Time To Clip The Wings
The Red Wings have been schizophrenic over recent weeks. On the one hand, they are undefeated in February, winning 6 in a row. On the other, they lost 5 in a row ending January, making them just 1 game over .500 in their last 11.
Everybody already knows all of the things the Red Wings do well, so I am not going to re-hash them here, except to note a few interesting stats. First, Detroit is currently 27th in the league on the Penalty Kill. Heck, can we get 30 evenly spaced minor penalties? Even our power play can get a few, given enough chances.
Secondly, despite leading the league in scoring, Detroit is a mediocre 15th in the league in Goals Against. They will surrender opportunities.
Finally, a few numbers that should raise some eyebrows. Both Detroit and Columbus are very stingly in allowing opposing shots. The CBJ are 4th in the NHL, having just allowed 1503 shots, while Detroit is 6th, allowing 1530. The Jackets convert this into limiting scoring as well, as they are 10th in the NHL in Goals Against. Detroit, on the other hand, allows a relatively high number of goals per shot.
Here is the real eye-opener, though: Detroit leads the league in shots, with 1972 shots — over 170 shots more than the second place team, San Jose! Anybody seeing them play knows they fire the puck, but Wow!!!
The CBJ will be without Murray (back spasms) and Dorsett (flu) tonight. One has to also strongly suspect that Nash has been playing with the flu, as he has not had his usual jump lately, but I expect will have it tonight. Mason is back, and is mono-free, according to blood tests. Novotny is in, and Hitch is apparently looking at shaking up the defensive pairings a bit for the Wings.
On the Detroit bench, the power play is hurt by the absence of Holmstrom’s large, immovable derriere in the crease, but is still formidable (see shot totals above). Lebda took a shot in the back last night, and is not making the trip south. Osgood is in net, and he has been solid, if unspectacular, in recent games.
The Red Wings are always a tough game, but we usually play them tough, and have a few things going for us tonight. Here are the things we need to do to garner the 2 points:
1. Strong In Goal — Great having Mase back, Mono-Free, to continue his march toward the Calder. Don’t expect miracles however. We need to keep the crease clear, create lanes of visibility, and protect our goalie. He will see lots of rubber tonight.
2. Defensive Perimeter — Detroit is so strong on puck possession, that we need to disrupt their entries and keep them to the outside, much as we did against San Jose. The transition game is strong, but is based more on passing than on blinding speed. Clog the neutral zone, back check and communicate all night.
3. Hit, Hit, Hit — We will be without Murray and Dorsett tonight, so Boll, Chimera, Peca, Modin all have to hit hard.
4. Offensive Simplicity — We need to turn the tables on Detroit and outdo them in putting rubber on net. (Note the “on net”). Play “high/low” with their defense, get lateral movement behind the net and on the power play, and we can score.
5. No Penalties — Discipline is the key — if we get lured into silly penalties, we are toast. Keep the legs moving, anticipate passes and be aggressive. We only take stupid penalties when we get tentative.
2 points tonight would be huge, giving us a perfect 6 points for the San Jose-Colorado-Detroit sequence, which nobody realistically would bank on. Unlike recent games, need to jump out early and take Detroit out of their comfort zone.