Toews crashes into the net during Game 4 of their NHL Western Conference semifinal at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, May 23, 2013. (REBECCA COOK/Reuters)

ROB LONGLEY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:29 PM ET

1. Net Gains

Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said Thursday that his team has needed top-drawer goaltending now more than at any other time in his Motor City tenure. With a young team – specifically on defence – it was critical if the Wings were to have any playoff success this season.

If anything has helped calm the young players on the team it has been the play of Jimmy Howard, who has ranged from steady to spectacular in his past six games.

Thursday's 2-0 win in Game 4 marked the first time all season that the Chicago Blackhawks were shut out and in his last six contests, Howard is 5-1 with a 1.67 goals-against average and a .950 save percentage.

Babcock pointed out post-game Thursday that the defensive stand has been more than just Howard. Duly noted, considering how the defence has done a mostly solid job of keeping 'Hawks forwards to the perimeter and boxing them out from the prime real estate in front of Howard.

But there have been enough odd-man rushes and big-time scoring chances where Howard has come up large to make him the key Detroit player in the series so far.


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