In the first ever playoff game in Columbus, the Detroit Red Wings continued their domination with a 4-1 win. The Nationwide Arena may have had a crowd edge favoring the Blue Jackets, but the Wings ignored the noise with a focused play that left little doubt how this series will end up.
The Wings' play has been more of a clinic than a show. They are demonstrating to all teams how to play proper playoff hockey. They are not making many mistakes and any they do make are not an issue to affect the outcome of the game.
For example, the greatest concern for the Wings going into the series was the goaltending of Chris Osgood. Yet after three games and giving up only two goals, that concern has been put to rest.
Tuesday's game brought two more Wings to the score sheet for the series.
The first goal by Tomas Holmstrom proved why he might just be the best role player in the NHL. His normal position is in front of the net, so most of his goals are on deflections. And if he doesn't get the deflection, his presence is such a shield job that the goalie has no chance seeing the puck. He takes to this responsibility to have a stick with no appearance of a curve, and ankles made of steel to endure the whacks by goalie sticks.
However, his goal in Game Three was him turned around facing the goalie as Marian Hossa's shot off the post fell right to him to tap in. However, his reflex to always be close to the goalie when the snipers like Hossa, Datsyuk, Lidstrom and Rafalski are out there is why Holsmtrom had the ideal position for his first goal of the playoffs.
Daniel Cleary had the second goal, which was a thing of beauty. He had the puck on the wrong side for him to shoot and he did a spin and went airborne. He swung with his skates in the air and generated enough force to drive the puck past Steve Mason.
The first man from Newfoundland to hoist the Stanley Cup, Cleary has been a great presence in both providing a scoring touch with a taste for the grit to keep the other team honest.
The other two goals were by Henrik Zetterberg.
The chippiness of the Blue Jackets got them in trouble when Mike Commondore took Franzen down next to the net, still in response to the Stuart hit. They focused too much on that action, and forget the "Z" was still on the ice. The puck trickled to Cleary, who was also behind the net. He passed it perfectly to Zetterberg's wheelhouse for a point-blank shot past Mason for the third goal.
The final goal by the Red Wings was by Zetterberg after Mason was pulled for the extra attacker, with seconds remaining in the third period. Zetterberg's shot passed the red line, giving him his third goal for the first round of play.
Other than the goals, the play of the night was by Brad Stuart, when he put a hit on R.J. Umberger late in the second period. The replay did show that he knew Stuart was there but he still skated forward with his head down.
Regardless, the force of the impact caused Umberger's helmet to come off and left him wobbly as he came down on the ice.
He was escorted off the ice to see if he knew what day it was. The hit brought the voice of Michael Irvin (from his days at ESPN Monday Night Countdown) in my head saying, "He got jacked up!" The Blue Jacket response was Mike Commodore going after Cleary. He timed his angle wrong, though, and brushed past Cleary, ending up in the Red Wing bench nearly in Hossa's lap. Mike Commodore then went after Franzen, which the Wings used to prove why you should let retaliation distract you when you are in the playoffs.
Umberger later proved he was conscious when he scored the lone goal for the Blue Jackets late in the third period. It was off a shot by Blue Jackets captain Rick Nash. However, all it established was that Columbus wouldn't be shut out in their first playoff game at home.
Thursday will be the make or break day for the series. If the Wings win, they sweep the series and keep their streak alive of finishing playoff series on the road. They will then probably face a well-rested Canucks team.
If the Blue Jackets win, Game Five will be Saturday at 7 p.m. back in Hockeytown in a rowdy Joe Louis Arena.
Regardless, either game is in the Red Wings favor.
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