Three Questions: Wings-Blue Jackets
DRW.com analyzes Game 3 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals
With the Blue Jackets hosting their first ever playoff game Thursday, the Wings were expecting a hostile crowd to greet them at Nationwide Arena. They got just that, with a loud fan base cheering on their hometown team. Then the Wings promptly silenced the entire building.
Tomas Holmstrom buried a rebound opportunity from a shot that Marian Hossa rang off the crossbar only 1:07 into the contest. It was a devastating blow to fans that had just watched a pre-game video comparing their squad to other underdog stories (Ali, Miracle, etc.). They were ready to go, and Holmstrom reminded them with one swing of his stick that the Wings were the favorites and already two games up on their hometown Blue Jackets.
To make matters worse for the Blue Jackets, the Wings scored in the final minute of the first period as well. Dan Cleary scored on a highlight-reel spin-around goal with 46 seconds remaining. The Wings’ momentum carried over into the second period, and the Blue Jackets couldn’t respond. The Wings couldn’t have asked for goals at better times in the contest. Those two tallies arguably won the game for them in the first 20 minutes.
What about the defense?
Columbus coach Ken Hitchcock said that the Wings really turned on their defense, not their offense, at the start of the series, and the Wings backed up his statement Tuesday night. Goaltender Chris Osgood led the way again, turning aside 31 shots en route to his third straight win. Osgood has yet to allow more then one goal in any of the three games of the series.
The Wings defense gave Ozzie lots of help, as well. The team chipped in to once again shut down the Jackets’ power play, holding them to only one goal on four opportunities (their first power play goal of the series). Columbus captain Rick Nash picked up an assist on the play, but he was still contained well by captain Nicklas Lidstrom and his teammates, even when the Wings didn’t have the last change. And Brad Stuart ignored the fact that experts were saying that Columbus was the more physical team when he had star R.J. Umberger seeing stars after a great open-ice hip check in the second period.
The Wings will look to wrap up the series in Game 4, which will be played on Thursday in Columbus. If Columbus wins, the series will come back to Detroit, for a Saturday match-up. The Wings, however, have seemed to figure out the Blue Jackets, as they coasted to yet another win. It might not matter to the Wings if they’re on the road or at home; an octopus still hit the ice during the third period of the 4-1 road win.