Friday, April 9, 2010

Preview: Wings @ Bluejackets

"Friday night, I think we need to stick to our game plan a little bit better, start playing playoff hockey..." - Goaltender Jimmy Howard

Detroit (42-24-14) @ Columbus (32-35-14)

Howie said it pretty well, as the Wings prepare to finish their season series with the Columbus Bluejackets tonight and move one step closer to taking 5th spot in the West for themselves. Los Angeles got the points they needed to make a run at the same seed, so now it's not just Nashville we need to worry about, we're under siege from two fronts. Of the two games Detroit has remaining, pretty much anyone would tell you that tonight's is the easy one, in contrast to the season finale against the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday. These are two points the Red Wings can't afford to pass up.

So with this firmly in mind, let's recalculate The Geek's Winning Formula:

1.) Apply Pressure to Wound - Detroit really needs to keep focusing on this aspect of the game: gaining the offensive zone and putting pressure on defensemen, grinding it out on the boards and winning those battles for puck possession. Also in the other end while defending, apply pressure to the forwards as the defensive zone is breached, not allowing puck movement and forcing turnovers. Detroit has a penchant for sitting back and just trying to block passing lanes, which hasn't been the best solution thus far, and is leading to higher scoring games than are really necessary. Sure, you stick your composite in the lane, you might stop a guy from passing, but you know what also works? Pinning him to the damn boards. Hard to make a cross-ice pass with your arms splayed across the glass. If the Wings would apply more pressure to their opponents, they would more often find themselves playing their brand of hockey, and we already know how lethal Detroit can be when they play their brand of hockey. No more being scared of moving out of position to force the opponent, we've not been defensively sound recently anyway, may as well try and force a giveaway or two while we're at it.

2.) Keep the Energy Up! - Remember Patrick Eaves in the last game? More of that, please. I love the fact that Brad May was announced as one of the Black Aces because I honestly think keeping an enforcer-type, even if it has to be an older May, will be beneficial down the stretch. All four lines need to run full-tilt and make Columbus give chase. This will naturally create rhythm and momentum for the Wings in a game that they should not lose, not after the wake-up call they received in the previous meeting. Again I feel the third and fourth lines will be crucial, so hopefully they can remain healthy through the next pair of games and into the post-season.

3.) No 3rd Period Heroics, Please - Mike Babcock said in an interview: "They did the [relax] for the first 40 minutes. But they've got enough pride and leadership to get them win." That may be the case, Babs, but it's not a good gameplan to put yourself behind the 8-ball game in and game out. This is the one bad habit that has been the hardest to kick. Detroit's drug-of-choice is complacency: Letting control of the play slip from them and, before you know it, the opponent has full control of the flow and (usually) the game, while the Wings find themselves down a goal, two goals, or worse. Then the boys have to play The Avengers and rush to battle back and save the day with a miraculous comeback. Guess what, guys? Even superheroes lose, and if you wanna play that style of complacent hockey for 2/3 of a game, you'll be doing it a lot.

As a bonus, should the Wings walk out of Columbus with the W, the Wings will have sole possession of 5th for at least a day, forcing LA and Nashville's hands to get a win in their respective games, but Nashville only has one game left. Alternatively, Los Angeles's next game is against the Oilers, so if ever we needed heroes, we need them tomorrow in Oil town.

Just for fun, I'm going to start predicting the "hero" of the game in the previews just to add a little more content, and to maybe expand it a bit if it works. Feel free to do the same in the comment section below, but be sure to give your pick a superhero (or even supervillain is fine) nickname, canon or original.

So for tonight's game, I'm gonna go with Johan "Mr. Freeze" Franzen as the game-breaker. We'll see if I have any ESP, though I'd prefer ESPN.
"Nice ice, baby."

Till tonight, Wingnuts!! Let's Go Red Wings!!!


Michael Smith said...

I totally agree. Pressure Columbus, keep the energy up. Might as well use this as a dress rehearsal for the first round. Concentrate on grinding the other team down and blowing through the neutral zone trap.

Matthew said...

Great blog keep it up. Lets go Red Wings!