Game 4 a Must Win... for Detroit

Matt Hutter@mahutter12Analyst IJune 4, 2009

PITTSBURGH - JUNE 02:  Jordan Staal #11 of the Pittsburgh Penguins skates against Henrik Zetterberg #40 of the Detroit Red Wings during Game Three of the 2009 NHL Stanley Cup Finals on June 2, 2009 at Mellon Arena in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Most teams and players will tell you that every game in the Stanley Cup Finals is a "must win."

This makes some sense in that each win gets you one step closer to the Cup, but honestly, some games are more important than others.

Some games truly are a "must win" game.

Tonight's game is just that for Detroit.

Being up 2-1 would suggest that they could lose tonight and not be in a particularly bad position because they'd still have three more chances to win two games.

The problem is, so would Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh played a determined, focused game in Game Three.  Despite being out-shot and outplayed for long stretches, the luck the Wings had in Games One and Two migrated to the Penguins side of the ice in Game Three.

They capitalized at key times and Detroit missed some great chances and, like the Pens in Game Two, had two sure goals hit the post.  That's just the kind of puck-luck the Pens were waiting for.

Despite the series' score being identical to last year's, the Penguins aren't looking at this series as the one they lost against Detroit 12 months ago.  They're looking at it as the one they won against Washington a month ago.

The Penguins have life and all the confidence in the world right now that they will win Game Four to even the series.

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Two wins in a row would give this young Penguins team the kind of swagger and confidence that turns underdogs into champions.  And if this series is reduced to a best of three, I'd have to give the edge to Pittsburgh.

This is why Game Four is a must win for Detroit. 

A Red Wings win would not only force the Penguins to the brink of elimination, but would damage their confidence and determination enough to make them an easier team to beat in Game 5.

Think about it.

There is a world of difference between going into a game with a 2-2 series tie, than down 3-1.

Plus, Detroit would be back on their home ice for Game Five.

What needs to happen for the Wings to win

First and foremost, they need to get the penalty kill in shape.

They have struggled on the penalty kill all year, and having watched them over and over again, I can say that this is a case of a strength turning into a weakness.

The Wings are so amazingly skilled at the puck possession game that they have a hard time ever playing out of that mode.

Twice in Game Three, the Wings were on the PK and had a clear lane to ice the puck, but they didn't.

Instead, they waited for a forward to get open for a pass, so they could skate it out of the zone and down for a scoring chance.

As a result, they coughed the puck up and both mistakes lead to goals, including the game winner.

So, Detroit needs to play a simple game on the PK and clear it out when they get the chance rather than look to maintain possession.

Second, and history suggests he's due, Marian Hossa needs to step up.  Every Game Four this post-season, Hossa has scored a pair of goals. Whatever motivates Hossa in these games needs to be front and center in his mind if the Wings are going to win this game and ultimately the series.

Don't get me wrong.

Hossa has played a strong series so far and has been defensively sound.  But the Wings didn't sign him to play defense, they signed him to score big goals in big games.

If Hossa wants his name on the Cup this year, he is going to have to make this Game Four, like all the one's previous to it, his statement game.

What will make this a tough task for Hossa is his opponents.

Say what they will about Hossa being a non-factor in their minds, the Penguins and their fans would love to shut him out on home ice.

Potential big boosts

Draper has been cleared to play and is expected to start tonight.

While his overall effectiveness has dwindled with age, he's still one of the best face-off men in the business and should make the Wings' chances of improving the PK all that much better.

But, the biggest boost of all would be to get No. 13 back in the line-up.

Datsyuk had a full practice yesterday and looked like a kid at Christmas during his press conference.  All indications are that he's ready to go.  But, he took the ice this morning as one of Detroit's "Blake Aces" (players that are a healthy scratch).

Now, this being the playoffs, this may simply be an attempt to confuse the Penguins as to his availability. However, it is very possible that he suffered a setback overnight due to his first full practice in several weeks.

The Wings have proved that they can win without him, but this isn't something they want to have to do for much longer.

The Wings may have the series lead, but they need to play with a Game Seven mentality in the fourth game of the series.

A leveled series will give the Penguins the kind of momentum upsets are made of.

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