The Wings used a four goal outburst to pace themselves to victory over the visiting Coyotes to open up the 2011 playoffs. The big guns came to play, with leading scorer Henrik Zetterberg on the shelf. They also got a strong effort from the energy players in a convincing win.
Red Wings 4 Coyotes 2
Series: Red Wings up 1-0
First, let’s take a moment to appreciate the beauty that is the Joe Louis arena stairs right now. Twenty straight playoff appearances is an amazing accomplishment.
Now, let’s call a spade a spade. The first period was exactly what the Wings cannot do if they want to have any success in the playoffs, especially as the teams they play get better. Phoenix was not good enough tonight to capitalize on the bevy of chances we gave them in the first period, but the Sharks, Canucks and other top teams will be. That needs to stop.
From the end of the first period on, though, it was an all out Red Wing domination. They crushed the Coyotes spirit in the second period with goals from Datsyuk, Franzen and Rafalski, and then got another from Hudler to make it a 4-1 game early in the third.
Datsyuk’s goal put the life back in the building, after the early Coyotes goal and a period spent entirely in the box drained a lot of the energy out of it.
Todd Bertuzzi kept the place rocking when he dropped the mitts with Rostislav Klesla.
Johan Franzen blew the roof off the place when he sniped from the top of the circle.
I’ll admit I had my doubts that he would be able to get it going right away in the playoffs, as he seemingly always does. I expressed these doubts in the last episode of Putting on the Foil, when we previewed the playoffs. He proved me way wrong tonight, upping his playoff scoring streak to 13 games.
With Henrik Zetterberg out with a knee injury, they only needed to make one healthy scratch up front, and to the suprise of many it ended up being Mike Modano, who they brought in to anchor the third line and help us win the Cup. The writing was kind of on the wall when he played barely 6 minutes in the season finale against Chicago, but it still came as a shock to see such an established veteran player as the odd man out. And honestly, I don’t see how he could possibly get back into the lineup with how good everyone else played.
The usual suspects in the scratch game, the Drew Miller’s, Patrick Eaves’ and Kris Draper’s were all fantastic tonight. Hell, even Jiri Hudler scored a goal and looks much, much better than he did at the start of the year. Short of someone else getting hurt (knock on wood), I don’t see how he gets back into the lineup. It’s going to be hard enough to take out an undeserving player once Hank is ready.
Speaking of him, I don’t think we’ll be seeing him this round, if the Wings continue to stay in control. Call it a gut feeling, but that’s how I’m reading Mike Babcock’s assessment of Zetterberg’s injury being “day-to-day”. Zetterberg is wearing a knee brace and hasn’t skated since the injury occurred. I feel like, if this were the regular season, we would be talking about him in a week-to-week sense. However, in the playoffs, you don’t have that luxury. So the Wings must manufacture time for Zata to get healthy by staying ahead of the competition. They can’t afford to let the Coyotes back into the series and force them to rush Zetterberg back for an added offensive boost.
That makes Game 2 the most important game of the series. A 2-0 lead means Zetterberg can probably rest until at least Game 5 at the absolute earliest. Going up 3-0 means he probably gets the whole round off. So it is imperative that the Wings don’t take their foot off the gas on Saturday.
The Off Wing View’s Three Stars
3. Jimmy Howard 26 saves – Without his and the penalty killers strong play early on, the game gets out of hand quickly. Great start to the post-season for Jimmy.
2. Pavel Datsyuk 1G, +2, 8 SOG – It amazes me how he can continually make fellow professional hockey players look absolutely foolish.
1. Johan Franzen 1G, 1A, +1, 5 SOG – Two words, Playoff Mule. Need I say more?