The Detroit Red Wings’ first round series against the Anaheim Ducks was not going to be an easy one. The second seed in the NHL’s Western Conference is a lot bigger and physical, and boasts one of the most complete line-ups in the league. However, through two games, it is the Red Wings who seem to have the advantage, as they have tied the series 1-1, heading back to the Joe Louis Arena in Detroit for games 3 and 4. In my preview of this series, I said Detroit had three things to accomplish if they were to beat Anaheim.
Zetterberg Wakes Up In Game 2
The Red Wings needed the Zetterberg-Factor (Z-Factor) if they had any chance of beating the Ducks. However, the Red Wings’ captain seemed almost non-existent in their 3-1 loss in game 1. He logged just over 20 minutes of ice-time, with a -1 rating, 3 shots on net, and one give away; a very non-Zetterbeg-like performance. Things had to change for him or else Detroit would be on a path towards elimination. He seemed to wake up in game 2. Logging almost the same amount of ice-time, he had 1 assist (which came on the power play), a +1 rating, 2 hits, and 6 shots on net. He was only one of 6 players on the Red Wings’ roster to be a + rating for the game. This is more like the Henrik Zetterberg we are accustomed too. With the series heading back to the Joe, expect Zetterberg to only get better from here. The Red Wings’ did what they needed to accomplish, they won a game away from home. Go figure it was the same game that the Z-factor showed up.
Ducks Make Red Wings Pay on Power Play
With Anaheim having the 4th best power play during the season, and Detroit being the 4th least penalized team in the league, the Red Wings had to ensure they continued to stay away from the penalty box. Given their average penalty kill during the season, they could not afford to give Anaheim too many chances with the man advantage. Some of the guys must have had a brain fart during game 1. Jordin Tootoo and Jakub Kindl took mindless penalties (cross-checking and delaying game-puck over glass), with Joakim Andersson and Valtteri Filppula also drawing minors. And what happened? Well this happened…
The Ducks added another power play goal in the 3rd period (from Teemu Selanne). They went 2/4 on the pp, even though the Red Wings only had 8 minutes in penalties. It shows how efficient and dangerous this Ducks team is, even when given the smallest of opportunities. In game 2, there was more of the same from Detroit. They took 5 minor penalties, but this time around, the Red Wings fixed the situation through their penalty kill. They limited the Ducks to only one goal in game 2 on 5 power play opportunities. If Detroit is to take penalties, their PK units have to be as good as they were on Thursday. The Red Wings need to control their penalties taken, and this is something Mike Babcock should be high-lighting to his team before the next 2 games at the Joe.
Howard Comes Through in Game 2
With Anaheim’s ability to have a 1a and 1b goalie tandem, Detroit’s Jimmy Howard had to continue his run of good play from the end of the regular season if the Wings expected to advance to the next round. Despite getting one win in game 2, his stats weren’t typical of the usual Jimmy Howard. He stopped 24 of 26 shots in the first game, but then gave up four goals on 28 shots in the second game. But the most important thing, is that he was one save better than Jonas Hiller in Detroit’s 5-4 OT victory in game 2. Yes, he gave up 4 goals in game 2, but he came up with the saves when Detroit needed them, especially this flurry of saves on Ducks forward Andrew Cogliano and defence-man Cam Fowler mid-way through the second period…
You may say that Howard wasn’t great on Thursday night, but the fact that Detroit won the game in overtime has to be somewhat attributed to Howard’s ability to make big saves throughout the game. After looking at the 3 goals Anaheim scored in the second half of the third period, it’s safe to say Detroit’s defence fell asleep for a bit on Howard. This cannot happen again if they expect Howard to carry them through the series. There’s a difference between your goalie supporting your defence with big saves, and your goalie playing desperate when the defence falls asleep. I think they’d rather have the first option, don’t you? But credit Howard for preventing any further damage with his play in game 2. He’s played two solid games in a row thus far, and the Red Wings’ should expect nothing less from the American goaltender.
If I were to grade Detroit’s performance based on the three criteria after games 1 and 2, I would give them a B. Zetterberg has to be a factor EVERY GAME, and the fact that Anaheim scored multiple times on the power play shows there is work to be done. They stay in the B range because Zetterberg bounced back in game 2, the penalty kill limited the Ducks on Thursday night, Howard has played well through the two games. Though it was not apart of the three keys to victory, credit has to go to the role players chipping in for the Red Wings. Gustav Nyquist scored the OT winner in game 2, and Damien Brunner, Justin Abdelkader, and Daniel Cleary have all got their names on the scoresheet. With game 3 set to go on Saturday at 7:30 pm (ET) in Detroit, look for the Red Wings to come out strong. Mike Babcock’s team made corrections in game 2, but it is how the Red Wings build off of these adjustments which will determine whether they can win the next two games against the Anaheim Ducks.
I am a fourth year student at the University of Toronto studying Physical Education/Concurrent Teacher Education. I have been a hockey fan all my life and play in a men’s league during the winter. My favourite leagues are the NHL first and foremost, the MLB, and the NFL. I also work at the hockey megastore Pro Hockey Life. Follow me on twitter @rob_ruscitti and check out my sports blog on twitter as well @EhSport360