Just thought I'd bring a little bit of the reactions from all over straight to you, along with a little analysis.
Let's start with the man in charge in Columbus, Ken Hitchcock:
"Our issue now is being discouraged. We're getting no reward for the work we've put in, and we have to learn to deal with that because it happens in the playoffs. To me, it's all about keep playing now. Detroit squeezes the life out of you."
I think this statement's pretty accurate as to how the Wings have handled the series thus far. Every time the Blue Jackets have had something go right and motivate them, the Wings come back and shut it down. Example? Game 1, Columbus ties the game shortly after Jiri Hudler had put the Wings up 1-0. How does Detroit respond? Jonathan Ericsson rips a shot from the point off Manny Malholtra's hand and into the net. Even when a Jacket's player tried to make a good defensive play by stopping the puck, it backfired and put them in a hole. Another example came in Game 3. Brad Stuart absolutely obliterated RJ Umberger with a legal hip check (reminiscent of Konstantinov) that gets both teams riled up. The Blue Jackets try to come back and play physical with a check by Mike Commodore. Not only does Commodore miss Cleary, he gets stuck in the Detroit bench and is late getting into the defensive zone and the Wings end up scoring for a 3-0 lead.
Quote number 2 comes from Dan Cleary on goalie Chris Osgood:
"He's been unbelievable for us," forward Dan Cleary said. "Mentally, he's as strong as they come. His ability to play in big games and situations let's be honest, he was the No. 1 star tonight."
Cleary's dead on with this one and I think it's time other people around the league and even Detroit fans (me included at times) realize that Ozzie is no slouch when it comes to playing in big games. Take away the Islander's season and the two with the Blues (mainly because of limited offensive support around him in those series) and Ozzie has been nothing short of spectacular. In those 84 playoff games, he has a 55-29 record with 13 shutouts and a 2.09 GAA . Oh, and 3 Stanley Cup rings. Now I know 3 games isn't a great statistical sampling to make a prediction of things to come, but a .974 save percentage and .67 GAA sounds pretty good to me. There must be some switch that Ozzie turns on when the playoffs come around because his style of play has even changed since the regular season. He's more aggressive in his movements and baits players into taking bad shots. In a way, he's forcing the Blue Jackets to shoot before they're reading and then slamming the door on the shot, and then gaining control of the puck for his teammates.
The third and final quote I'll bring to you comes from Mike Babcock on the crowd atmosphere at Nationwide Arena in Columbus:
"We talked about how the atmosphere here was going to be unbelievable right before the game and we talked about the opening 10 minutes. If we could be patient, we'd be able to take advantage of that and that's what happened on the first goal."
Babcock stressed patience but the Wings didn't have to be patient for long. Manny Malholtra's second big mistake of the season occurred with a neutral zone turnover to Tomas Holmstrom. Homer brought it into the Blue Jackets zone and put a shot on Mason that was brushed aside but straight to Marian Hossa. Hossa got a shot on net and hit the crossbar, leaving the puck settling in the crease for Homer to tap it in, 67 seconds in. The patience the Wings showed after the early goal exemplified how they were able to keep the Blue Jackets always on edge and off their game. The crowd was still in it after the Holmstrom goal but was quieted with Cleary's goal in the fading seconds of the first period. The Wings kept on their game despite a raucous crowd of 19,000+ in opposition to them and eventually made the crowd a non factor.