Friday, May 3, 2013

Playoff Peeves and Positives: Ideas After Game 2

Detroit has been through two playoffs games thus so far. The first one was a victory for the Anaheim Ducks, squashing Detroit with an ending score of 3 to 1. The Wings gave some effort and tied up the series last night, winning in overtime 5 to 4. The two have battled it out through two games, but who is really on top? To answer that question, let's take a look back.

In all honesty, many Wings fans were surprised to make the playoffs. While all of us were hoping and praying while crossing our fingers as hard as we could, many of us still had the realization that the playoffs may be out of sight for Detroit this year. Up until the last game was a battle for Detroit to keep a  playoff position. The entire season was rocky and inconsistent. One game you would see a team that would have everyone saying, "our Red Wings are back!!" and the next game would have everyone kicking themselves for ever thinking that. For the Detroit Red Wings, going into the match-up against Anaheim was a bit nerve racking.

The Anaheim Ducks season was quite different. Being one of the top three teams in the league, Anaheim has obvious advantages. Obviously, their record and overall points from the regular season were better. The amount of goals Anaheim produced also came out on top over the Wings, proving that the offensive end is stronger. In order to win games, you have to score goals. Pretty obvious, right? It has been argued that Anaheim has more speed and definitely throws their weight around more than the typical Wing player has.

The one place that allowed Detroit some wiggle room is the constantly examined and ridiculed Jimmy Howard. Anaheim's regular season goals against was actually three goals higher than Detroits. Wondering what this means? Anaheim's goalies Jonas Hiller and Victor Fasth, who played about equally through the season, let in more goals than netminder Jimmy Howard. Going into the playoffs, it seemed that relying on Jimmy Howard may be our best bet. Many concerns rose about Howard's past playoff performances and his ability to always seem to choke in big moments.

The last week of the regular season spoke a different story about the team wearing the Winged Wheel. Detroit was flying high with it's longest winning streak of the season, four games in total. Our Red Wings were "back" again and this time were shining bright! Anaheim was not trailing far behind in the successes of the last week, winning three out of four of the games. If Wings could hold on to this aggressive attitude, we might actually have a shot!

Fast forward and we are after Game 1 in the playoffs. The Wings are not "back". What does that actually  really mean? The real Red Wings players go hide in the locker room, too scared to touch the ice while we send these high school look-a-likes on the ice? The Wings shouldn't be leaving and coming back so often, but that was the style in the regular season so why not keep it up in the playoffs, right? Anaheim outplayed

Detroit in Game 1, making Wings fans embarrassed of how pitiful their team looked on the ice. Anaheim out-shot Detroit, had more hits, a better goaltender and played more organized hockey. The Wings had 13 giveaways through sixty minutes! That is five more than the Ducks managed all game. The only redeeming quality was a power play goal by Dan Cleary and more face-offs won by Detroit. Wings fans walked away with their head held low after a 3-1 defeat and praying for a different team next game.

And of course, prayers were answered and Detroit was "back" again for game 2 in the series; well at least for the first two and a half periods anyways. Damien Brunner landed his first ever playoff goal in the first period, while Franzen picked up two on his own. We were seeing talent from all over the team. While shots on goal were equal through the 61:21 minute long game, Detroit dominated in takeaways, faceoffs won, lower giveaways and lower penalty minutes. Detroit looked like a different team until about halfway into the third period, where Anaheim's constant challenges began to get to the Wings. Detroit decided to send out those "pretend high school players" and hide in the locker room again, while Anaheim scored three goals in a matter of ten minutes. Wings fans were once again shaking their heads and kicking themselves for proclaiming that the team was "back" yet again. Detroit needed some leadership through overtime, to shake off the bad goals and giveaways and give some momentum to play aggressive hockey. With a little over one minute into overtime, Detroit dominated shots on goal 4 to 0. Gustav Nyquist scored a game winning goal to allow Detroit to tie up the series and win 5-4.

Through a rocky season and into the start of the playoffs, all I can say is I wish to see more consistent hockey out there. If you are going to play good, then play good. If Detroit can play like they did in the last week of the regular season, then take that same attitude and desperation into the playoffs and push it all the way! There is no reason the Wings should keep hiding out and then coming "back". The biggest concerns leaving game two is losing Danny DeKeyser for the rest of the season due to a broken thumb and becoming more consistent on that ice. Continue to play offensively, passing the puck to the players wearing Red and White and producing quality scoring chances. It is an honest belief that Detroit can pull off this series and push further into the playoffs, they just have to produce some quality hockey.

To answer the beginning question of "who is on top?" It appears that Anaheim may be coming slightly ahead of Detroit thus so far, only because of the lack of effort in Game Two's third period. Can Detroit turn this series around and dominate? Absolutely. It's not over until the fat lady sings, right?

Game three of the series takes place Saturday, May 4th at 7:30pm. This will be the first playoff game of the season played on the Red Wings home ice, the Joe Louis Arena. We expect to see some added pressure from the Wings with their home advantage, but as always it is easy to suspect they will keep us fans on our toes!

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Wings Survive Epic Meltdown, Tie Series with OT Win

If you like roller-coasters, last night's game in Anaheim was a treat for you.

The Red Wings, already down 1-0 in their 1st round series against the Ducks, spotted themselves what should've been a comfortable 3-goal lead, but were forced into Overtime after a full-team collapse the magnitude of which I have rarely--if ever--seen from this club.  After going up 4-1, Detroit completely imploded in the 3rd period, surrendering 3 goals in the span of roughly 10 minutes to allow the Ducks to force extra time.  The Wings would nip their Duck problem in the bud, though, and survive to win 5-4 in OT.

Some credit is due to Anaheim, insofar as they didn't quit, but had the Wings kept playing the way they had in the first hlaf of the game they never would've found themselves in the tight spot that they did.  Playoffs or no, you go up 4-1 on a club, you should win the game comfortably.  This was far from comfortable.

Johan Franzen led the offense with a pair of goals for Detroit, while Justin Abdelkader and Damien Brunner also chipped in with goals in regulation.  Gustav Nyquist would be the one to provide the OT heroics, scoring on a PP just 1:21 into the extra frame.

Goaltender Jimmy Howard was...good--not great, but good.  He fought the puck far less last night than he did in Game 1, but still gave up a couple softies that could've also prevented this game from getting to Overtime.

Down at the other end, Anaheim goalie Jonas Hiller was slow to show up to Game 2, but sealed the wall up in the 3rd after the 2nd Franzen goal, and made critical saves to keep the Ducks in it.  One particular save on Valtteri Filppula would've been in the net on most nights, but Hiller somehow got over to rob Flip and give his team momentum just before the Ducks tied the game at 4 apiece.

On the injury front, Todd Bertuzzi played last night, his 1st game back since going out with back issues early in the season, and what is probably the biggest--and baddest--news out of Game 2 is that young phenom Danny DeKeyser has been diagnosed with a broken thumb and is done for the year.  He will likely be replaced with either Carlo Colaiacovo or Ian White, as coach Mike Babcock will probably go with experience over the younger Brian Lashoff.

The series now shifts back to Hockeytown, and if the Wings can steal the show at home, they'll be sitting pretty to wrap up Round 1.  Game 3 starts tomorrow night at 7:30 ET.