This was the picture on my milk carton this morning.
The Red Wings and Predators have finally gotten their 2 day break between games in their first round matchup, and yesterday the team took the day off, hopefully in an effort to regroup mentally and heal some bumps and bruises.
It's been a frustrating series for Wing fans, as the Wings have alternated dominant and poor play, and they find themselves on the brink of elimination heading into Game 5 in Nashville. The Wings' road record is hardly a source of comfort, as the Wings have been bad away from Joe Louis Arena.
The Wings found themselves in a very similar scenario just last year. Down 0-3 to the Sharks, Detroit ripped off 3 wins in a row before ultimately running out of gas in Game 7. There was little confidence that the Wings would win a game, let alone force a Game 7 (something only 3 teams had ever done before), and the sentiments around Hockeytown are eerily similar to last year.
But all is not lost. Despite the doom and gloom prevalent in the fanbase, last I checked the Red Wings were not eliminated and still had a decent chance at winning this series. It's going to take some adjustments, but there's no reason to think that the Wings can't come back from being down 3-1 for the first time since 1992.
After the jump, I've figured out what the keys to victory are.
Look, it's pretty simple; the Wings have to figure out how to beat Pekka Rinne, because he's the biggest reason why the Wings are losing this series. I don't believe that Nashville has been better than Detroit in any one area except for goaltending, and while Jimmy Howard hasn't been great, that's more a testament to how well Rinne has played. So what can the Wings do to ensure victory in Game 5? Here's just a few ideas I had.
Shoot less. In the Wings' 3 losses in this series, they've averaged 40.3 shots per game; in their 1 win, they had 17 shots. I'm no genius, but logic would dictate that taking fewer shots will mean that more goals will go in. The reason Rinne has been so good is because the Wings are keeping him sharp. I think the Wings should play the first 2 periods in their own zone, or take a page from the Flyers and just plain refuse to attack in protest at how good Rinne is. Maybe place a female of the attractive variety in his line of sight, having her make kissy faces at him throughout the game to distract him. Then when the moment is right, have Nicklas Lidstrom take a shot from center ice that bounces up and past Rinne. It worked the last time the Wings played Nashville in a first round series, and there's no reason it can't work again.
Don't Start On Time. This has been an ongoing theme for the Wings all season. How many nights have we finished watching the game, only to think "what if they had played like that in the first period?" On Tuesday, the Wings came roaring out of the gate but couldn't solve Rinne, and in the third they began to press which led to mental mistakes. You know what I realized in that moment? It's easier for me to take the crappy starts when they play with the intensity at the end, because my anger turns into hope, rather than the other way around. Therefore, I propose that the Wings ask the Predators if they can just play 1 period with the score already 2-1 Nashville. Think about how much time we'll save when the game is only 45 minutes long.
Take More Penalties. In the 2 games in Nashville, the Wings took a total of 12 penalties and yielded 0 power play goals. When the series shifted to Detroit, the Wings made a conscious attempt to stay disciplined, and they only gave Nashville 7 power play opportunities, but they gave up 2 power play goals. Taking fewer penalties is clearly not working because it means the 3rd and 4th lines are getting ice time, so I think the Wings should try and take as many penalties as they can and keep their best players on the ice as much as possible.
Play the Black Aces. The players that are in the lineup right now are just not getting it done. The only player above a .5 PPG pace is Datsuk, and he's at .75 PPG. We were very critical of players like Jiri Hudler, Valtteri Filppula and Johan Franzen, among others. These are the top-6 forwards that need to produce, and between the three of them, they have 2 goals and 1 assist. If I want to be disappointed in the play of the guys on the first 2 lines, then I'd rather it be a young player that I can make the excuse of "they're rookies". Plus it would be nice to see someone enter the Predators' zone with more speed than a tourist walking down the Las Vegas strip (if you've ever been there, you know what I mean).
Put Ty Conklin in net. Let's call it like it is: Jimmy Howard has not been very good. His performance in the third period of Game 4 was Osgood-esque. Overplaying the puck carrier on the Preds' second goal was bad enough, but when the game was still technically in reach he gives up a softie to David Legwand to put the game away. While I love Jimmy and think he's a very good goalie, I don't want to see his confidence shaken anymore, so I think Ty Conklin should be in goal for Game 5. That way when the Wings inevitably give up the first goal and fall behind early, we have a very convenient scapegoat.