Morning Skate: The quest for 12 beginneth

Today, the Wings embark upon the post-season journey for Stanley Cup no. 12. Is it going to be easy? Hell no. But would it be as intense and/or fun if it was easy now would it?

  • This is when it gets real. All the regular season games are in the past. It doesn't matter where you finished or how many goals so-and-so scored, it's all back to square one. The second season begins today and the room for error is nonexistent. Every player will have to be at their best and the Wings have a tough road ahead for #12.
  • Jimmy Howard will be your starting goalie tonight for the Red Wings. Howard is putting on the pads to take the ice for his first career NHL post-season game and will face a difficult task on the road in a roaring Jobing.com arena. 
  • Ilya Bryzgalov is starting at the other end of the ice. Bryzgalov is just plain scary. The guy is capable of putting on a circus every night, no matter who he faces. If the Red Wings put a lot of pucks on net and plant guys like Tomas Holmstrom in his face, they can have success. If they're pushed to the exterior of the ice along the boards, there's no damn way they're beating him.
  • The final piece of the playoff preview puzzle will be up later today. We've looked at the goalies, the defense, the special teams and now the offense. Be sure to stop by again and read that puppy.
  • Johan Franzen could be crucial for the Wings. If Franzen turns on his post-season switch like he has done in the past, the Coyotes could be in for a world of hurt. The Mule is capable of taking over a game completely and making his own space on the ice. Expect him to get 5+ shots on net tonight.
  • Along those same lines, the guy likely feeding the Mule is Pavel Datsyuk. Datsyuk has top-notch playmaking ability but has gone into a shell during the post-season at times. If Datsyuk comes out and ready to play in the "eff you, I'm Pavel Datsyuk" (H/T to Fight Night at the Joe, I think?) mode, he's going to be unstoppable. 
  • Five For Howling is the SB Nation Coyotes affiliate. If you visit, try to read and interpret the style of the site before you comment, mkay?
  • One of the more interesting players to look at from the Detroit perspective is Darren Helm. Helm keeps rewriting his own legend and could continue to do that against the Coyotes. As everyone knows by now, he has exceptional speed and he could use that speed to burn the Phoenix defense. If Helm and Eaves can stretch the Phoenix defense, they could make it a long, grinding series for the Coyotes to deal with.He's also one hell of a penalty killer and could find himself off to the races on possible shorthanded attempts on a weak Phoenix power play (28th).
  • Phoenix has been waiting for this for a while. This is the first playoff series for the Yotes since 2001-2002 and you can bet that arena will be jumping in anticipation. 
  • Question: Do white-outs make it easier for the goalie to see the puck? 
  • How will the fighting for everything in the regular season affect the Red Wings in the playoffs? This was the first time in a while that the Wings were unable to just waltz into the playoffs. Will the extra juice that they had to put in come back to bite them? I think not. They fought so hard in the regular season to stay afloat amid the injuries that it's unlikely that they will just let everything fall apart in the post-season.
  • The Red Wings have to play their game, that's the bottom line. They can't afford to play even with the Coyotes for the entire game. The Wings need to play puck possession hockey and control the middle of the ice. Like I said before, they're not going to get much by way of scoring from the point or from the perimeter on Bryzgalov. They need to control the middle of the ice to allow for better passing and time of possession. Wear the Yotes down with puck movement and limit their scoring chances and the game will win itself.
  • Don't let Shane Doan get his knee anywhere near anything. It's made of cement. And hate.
  • Probably the biggest threat for the Wings to deal with from the Coyotes in terms of offense is either Lee Stempniak or Wojtek Wolski. These two late season acquisitions give Phoenix even more fire power and add a bit more scoring depth. The biggest question is: will it be enough? 
  • A lot of experts have the Wings winning with ease. I won't believe that for one second until the final whistle has blown on the final game of the series. The Wings have underestimated opponents far too often this season and it has burned them. The Coyotes are a dangerous team and I think that whoever wins this series, could very well be your SCF representative from the West.
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