By: Jeff Riger
Seems like the new feeling in Hockey Town during the playoffs these days is playing from behind!
We all remember the last two years against the Sharks where San Jose jumped out to 3-0 advantages and the Wings were forced to play comeback. Now Detroit finds them in a similar position as the Preds have the 3-1 advantage heading back to the Music City for a potential closeout game on Friday night. Things look bad, real bad and it seems a given that the season is all but over. Or is it?
I can’t shake the feeling that the Wings still have a chance in this series. Now before you call me a moron please hear me out!
The Wings have outplayed the Preds! Whether you are looking at specialty teams, shots on net or quality chances, Detroit has been better with the exception of one area…the goalie. Pekka Rinne has been fantastic. Rinne has found a way to steal at least 2 games (games 3 and 4) and was very good in game one as well. In fact Rinne has been so outstanding that he has been the number one star in every game that Nashville has won. But he is beatable! At least I think he is…
Below I have listed the 5 reasons in my mind that the Wings are not out of this series just yet…
Head Coach Mike Babcock was addressing the media before game four and was asked about Nick Lidstrom and what the best thing was about his aging star was? Babcock replied the even keel behavior of Lidstrom. He liked the fact that with Nick it is always about “the next game” instead of letting bad feelings and losses linger. Well Nick, I believe has passed this on to his team mates. If you look at this Wings team, they talk, even after losing game 4 as this will still be a long series. There is no “if we win the series” it seems to be “when we win.” I understand that this could be just athlete talk, but I bought into it. This team has been through the playoff ringer so many times that nothing will surprise them. Now that in itself will not help the Wings advance, however it will help, as the Preds have little to no experience closing out a series, especially when the opponent is the caliber of the Wings.
Jimmy Howard, due to contrary belief is a good goalie. I understand that Wings fans will not get over the Kevin Klein game winner from Tuesday night anytime soon, but that is just one goal. The job of a net minder is to keep his team in the game and I believe Howard has done just that. After all, we are talking about one goal games that Detroit has lost for the most part. If Jimmy is the goalie that we thought he was in October, November and December then he will have to play that way on Friday night in game 5. I believe he is that guy! Add the need for a statement game to the law of averages saying that Rinne cannot continue to be this dominant and I think Howard outplays Rinne on Friday night.
3. The Best Team Has To Win Once
This series has been bizarre! It seems that the team that has had the more quality scoring chances has lost. In games one, three and four Detroit has outshot Nashville 121-65 and yet the Wings have lost all three of the games. In game 2, Nashville outshot Detroit 26-17 and the Wings were victorious. Again, it’s been very bizarre. But, I’m not judging the series by shots alone, oh no, instead I’m judging the series by who the more dangerous teams have been and it just so happens that the team with the most shots have been the most threatening. This cannot continue!
I think it would be safe to assume that at least one game in this series would be won by the team that dominates play for that given 60 minutes. And, considering the Wings have been the better team and have commanded play the majority of games; I would think that team would be Detroit. Everybody sees hockey games in a different ways and the way that I have observed games 1, 3 and 4 is that Detroit played very good for the majority of the time on the ice and usually that would result in winning the majority of the games. That obviously has not been the case, but you would think at least for one game it would be.
Look at specialty teams in this series alone. Detroit has scored more power play goals and has held the best man advantage in the game to just one goal and, again they are down 3 games to one. That is just another example of how the Wings have been the better team, a team that is bound to take at least one game in this series.
2. The Best Players Have To Be the Best
Even though Detroit, in my opinion has been the better team in this series for the majority of time, we have not seen the big time goal scorers score big time goals. Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk and Johan Franzen have been good but this time of year they need to be better and they are capable of being better. Franzen in particular has seen a lot of playoff success, that is why he signed a big deal and has remained in Detroit for all these years. We need to see that Franzen on Friday night. I think we will! When “Mule” uses emotion and gets physically engaged he is truly unstoppable. What better time to show that player then in a must win game 5? He has done it many times before, there is no reason that he can’t do it again.
1. Game 7 Pride
People say all the time that eventually a team is incapable of playing anymore big games in their careers and I actually believe that notion. However I don’t think that it holds true for this year’s version of the Wings. Sure Lidstrom, Holmstrom and Bertuzzi have been around for a long time and have played a lot of hockey. But, there are so many other members of this team that have not and are chomping at the bit to try and win another Cup.
If Detroit were to go to Nashville and win game 5, that would guarantee the Wings at least one more home game this season, a contest I would assume that would be very hard for the Preds to win. Of course that could also be the last home game in the great careers of Lidstrom and Homer which would make the atmosphere and intensity that much crazier.
I cannot be convinced that Detroit would lose such a game, meaning we would have a game 7. And, if that scenario were to play out, how could anybody pick against the Wings? Sure they lost one in San Jose last year, but there were also numerous injuries. This year, Darren Helm is out and Patrick Eaves is not around to kill penalties either, but other than that this team is healthy and after fighting back to force a game 7, there is no way they would not be the favorite to win such a contest.
Listen, I think the series is over too! Just like you! However there is still a small chance and if any team can do it then why not the Wings?