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The Nashville Predators took full advantage of home ice in Game 1, drawing first blood in the series with a 3-2 victory.
Normally, to say that a veteran team boasting the likes of Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Niklas Lidstrom is in trouble after only one game would be ludicrous.
Indeed, the Red Wings and Predators series could still turn out to be one of the best in the first-round. But the game provided a couple of reasons for Red Wing fans to start getting nervous, if they weren’t already.
Predators’ goaltender Pekka Rinne was once again the star of the show for Nashville, proving to a national audience why his head coach believes he is one of the very best in the NHL right now. Rinne stopped 35 shots on Wednesday night to lead his team to the victory.
If the Finnish netminder continues to perform like he did in the opening game—which is how he played all year long—Detroit’s playoff experience may not be a factor at all.
The injury to forward Darren Helm is also a massive blow to Mike Babcock and company.
A speedy third-line center, Helm will miss the remainder of the playoffs after having successful surgery to repair tendon damage in his right arm. The 25-year-old sustained the injury when the left skate of Nashville forward Alexander Radulov cut his arm in the opening period of Game 1.
He may not get the same attention as some of his teammates, but the Red Wings are well aware of just how important he is to the team.
"It's a big loss," Lidstrom said. "We've been without him for about a month now, and he came back and played his first game and got hurt again. Just his speed and what he can do on both ends of the ice will affect us a bit. But we have other guys that are going to get a chance to play now and play more."
A gritty two-way forward, Helm always seems to raise his game come playoff time. He was one of the key contributors during the Wings’ run to the Stanley Cup in 2008. In 65 career postseason games, Helm has 10 goals and 16 points.
He is also a key member of the penalty-killing unit for head coach Mike Babcock. With the Predators having the league’s top-ranked power play during the regular season, Helm’s absence could be a key factor as the series continues.
The former fifth-round draft pick in 2005 also brings an element of physicality to the lineup, despite only being listed at 5’11” and 192 pounds.
That type of heart and drive is something Detroit will not be able to replace, despite the best efforts of Justin Abdelkader, who is likely to step up and replace Helm on the third line.
With the series taking a nasty turn at the end of Game 1 as a result of Shea Weber slamming Henrik Zetterberg's head into the glass, you can expect things to be very physical for the remainder of the series.
Helm would have been one of the members of the Wings’ lineup asked to step up and respond. Whether or not the Red Wings will be able to do so without him remains to be seen.
If they can’t, this series may not go as long as many people had predicted.