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Special teams must improve in series

San Jose celebrating the second power play goal in game one.
San Jose celebrating the second power play goal in game one.

The former bread and butter of the Red Wings has become a bit of an eyesore. A penalty kill that used to be dominant and a power play that used to be unstoppable have transformed into a PK that can't stop a fly or a PP that couldn't score on 5 on 0.

Exaggeration? Surely. But that's the feeling you get sometimes when you watch these units try to work. Now give credit to San Jose's PP and PK in game 1, they did an exceptional job on both sides. But it wasn't a good enough job to completely shut down the skill that the Red Wings have on those units.

So what went wrong on Detroit's end?

The penalty kill

Allowing San Jose too much space was the biggest problem on the penalty kill in game one. On the first power play goal, Pavelski was allowed to free-wheel in the slot and had a shot all alone on Howard. He beat him far post with ease because the shot was uncontested by defenders. Maybe just a hiccup but maybe signs of how the power play needs to adapt. The Coyotes used a net-front presence in their power play while San Jose works more of an an umbrella style, looking for shots on cross-ice passes. Since the Sharks don't have a man in front of Howard for the Wings to worry about, Detroit needs to switch to a large box so as to be able to pressure the San Jose shooters.

The power play

San Jose did an excellent job of one thing on the power play: pushing the Wings to the perimeter and blue line. By forcing the space to the perimeter, the pressure forced the passes to come a little faster and a little more off target than desired, leading to a lot of pucks leaving the zone. The Wings had a tough time holding holding the zone on the man advantage because of the San Jose pressure. There's a lot the power play can do to counter the smothering pressure of the San Jose penalty kill. Wings play with Tomas Holmstrom in front of the net, which will still work but the guys on the left and right of him need to move more towards the center of the ice or up closer to the point men. This way, the defenders are drawn in too but it also allows the races to the corners to still be even and it allows the wingers to spin off to the boards if necessary to create some movement for the point men  to come down in the slot to get some open chances.