Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Round 1 Series Preview: Wings VS Coyotes

You saw this coming. ...Well, maybe not this specifically, but you must have known that I had to get a friendly jab in toward the competition at some point, right?? I mean, come on! It is playoff time, am I right?? Okay okay, all kidding aside I'd like to sit down and go over this series from a standpoint of overall team "grades" and how I personally feel the Wings and Coyotes stack up against each other.

First off though, let's look at some concrete numbers:

Detroit (44-24-14), Phoenix (50-25-07)

Season Series
10/22/09 - DET 2-3 PHO (OT)
12/14/09 - PHO 2-3 DET
01/02/10 - DET 4-1 PHO
01/26/10 - PHO 5-4 DET (OT)

Now upon initial review, the two teams look quite close, but before we get any further in, let's get to the grades as The Geek sees them:

Detroit Red Wings Detroit
Team Defense - B
Team Offense - B+
Goaltending - A+
Special Teams - B+
Overall - B+

Phoenix Coyotes Phoenix
Team Defense - B+
Team Offense - B
Goaltending - B+
Special Teams - B
Overall - B+

Team Defense - I give Phoenix a slight edge in this category, mostly because Detroit has suffered from a severe loss of man-games, and we're only just getting a peek right now at what the D-Corps are really capable of. Based on what we had most of the season, though? The Coyotes did keep their Goals Against lower than Detroit's and also won more of their games, so it's fair to say that Phoenix is a little more defensively sound.

Team Offense - On the other hand, through all the man-games lost from both defensemen and forwards, the Red Wings still netted more goals than the Coyotes. Considering some of the forwards that were on the IR and for how long, this definitely speaks volumes for how much more offensive firepower Detroit holds.

Goaltending - I give Detroit the better marks here, for two reasons really: First, I know Easy Bryzy has more wins than Jimmy, but if you gave Jimmy 8 more starts, you think he couldn't win 5 of them...? GAA and SV% are almost identical, so the second factor here is the fact that Jimmy is a rookie with a seasoned vet on his back. Howard is getting sage advice from a goalie who's been there and done that: Chris Osgood. Even if Howard gaffs, we know what Playoff-Ozzie is capable of. What does Bryzgalov have behind him? Jason Labarbera. Shall we move on...?

Special Teams - Looking at the numbers, the Red Wings have more powerplay goals and more shorthanded goals than the Coyotes, and this again is despite the man games lost throughout the middle of the season. If Detroit can really get on the horse and work their PP units well, Phoenix and every team after them will dread going down a man. The Wings' PK, though stout, was actually barely dwarfed by Phoenix this season. Phoenix only gave up a goal 49 times out of 317 short-handed situations. Detroit surrendered 43 goals out of 267 chances. This brings the PK percentages to PHO 84.5% - 83.9% DET.

Overall - To me, the Red Wings are more of the total package needed to reach the Stanley Cup Finals. The big thing for Detroit is to stay healthy while playing at Playoff-levels of intensity. The numbers are close, but again I can't emphasize this enough, the Wings lost a lot of games from a lot of players, so the team stats are very skewed from what they could have been. Of course, had the Wings been healthy all year, we may not have been evaluating the Coyotes at all, we could have potentially won the damn President's Trophy. That's neither here nor there, though, and what you've read is what we have. Phoenix is a good team by all rights, but I don't feel they're the great team that you need to be to go far in the post-season.

So, there you have it! These are my thoughts on the matchup, and I suppose a fitting end to this little study would be a prediction of the final outcome. Before looking into the figures, I had it in my head that Detroit would take this series 4-1, but I'm going to be cautious and change my thinking to Wings in 6. Phoenix will be loathe to just lay down and die, so I think they'll put up a decent fight, but I just don't see them overwhelming the Wings, especially not in the first round when the whole team is at 100%.

Game one is tomorrow night, Wingnuts!! Let's Go Red Wings!!!