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Wings winning despite penalty problems

Friday, 05.22.2009 / 11:11 AM / News
By John Kreiser  - NHL.com Columnist
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Wings winning despite penalty problems
The Detroit Red Wings are two wins away from a return trip to the Stanley Cup Final -- but not because they\'re having a lot of success on the penalty kill.
If the Red Wings repeat as Stanley Cup champions, they'll do it in spite of their penalty killers.

The Wings head into Game 3 against Chicago at the United Center Friday night (8 p.m. EDT, VERSUS, CBC, RDS) having won 10 of their 13 playoff games, including the first two in the best-of-7 Western Conference finals. But those victories haven't come about because of any great success on the penalty kill.

Through 13 games, the Wings have allowed 13 goals in 46 attempts, a 71.7 kill rate that's by far the worst among any team that got past the first round. Even worse, they're at 66.7 percent (12 for 18) on the road -- not a good sign for Game 3 at Chicago, which has the best power play in the playoffs at 29.8 percent.

This year's penalty kill is far worse than any of the Wings' four Cup-winning teams in the last 12 years. The 1997 champions had an 84.4 percent success rate, while the 1998 repeat winners were at 88.2. The 2002 Cup-winning Wings killed off 86.5 percent of opposition power plays, while last year's team had an 85.7 percent kill rate.

The penalty-killing problems are a carryover from the regular season, when the Wings finished 25th among the NHL's 30 teams with a 78.3 percent success rate, the worst among the 16 playoff teams. No Cup-winner has killed off less than 80 percent of opposition power plays during the regular season since the 1991-92 Pittsburgh Penguins had a 79.9 percent success rate -- a figure that was less than one percentage point poorer than the League average of 80.8. The Wings are well below this season's average of 81.0.

Nor have Detroit's penalty-killers generated any offense in this year's playoffs. The Wings have yet to score a shorthanded goal after getting six last year, seven in 2002, six in 1998 and two in 1997.

The one good thing the Wings have done so far this year is stay out of the penalty box. They're allowing an average of 3.6 power plays through 13 games, down from 4.4 last year, 4.5 in 2002, 5.4 in 1998 and 4.8 in 1997.

Unwanted record:
Through the Wings haven't been burned for more than two power-play goals in a game this spring, they've allowed at least one in each of their last 11 playoff games. That matches a mark set by the 1989 Pittsburgh Penguins, who allowed at least one extra-man goal in all 11 of their games that year.

Streak buster:
The Blackhawks didn't win Game 2 against Detroit Tuesday night, but they did end Johan Franzen's playoff scoring streak at home. Franzen had scored in each of his previous 13 postseason games at Joe Louis Arena, piling up 12 goals and 10 assists for 22 points, dating to Game 5 of last year's first-round series against Nashville.

Fast starter: One reason Sidney Crosby is leading the NHL in playoff scoring is his ability to help the Pittsburgh Penguins get off to a fast start. Crosby got the game's first goal on Thursday in the Penguins' 7-4 win against the Carolina Hurricanes. That matches the playoff record for first goals set by Chicago's Bobby Hull in 1962 and matched by Edmonton's Fernando Pisani in 2006.

Matching Mario:
Evgeni Malkin has a long way to go to match Mario Lemieux's numbers, but the NHL's regular-season points leader and the Pittsburgh Penguins' Hall of Famer do share one thing: the most consecutive multi-point games in franchise history. Malkin's four-point (3 goals, 1 assist) night Thursday was the fifth game in a row in which he's had more than one point -- he has 13 points during that span. That matches the mark held by Lemieux.

Canucks/Blackhawks Playoff Gear Blackhawks Gear Red Wings gear Malkin had 22 points in 20 playoff games last year, though he appeared to run out of gas in the Stanley Cup Final. He already has 25 points in only 15 games this season -- putting him one point ahead of Crosby.

Not that Crosby's exactly a slacker. His 13 goals are the most of any player in this year's playoffs -- and more than double the 6 that he scored last spring.

Home cooking: Home is the place to be for the Penguins, especially when Game 2 of a best-of-7 playoff series is concerned. Pittsburgh's 7-4 victory against Carolina on Thursday night improved the Penguins' record in Game 2 of a series to 30-17 -- but 21-5 at Mellon Arena. The win snapped Carolina's streak of winning five consecutive Game 2s, including two this year.

Actually, the Penguins don't have to be playing Game 2 to be tough at home. Thursday's win improved their Mellon Arena record in this year's playoffs to 6-2, and they're now 15-4 at home in the past two years.

Thursday nightmare: Game 2 had also been good for Carolina netminder Cam Ward -- until Thursday night.

Ward had been 5-1 in the second games of playoff series before allowing six goals in the Game 2 loss to Pittsburgh. It was the most he's allowed in 39 career playoff games; before Thursday, he'd never surrendered more than four in a postseason game.

Ward also had never started and lost a playoff game with the Hurricanes trailing in a series. He had been 7-0 with a 1.41 goals-against average and two shutouts when his team trailed a series, and fell to 12-3 all-time (.800 winning percentage) when playing after his team lost the previous game in a series. Anaheim's Jean-Sebastien Giguere is 12-2 (.857), the best percentage of all time for goaltenders with more than 10 such games.



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