Good news, Hockeytown. The Red Wings have a pulse again. After dragging through the last month while securing only a few victories our guys looked strong against a hungry Chicago team today. Anytime you can take down the defending champs who are playing for their playoff lives on national television, I have to consider it a huge boost.
And that’s exactly what Detroit did today. They took their game to the Hawks and hung on for a big road win. Their reward? A stingy and revenge seeking Coyotes club.
Lets set the record straight – the Desert Dogs are no small obstacle. Any fan who thinks this first round match-up is in the bag has a short memory (in fact, you may want to get that checked out.) This is more or less the same squad that gave the Wings all they could handle through six games before choking in an embarrassing game 7 at home. Something I am sure is still fresh in the minds of everyone in the Coyotes locker room.
The first two games of this series are going to be huge. If the Coyotes can rip off a victory in Motown before heading back home, the Wings could find themselves in a bit of a jam. I know this tends to be the case in almost every series, but I feel it is particularly big to corner Phoenix as quickly as possible. To get into their heads. I don’t know if that is possible – not with leaders like Keith Yandle and Doan – but it can’t hurt to carry a 2-0 series lead going into next weekend.
Detroit can score at a bit of a better clip than the Coyotes can. The Wings were second in goals scored per game, trailing only the impressive Canucks in that category. Phoenix was thirteenth. That is still close enough to make this a tough series. Point: Three of the four games between these two clubs came down to one goal this season.
I don’t think many people would say that the goaltending is quite as even. Bryz is a beast, and in this series he could earn the reputation of being a “money goaltender.” A rare breed indeed. Not that Jim Howard is anything less than good. He just isn’t mentioned in Vezina conversations like the guy across the ice is. Jimmy was solid for the Wings all year, and has a year of playoff experience under his belt which will be a positive factor.
Much was made last year about how inexperienced the ‘Yotes were compared to the Wings as far as playoff experience went. Squaring up for your first playoff faceoff against a team of Detroit’s caliber can’t be easy. There are a lot of Cups over there. The team has now been there. Done that. Experience shouldn’t be a big issue going into this one. The only time it was evident last year was during the game 7 implosion, and I think that if the series gets that far Detroit may be in a bit of trouble.
The question going into game 1 for the Red Wings faithful has to be injuries. How healthy will Kronwall be when he comes back for the opener? What about Zetterberg? He is an integral part of the Wing’s game plan in all three zones, and is a great penalty killer. Is Pav going at 100% after recently coming off of the injured list? And where’s Osgood in his recovery? Hopefully it doesn’t come down to that, but I about had a heart attack when Howard went down with a shoulder injury in the last month of the season.
I’m looking forward to seeing how Yandle plays in this series against a guy he should be in the Norris running with in Lidstrom.
There are more interesting match-ups around the League to be sure. A lot of eyes will be on the rivalry games that are abundant. But this will be outstanding, fast passed, back-and-forth hockey once again.
My call is Red Wings in six hard games. Hey, at least they didn’t draw Anaheim.
Think I got it wrong? Let me know in the comments. I’d love to hear what you all think about this one. I’ll be updating regularly throughout the playoffs on all things Cup related, so be sure to stay tuned. As always, thanks for reading. Thanks and good luck.