By Franklin Steele
Detroit may feel like they are stuck in a time warp. For the second straight series they will face the same opponent as they did last year, but this time they hope for a different outcome. After downing the Coyotes in a four game set, they will take on the team that ousted them at this same time last year.
Here are five keys to Detroit ending up on the winning side of the series this time.
1. The Rest Factor
Lets skip the questions here. The time off will not have a negative impact on the Red Wings.
While an extended layoff may cause issues for a younger and less focused team, Detroit is veteran enough to maintain their poise. Not to mention they have a pretty good coach who knows how to keep a team sharp enough without overworking them in practice.
Franzen will have enough time to hopefully resemble a human being again, as opposed to a patchwork Frankenstein while Chris Osgood can hopefully get himself healthy enough to keep track of line changes in round two.
The way Detroit has rolled lines lately, the coaching staff could probably use some help.
Oh. And getting Henrik Zetterberg back probably won’t hurt too much either. Unless you’re a Sharks fan trying to figure out how Dan Boyle is supposed to cover all four lines at once.
That is the lucky number for the Red Wings in this series. It is the number of players who scored goals for them in their first round series.
Granted Phoenix was probably using one of their skaters each shift to guard Pavel Datsyuk even while he was on the bench, but that doesn’t make this number any less impressive. Getting contributions from the likes of Salei and Helm will be a boon for the Red Wings if it continues.
There is no reason to believe that it won’t. Every line played with a sense of purpose against the Coyotes. They will only be more amped against the Sharks team that downed them last year.
3. Kronwall’s Continued Excellence
It’s amazing what happen when you stop pinching for big hits and start playing positional puck.
You don’t sell nearly as many jerseys that way, but you do win more championships. While I would personally go for higher sweater sales, the other Nick seems to have finally found his stride.
Just two years ago I was reading articles that referenced Krownwall as The Turnover Machine. Those days are long gone. He was the best blue liner in a series that contained two Norris-quality rear guards in Yandle and Lidstrom.
4. More Points, Less PIMs
The only reason Detroit’s sudden love for the stupid penalty didn’t cost them the series against the Coyotes was due to their superior play five-on-five. They won’t have as easy of a time with this big, deep, and talented Sharks team.
In so many words, if the Red Wings decide to sleep on San Jose’s power play they will promptly find themselves swimming with the fishes. Figuratively, of course. My contention however, is that Detroit’s parade to the penalty box was just practice for later on this summer when they throw the Cup parade, and have hopefully got it all out of their system.
All joking aside, the Wings can not afford to spot the Sharks too many power play chances. It’ll cost them much more in this series.
5. Neutral Zone Clinic
The neutral zone is where the series will be decided, where both teams try to use speed and skill to quickly transition to offense.
This is the biggest reason I like the Red Wings in this series. It is a pretty safe assumption that this will be a high scoring affair. But the defensive prowess of Detroit’s forwards should do a better job at containing the depth of San Jose this time around.
Should Heater or Thornton manage to get through to the defensive zone, Detroit has a few rock solid defenders waiting for them. On paper these two teams appear to be close. The Wings just seem to be doing all the little things needed to win the battles in all three zones.
I like this team better than the Sharks in all areas of the ice, and as such, think the Wings should be moving on to the Western Conference Finals for the third time in three years.