Continuing the series preview, today we'll take a look at the defense for both teams and who's got the advantage.
#55 / Defenseman / Phoenix Coyotes
Jun 26, 1976
Not the most flattering picture of Jovo...
Phoenix's defense is lead by Ed Jovanovski and Keith Yandle. These two guys are a big part of the Phoenix defense as well as providing solid offensive numbers. Yandle and Jovo are 4 and 5 (respectively) on the Yotes in points scored. However, Jovo is a surprising -16 in goal differential this season while Yandle is a +16.
Although Jovo and Yandle are two of the bigger names on the defense, the biggest and most welcome contributor has been Zbynek Michalek. Michalek is on many people's list for the Norris Trophy and why not? He leads the team in blocked shots with 156 and is a solid penalty killer. Joining Michalek on the list of under the radar but deceptively good is Adrian Aucoin. Aucoin logs a lot of ice time and is another physical defender on the Phoenix roster.
Phoenix's other defenders, Sami Lepisto and Mathieu Schneider, are also good, serviceable defensemen. The Red Wings will surely do their best to test the depth of the Coyotes defensive depth and could benefit from mismatches.
How to beat them: The Wings need to use their speed (Datsyuk, Helm, Draper, Eaves) to stretch the defense and also use their tape to tape passing to force the defense out of position. The majority of the Coyotes defenders are solid and well rounded but are sometimes prone to speed.
Who to watch: Touched on it already but Zbynek Michalek. Michalek is the best defender on the Phoenix roster and will have a lot on his plate with the Red Wings guys like Pavel Datsyuk, Johan Franzen and Henrik Zetterberg.
Detroit Red Wings:
#5 / Defenseman / Detroit Red Wings
Apr 28, 1970
The Red Wings have arguably the best top two pairings in the league, anchored by six time Norris Trophy winner Nicklas Lidstrom. Lidstrom is joined on the blue line by Brian Rafalski, a solid defensive defenseman. Rafalski and Lidstrom have become a highly reliable pair and each knows what the other is doing and adjusts his game based upon that. The second pairing of Brad Stuart and Niklas Kronwall is a physically punishing one that also plays solid with great stick work and positioning. Stuart leads the Wings in hits and blocked shots while Kronwall continuosly shows off his smooth skating and gets to the puck carrier in a hurry.
The X-factor on defense is the pairing of Andreas Lilja and Jonathan Ericsson. There's a big drop off from the second pair to the third pairing as Lilja has seen limited action this year following the concussion problems and Ericsson has had a horrible rookie campaign at times. However, the pair has started to come together and work well together. Their biggest flaw is their speed...er, lack there of it. Lilja and Ericsson are slow most nights and turn their hips late more often than not. If the Coyotes exploit the match-ups with the last change advantage while at home, it could spell trouble for Detroit. Luckily for Detroit, both players have showed in the past that they can step it up when necessary.
Edge: Detroit. Hard to overlook what they've got in the top 4 defensemen on both sides of the puck.
Special teams and more to come later today.