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Key for Wings' win is to stay loose

Red Wings prepare for another elimination game against the Blackhawks

Monday, 05.27.2013 / 2:35 PM ET / News
By Bill Roose  - Managing Editor | DetroitRedWings.com
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Key for Wings\' win is to stay loose
Red Wings third-line center Joakim Andersson continues to play very well, and physical, against the Blackhawks and Andrew Shaw. (Photo by Getty Images)

DETROIT – It’s no secret, the Red Wings are a desperate team. They’re the underdog in this Western Conference semifinal series. They are David to the Chicago Blackhawks’ Goliath.

After all, in January, nobody figured the Red Wings would be in the position that they’re in today, especially against a Blackhawks’ squad that rolled to the top of the regular-season standings as the best team in the league.

Now David gets a second shot at eliminating Goliath tonight in Game 6 of the conference semis, and in front of their own fans at Joe Louis Arena.

The Wings need to play a desperate brand to avoid a trip to Chicago for a Game 7, and in order to do that they’ll need to maintain their structure and discipline, play within their systems, and play not to lose.

“We talk about it all the time. Do you want to be tight and tentative, or be loose and driving?” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “Which one sounds like fun to you? Let’s play. There’s six teams left in hockey. Play. Let’s have some fun. The better you play, the longer you get to play. If you don’t play good, you get to go home.”

The Wings didn’t play very well Saturday in Game 5. The Blackhawks dominated from the opening faceoff and disrupted the Wings’ game plan. The Red Wings must return to what worked best between Game 2 and Game 4 of the series.

“I think it’s getting the puck out of our zone, battles along the boards, and you have to pinch down and take the body,” forward Drew Miller said. “We have to find a way to get the puck out. I think the offensive zone time, we didn’t have enough of it last game, so we have to find ways to get second and third chances instead of one-and-done.”

Playing loose in a series that has been incredibly tight is another tall order. Even the top end players like Henrik Zetterberg, Jonathan Toews, Pavel Datsyuk and Patrick Kane are finding it quite difficult to get any time in space to create scoring opportunities like they do during the regular season. So in some ways, the top six forwards on both teams have canceled one another out.

“You look at the stats in this round of the playoffs, nobody’s got eight points or nothing like that,” Babcock said. “I think we’ve got four guys with three points, and I think they’ve got three guys with three or more points. There’s not a lot of room, so you’ve got to create your own room. The reason we talk about players like those guys is because most guys can’t create any space. There’s no space when the game’s played well. Most guys can’t create any; they’re just out there nullifying the other group. … But we need everyone to be good.”

The Wings could definitely benefit from getting another solid game out of third-liners Joakim Andersson, Damien Brunner and Gustav Nyquist. The trio has accounted for six playoff goals, including three against the Blackhawks.

“That third line is supposed to win you the series. That’s what depth is all about,” Babcock said. “That’s what happened for Chicago and Anaheim in the regular season. Their third lines were better than everyone else’s. You get mismatches and you end up with your top group playing against somebody that’s not capable of playing against them. But because your third line’s good, the coach can play anybody against anybody.”

Setting the tone early in Game 6 can likely go a long way in deciding the outcome of tonight’s contest, Nyquist said.

“We have to come out hard and come out desperate. It’s a big game for us,” he said. “We’re playing at home and you know that they have to win to extend their season. We have a big game coming up, so it’s going to be a tight one, but we’re going to come out hard and get a couple of hits in and get the crowd going.”

If that happens, count on David advancing to the next round where he’ll assume another role as playoff underdog.

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose

SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - NYR 82 53 22 7 248 187 113
2 y - MTL 82 50 22 10 214 184 110
3 x - TBL 82 50 24 8 259 206 108
4 x - WSH 82 45 26 11 237 199 101
5 x - NYI 82 47 28 7 245 224 101
6 x - DET 82 43 25 14 231 211 100
7 x - OTT 82 43 26 13 232 208 99
8 x - PIT 82 43 27 12 217 204 98
9 BOS 82 41 27 14 209 201 96
10 FLA 82 38 29 15 198 213 91
11 CBJ 82 42 35 5 227 248 89
12 PHI 82 33 31 18 212 223 84
13 NJD 82 32 36 14 176 209 78
14 CAR 82 30 41 11 183 219 71
15 TOR 82 30 44 8 206 257 68
16 BUF 82 23 51 8 153 269 54

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
H. Zetterberg 77 17 49 -6 66
P. Datsyuk 63 26 39 12 65
T. Tatar 82 29 27 6 56
G. Nyquist 82 27 27 -11 54
J. Abdelkader 71 23 21 3 44
N. Kronwall 80 9 35 -4 44
R. Sheahan 79 13 23 -3 36
D. Helm 75 15 18 7 33
D. DeKeyser 80 2 29 11 31
S. Weiss 52 9 16 -2 25
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
J. Howard 23 13 11 .910 2.44
P. Mrazek 16 9 2 .918 2.38

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