During the build up to the first round rematch between the Red Wings and Coyotes, there was a lot of fanfare from the Phoenix side about how confident and ready they were to beat Detroit. Coyotes captain Shane Doan was even so brash as to say that his team should have won last year (despite the fact that the Wings embarrassed them 6-1 in their own building in the deciding game 7). While Detroit claims to have not heard any of this talk, it was still clear that game 1 would be an interesting one.
Phoenix came hot out of the gates in period one, and Kyle Turris ripped a bullet of a shot past Jimmy Howard not even five minutes into the game to make it 1-0 ‘Yotes. Phoenix continued to outplay Detroit for the rest of the period on even strength, but the Red Wings completely neutralized the Coyotes powerplay, including a 5-on-3 for 1:30. The Wings came out storming for the rest of the game however, scoring four unanswered goals from Datsyuk, Franzen, Rafalski, and Hudler, to heavily tilt the ice in Detroit’s favor. Radim Vrbata managed to sneak a knuckle shot past Howard to pull Phoenix within two, but it was too little too late for the desert dogs. Detroit went on to win 4-2, and they claimed a 1-0 series lead.
As stated by many experts, special teams will have a huge impact on this series, and that proved true in game one. Phoenix looked completely lost on the powerplay, and Detroit just outworked them the entire game. Going 0-6 on the powerplay in the playoffs is not a recipe for success. If Detroit can keep up their prowess on the PK, and keep their PP humming along as they did tonight, they may have found their lynchpin to victory.
Jimmy Howard also turned in a sparkling performance in goal for Detroit. He made several key saves throughout the game that proved to be key in the victory. He looked calm and confident, which is exactly what the Wings need him to be. He looked like the goalie he knows he can be, so look for him to build off of his performance tonight.
Detroit took over this game, and if they can turn in another solid performance at home on Saturday, they put themselves in a great position heading into enemy territory for game 3. I predicted the Wings would win this series in 6 games, and tonight was a step in the right direction. The Wings put their inconsistencies behind them and played like a hungry team. One down, three to go (or should I say fifteen?).