Detroit Red Wings' Lack of Intensity Will Result in a First-Round Exit

Matt HutterAnalyst IApril 18, 2010

GLENDALE, AZ - APRIL 16:  (L-R) Nicklas Lidstrom #5, Brian Rafalski #28 and Tomas Holmstrom #96 of the Detroit Red Wings talk during a break from Game Two of the Western Conference Quarterfinals against the Phoenix Coyotes during the 2010 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Arena on April 16, 2010 in Glendale, Arizona. The Red Wings defeated the Coyotes 7-4 to tie the series at 1-1.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

"Intensity" is a word that gets tossed around a lot come playoff time in the NHL.

In fact, it gets used so often that it almost becomes just another cliche to describe whatever intangible asset one team has and another does not.

When it comes to NHL playoff hockey, "intensity," to my mind, encapsulates two very specific things: passion and execution.

A team playing with passion works hard every shift, finishes their checks, and never passes up an opportunity to win a battle.

Execution is a bit tougher to define, but is largely evidenced by a team playing their system for 60 minutes.

Put these two things together, and I think you've got a pretty good definition of what someone means when they talk about "intensity" as it applies to a team's play.

On Sunday, one team in Detroit played with intensity, the other did not and it cost them the game.

The Phoenix Coyotes began the game by scoring 29 seconds into the contest and from there, never backed off their pace of play or strayed away from the system that earned them 107 points in the regular season.

If they do this twice more over the next two games, the Detroit Red Wings will likely be clearing out their lockers by the weekend.

I say "likely" only because, if Detroit decides to match Phoenix's intensity, they will probably be the ones moving on to the second round.

Virtually to a man, the Red Wings are the more talented and experienced team in this series.

However, another overused sentiment, "talent doesn't win championships" bears repeating here, at least in Detroit's case.

On Sunday, the Red Wings looked anywhere from mildly engaged to down-right disinterested for much of the game.

They turned over pucks, made sloppy clearing attempts, passed up hits, executed lazy passes and seemed content with letting the Coyotes dictate the pace of the game.

In short, they played with muted passion and poor execution.

If you need proof of this beyond the loss itself, consider the performance of Detroit's captain, Nicklas Lidstrom, who ended the game with zero points and a team worst minus-three rating.

Lidstrom's poor performance was by no means unique, as the majority of the Red Wings' players vastly underperformed with a precious few exceptions, forward Henrik Zetterberg (2 A, even) being one of these.

Rookie goalie Jimmy Howard played a marginally decent game.

However, the fourth goal he gave up, at 8:22 of the third period, was less than two minutes after Johan Franzen got the Wings within a goal of tying the score at three. It was a soft goal and effectively halted any momentum the Wings had going after the Franzen goal.

In the end, Detroit's lack of intensity, not lack of skill, cost them Game Three of this series and put them down 2-1.

This is not to take anything away from the Coyotes, quite the opposite.

They've proved all year long and over the first three games of this series that playing with a passion to compete and executing your game plan is the key to winning.

And, for those who might be hoping that Shane Doan is out of this series, don't.

First of all, Shane Doan is a great and honorable player and the playoffs are better with him on the ice.

Second, the Coyotes have also proved that, they don't only survive but thrive in the face of adversity.

Having Shane Doan out of commission and thus, turning this series into a "win one for the Gipper" scenario is the last thing the Red Wings want.

No, if the Red Wings are to come back and win this series, they will need to dig deep (man, there's another cliche I can't seem to out-run) and realize that, for all the talent they've had over the years and still boast today, it's been their passion and execution that's lead to success.

The Red Wings need to rediscover what it means to play with intensity.

That being said, this shouldn't be a hard task. All they have to do is watch the team they've been playing against the past three games.