Saturday, April 14, 2012

GBGA Round 1 Game 2: Evening Things in More Ways Than One

Every team needs an identity. It provides an M.O., something to rally around when things get rough and something to draw confidence from during those difficult times. It seems that Detroit's penalty killing has quickly provided just that.

They say that a good powerplay is the ultimate enforcer. If this is true, then a good penalty kill is the ultimate demoralizer. This is what the Wings have become; demoralizing in their ability to take an opponent's perceived strength and turn it on its head, to take something that was supposed to be the key to the series and nullify it so completely that Nashville can't help but think about tweaks on their flight to Detroit.

The Wings head home having yet to surrender a powerplay goal in the playoffs, stifling the league's best powerplay during the regular season. While even strength defense wasn't always great in this game (and was just difficult to watch in the 3rd period) it was serviceable, and I'd bet that this is more of an aberration than a downward trend in even strength defensive play.

Todd Bertuzzi answered the bell in the 1st by engaging Shea Weber in more of a wrestling match than a fight, appropriate given the disgusting move Weber chose at the end of game 1. Detroit then answered the bell as a unit and won the ultimate battle for retribution by evening the series at 1 a piece as we head back to the friendly confines of the Joe.

1st Period

Nashville 0 Detroit 1; 8:25- White (1) from Holmstrom (1) & Miller (1)
Before the screencap, Tomas Holmstrom wins a race to the puck along the boards and chips it back to White. This is the perfect example of what the Wings did right all night long. They played with more jump than I've seen all season and won more races and corner battles than any other game in recent memory. White picks up the puck and realizes he has a ton of room to shoot. There are two Wings trying to do what Babcock made explicitly clear before the game; get to the front of the net if you want to score on Rinne. Though the two aren't exactly netfront, the traffic does enough to impair Rinne's ability to track the puck. White shots and Rinne doesn't see it pass him.

Nashville 0 Detroit 2; 15:33- Emmerton (1) unassisted

Emmerton wins the race to a loose puck at center ice and starts the 2 on 1 rush. Josi has his stick out to take away the cross ice pass. Emmerton has to read Josi and Rinne simultaneously to pick his move.
Josi dives, and Emmerton's decision is basically made for him. With no passing lane he has to shoot, and he picks a spot over Rinne's shoulder blocker side. Smart move by Emmerton to keep the puck away from Rinne's glove, which has to be the best in the league. Emmerton beats Rinne cleanly for his first career playoff goal.

2nd Period

Nashville 1 Detroit 2; 9:01- Kostitsyn from Radulov & Legwand
Detroit is able pin Nashville on the boards a few times, but never able to get a stick on the puck to clear. Nashville picks it up and carries up the wall. It looks like they might try and cycle the puck, so Cleary steps towards the blue line. This leaves Kostitsyn alone in the slot, and Radulov immediately passes when he sees this.
Kostitsyn wastes no time in shooting. Howard never sees the shot thanks to two Nashville players and a Wings defender camping out in front of the net. Howard, like Rinne on the first goal, learns that stopping the puck is nearly impossible when you can't see it. Duh.

Nashville 1 Detroit 3; 9:57- Franzen (1) from Stuart (1) & Datsyuk (1)
Bertuzzi sets up Datsyuk nicely for an offensive zone entry. Datsyuk carries in and sees Stuart trailing with no defenders close to him. He passes it back to Stuie and heads for the net. 
Weber decides to let Franzen skate towards the net, instead choosing to pick up Stuart as he moves lower in the offensive one. This is costly though, as Weber can't change direction quickly enough to step up on Stuart.
 Weber drops to a knee and then slides to try and take away Stuart's shot to no avail. Stuart puts one on net that glances off of Franzen, changing directions and beating Rinne. This is another perfect example of what Babcock has been talking about for the past two days. Get traffic in front of the net and make Rinne's job hard, as it should be.

3rd Period

Nashville 2 Detroit 3; 15:16- Weber from Gaustad & Spaling
Detroit loses all of the battles for the loose puck on this play. Gaustad carries behind the net, which draws Bertuzzi back with him. Quincey was pinned in the corner shoving Weber, and he has to turn to chase as Quincey got twisted and ended up closer to the boards. 
Bertuzzi can't stop Gaustad, and neither can the unfortunately well-positioned White. Weber is open for a split second before Quincey can catch up, and it looks like Weber is in the right place at the right time. Gaustad's pass through traffic connects and Weber immediately backhands the puck over Howard.

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