2011 NHL Playoffs: 5 Reasons Why Detroit Red Wings Are Rolling
Ask anyone who knows me and they'll tell you I'm a stickler for accountability.
It's important to bring this up because I don't want to be confused for some wishy-washy, flip-flopping bandwagoner who's down on his team when it loses and starts getting all high and mighty when it wins.
Truth be told, I'm not yet convinced that the Wings will make it out of their first-round matchup against the Phoenix Coyotes alive.
Sure, they lead the best-of-seven series 2-0 and have looked good getting there.
However, they did start Game 1 down a goal and after jumping out to a dominating 4-0 lead in Game 2, they managed to make things interesting by allowing the 'Yotes to score three unanswered goals before the buzzer sounded to put a timely end to the contest.
As they say, a series doesn't really start until the road team wins a game. So, true judgement of this series to date will have to be reserved until the wee hours of Tuesday morning (the series shifts to Phoenix on Monday, which means the puck will drop at 10:30pm EDT).
However, given their relatively pedestrian regular season, the Red Wings have come to the postseason ready to play, and play well.
Phoenix is no pushover squad, despite what some may say, so nabbing a 2-0 series lead is a very promising (if not unexpected) development.
Make no mistake here—by this time next week, we could be looking at a very different series. The Phoenix Coyotes have a lot of pride and a bit of a chip on their shoulder given their tumultuous ownership situation that, when all is said and done, may see the team relocated to Winnipeg.
For the Coyotes, and their small (OK, tiny), yet dedicated fanbase, it's "us against the world" right now.
That's the kind of spunk upsets are made of.
Still, as of this moment, the Red Wings are clearly in the driver's seat in this series.
Here are five reasons why.
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They Actually Give a Damn Now
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There is nothing good gained in hockey, especially postseason hockey, without it.
Throughout this season, head coach Mike Babcock lamented time and again about his team's lack of this essential ingredient to success.
The players themselves said that, in all honesty, it was tough to get up for a game against the Edmonton Oilers in January when all they really wanted to do was get going in Game 1 in April.
Had they engaged a little more during the season, the Wings may likely have been entering the playoffs as a No. 1 seed...maybe even Presidents' Trophy winners.
However, they're here now and have collectively seemed to have awoken from their 82-game catnap.
When you see Nicklas Lidstrom cursing himself on the bench because he made a less-than-perfect pass, and Johan Franzen emerging from the locker room midgame with a newly rearranged face held together with 21 stitches, refusing to put a visor in front of it (something even his coach found surprising) because it may impede his vision on the ice, you know you're looking at a team that is emotionally invested in what they're doing.
In a Word, "Pavel Datsyuk"...OK, That's Two Words
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As of now, the Red Wings are without Henrik Zetterberg and, mark my words, if he isn't back soon, it will become a large problem in Detroit.
However, no one is really worried about Henrik Zetterberg at the moment mainly because his good buddy Pavel Datsyuk is doing so much amazing stuff on the ice in his absence.
I won't ruin the brilliance Datsyuk has displayed through two games with analysis or hyperbolic pablum.
Suffice to say, if the Stanley Cup playoffs were The Matrix, Pavel Datsyuk would be Neo.
All right, that was hyperbolic pablum, but is there another way to say it?
"Todd Ber-Tu-Zzi...Todd Ber-Tu-Zzi...Todd Ber-Tu-Zzi..."
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Is it just me, or is Todd Bertuzzi emerging as Detroit's X-factor?
Well, I know it's not just me because some 19,000 of my fellow Red Wings fans voiced their approval of Bertuzzi's work loud and clear by chanting his name in Game 1 and cheering his play in Game 2.
Bertuzzi did a lot to set the tone of his team when he took on, albeit briefly and whilst falling, Coyotes defenseman Rostislav Klesla in Game 1.
It not only showed that the Wings were willing to drop the gloves if needed against an unapologetically physical Coyotes squad, but that Bertuzzi is willing to do such dirty work for the good of his team (now, don't start scoffing at "Todd Bertuzzi" and "dirty work" being mentioned in the same sentence. You know what I mean).
In addition to dropping the gloves, Todd Bertuzzi has also worked hard on the forecheck (seriously, did he drop a few more pounds? He seems to have an extra gear now), set up his linemates with some beautiful passes and has bulled his way around the net and along the boards such that the Phoenix players are now fully aware there is no easy ice when No. 44 is on it.
To win a series, a team needs guys to do the things that don't show up on score sheets early, and often.
Right now, Todd Bertuzzi is that guy.
The Lower Part of the Totem Pole Is Providing Some Strong Mojo
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In today's NHL, winning in the playoffs requires a lot of things falling into place at once.
However, for my money, two things are worth more than anything else: your best players playing like your best players, and everyone else attempting to do the same thing.
Indeed, depth, perhaps more than anything, wins Stanley Cups in the post-lockout NHL.
Right now, the likes of Darren Helm, Justin Abdelkader, Drew Miller, Patrick Eaves and Jonathan Ericsson are out-working their opposition and this bodes very well for the Wings' continued success.
It's hard enough trying to contain stars like Pavel Datsyuk, Johan Franzen and Nicklas Lidstrom, but when third- and fourth-line players start giving you fits, you know you're in for a tough series.
Call them lunchpail guys, depth players or also-rans; Detroit's "lesser players" are mounting a serious challenge to that label.
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If the economy were a street gang, and the city of Detroit an innocent bystander walking down the street, what the former has done to the latter would not only be worthy of a death sentence, but it would also make even the most ardent opponent of capital punishment volunteer to throw the switch themself.
Many Detroit Red Wings fans have spent the last few years figuring out how to keep their lights on.
Forget about buying a ticket to a game—they can't afford to pay the cable bill that would allow them to watch it on TV.
As a result, the past few playoff years at Joe Louis Arena have been decidedly less noisy than the players are used to.
They tell us that a rise in employment and new car sales are signs that the economy is slowly starting to recover.
I think the familiar yet nearly forgotten roar coming from the Joe in the first two games of this series, proves better than anything that maybe, just maybe, things are turning around in the American economy.
The fans are back and in full voice in Detroit.
The players know it, and have responded in kind.