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Lidstrom: A matter of getting to the net

Captain says forward pressure is key to reviving offense

Thursday, 11.03.2011 / 5:18 PM / News
By Bill Roose  - Managing Editor | DetroitRedWings.com
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Lidstrom: A matter of getting to the net
DETROIT – The Red Wings’ path to the net seemed a whole lot simpler in the first three weeks of the season than it has been lately.

And there’s a logical reason behind it, Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom said.

“We’re now getting pushed to the outside,” he said. “And we’ve kind of accepted being pushed to the outside. We’re staying out there and shooting the puck, instead of maybe taking that extra step, or driving a little harder to get to the inside where we can get off some better shots.”

Shooting from the perimeter of the offensive zone has resulted in five goals in five games for the Wings. And an analysis of where the Wings have taken shots during the current 0-4-1 stretch backs-up Lidstrom’s assertion that quality chances aren’t there like they were a few weeks earlier.

The Wings started the season with five straight wins and scored 18 goals on 189 shots. But since, Detroit – which leads the league in shots per game (35.8) – has mustered just five goals on 169 shots.

However, statistics on shots on goal are often misleading.

A closer look of the Wings’ last 169 shots shows that 51% of them have been of the low-quality variety, taken from above the offensive zone face-off circles and beyond. In all, the Wings have scored seven goals on 167 shots taken from above the circles this season, and only Niklas Kronwall’s second-period slap shot in a 7-1 loss at Washington found the back of the net from above the circles in the last five games.

“I think that comes with not winning,” Lidstrom said. “I think when you’re not playing well, you want to get those shots through. You don’t want to lose the puck. But when things are going easy, you take the extra step, you take your time, and you’re able to drive a little more to the net. Those are the differences when you’re not playing as well – you’re shooting from the outside.”

Still, the Wings need to create more pressure down low and traffic in front of the crease to increase scoring chances on rebounds and re-directs.

“I think it’s a matter of getting to the net for the other two (wingers), who are going there and stopping,” Lidstrom said. “If the shot’s coming, most of the time they’re going to get rebounds, or a tip. That’s where we have to be.”

The Wings did a much better job of getting second chances and rebounds in the first five games. Then only 42.8% of the team’s shots originated from above the circles, and 12 of 18 goals were from inside the circles and closer range.

Nobody’s hitting the panic button yet, but coach Mike Babcock would like to see some goal-support for goalie Jimmy Howard, who has the league’s fifth best goals-against average (1.84) heading into tonight’s game against Calgary.

“I think Howie's been unbelievable. We've wasted a couple of real good efforts out of him,” Babcock said. “I just know when you're a pitcher in baseball and the team never gets any runs, you go into the ninth inning 0-0. … They need some run support.

“I think our goaltending's been excellent. I think the other goaltending has been good, but you can't let the other goaltender be good, you got to go get him.”

The Wings’ 23 goals in the first 10 games is the franchise’s lowest total since the 1975-76 squad (18). That’s just the parity in the league, Lidstrom said.

“Teams are getting closer and closer and more even in the last two or three years, where on any given night you can win or you can lose,” he said. “In the past you had some easier games with certain teams. But you don’t see that anymore.”

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @RooseBill

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