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Power play is critical to Wings' success

Detroit must cause traffic in front of Blackhawks' Crawford

Wednesday, 05.15.2013 / 7:47 PM ET / News
By Bill Roose  - DetroitRedWings.com
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Power play is critical to Wings\' success

With a net-front presence, forward Johan Franzen led the Red Wings with three power-play goals against the Anaheim Ducks. (Photo by Dave Reginek)

CHICAGO – As is the case in most hockey games, special teams will play critical roles in the Western Conference semifinals series between the Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks.

“I don’t want there to be high-scoring games, so we have to do a real good job on our (penalty) kill,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “Our kill started as the worst at the league and we climbed our way to twelfth. The last round we were 72 percent, didn’t do a very good job on the kill.”

In their opening rounds series with Anaheim, the Red Wings scored six power-play goals on 25 chances – that’s a 24 percent efficiency rating, which is their highest power-play percentage in the last three postseasons.

However, the Wings’ next challenge is against a far stingier club, whose penalty kill didn’t allow a single goal in their five-game series win over the Minnesota Wild in the first round. The Blackhawks were a perfect 17-for-17 on the penalty kill.

“We’ve had an opportunity to watch what Minny did and we’ll try to – obviously not do the same thing – but you got to find a way to put it by their penalty kill and then their goaltender,” Babcock said. “I don’t know how many power plays they’ll be in the series, I know nothing about that. I just know in the end you have to get to the goaltender.”

Goals could be a premium in this series. That’s certainly been the case over the last two seasons with these two clubs. Since the 2009-10 season, the winning team has scored three or fewer goals in 15-of-21 games. And other than the 7-1 fiasco on Easter Sunday, Detroit and Chicago have battled it out in one-goal games in 12 of the last 16 contests.

“You’ve got to get pucks on net and be there for second chances,” captain Henrik Zetterberg said. “They did play well against Minny so that’s going to be a big challenge for us. It’s going to be a big part of this series. If you have good special teams there’s a good chance you have of winning.”

Damien Brunner plays the point on the second power-play unit that had some first-round success by getting consistent net-front pressure in front of Ducks goalie Jonas Hiller. That will be a key in this series against Corey Crawford, who in his NHL career is 11-2-2 with a 1.82 goals-against average all-time versus Detroit.

“Anaheim had pretty big defensemen in front of the net,” Brunner said. “They were not skating that good, but they were very big, so we did a good job of having a net-front presence. The Blackhawk guys are probably, other than (Brent) Seabrook, are not that big, but they all skate well. So maybe the net-front battle will be key too. So if we did a good job against Anaheim, we should do the same thing because they’re smaller in front.”

The Blackhawks haven’t allowed a power-play goal at home since April 12 when Johan Franzen scored in the second period of a 3-2 shootout loss. Franzen led the Wings with three power-play tallies against the Ducks.

Regardless, the Wings are ready to get this new series underway.

“Round to round match-ups are different as you go,” Justin Abdelkader said. “We're a different team than Minnesota. As you go through the playoffs and face different opponents, things kind of change, so we'll be ready for their penalty kill, their power play.”

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose

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EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - WSH 82 56 18 8 252 193 120
2 x - PIT 82 48 26 8 245 203 104
3 y - FLA 82 47 26 9 239 203 103
4 x - NYR 82 46 27 9 236 217 101
5 x - NYI 82 45 27 10 232 216 100
6 x - TBL 82 46 31 5 227 201 97
7 x - PHI 82 41 27 14 214 218 96
8 x - DET 82 41 30 11 211 224 93
9 BOS 82 42 31 9 240 230 93
10 CAR 82 35 31 16 198 226 86
11 OTT 82 38 35 9 236 247 85
12 NJD 82 38 36 8 184 208 84
13 MTL 82 38 38 6 221 236 82
14 BUF 82 35 36 11 201 222 81
15 CBJ 82 34 40 8 219 252 76
16 TOR 82 29 42 11 198 246 69

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
H. Zetterberg 82 13 37 -15 50
P. Datsyuk 66 16 33 7 49
D. Larkin 80 23 22 11 45
T. Tatar 81 21 24 4 45
G. Nyquist 82 17 26 -2 43
J. Abdelkader 82 19 23 -16 42
M. Green 74 7 28 -6 35
B. Richards 68 10 18 4 28
D. Helm 77 13 13 -2 26
N. Kronwall 64 3 23 -21 26
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
P. Mrazek 27 16 6 .921 2.33
J. Howard 14 14 5 .906 2.80