Game 5 Preview: Hold off the Preds

Friday night’s game in Nashville will feature two very desperate teams. One team will try to be the first team in Stanley Cup playoffs advance to the second round. The other team will be trying to avoid a first round collapse for the first time since 2006 (Steve Yzerman’s last game as a Red Wing). The Red Wings have much to play for in their Game 5 matchup against the Predators. Prognosticators, writers, analysts, and fans alike have pegged the Wings as 'old'. Mathematically, they’re correct; Detroit is the oldest team in the league. However, it's pretty hard to argue that the Red Wings playing 'old'. They've dominated the play against the Preds in this series in terms of shots and puck possession. In Game 5, Pekka Rinne will be doing his best to give these same people another reason to call the Wings old. His series .942 save percentage is the fifth best in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Wings should expect much of the same tomorrow night, but that doesn't mean they can't win. Two or three goals should be plenty to beat a team that rarely controls the puck in the Wings' zone.

Additionally, Nashville's "vaunted" power play is an abysmal 10.5% (14th place of the 16 playoff teams). After taking this into consideration, it becomes evident that Jimmy Howard will have to play his best game to date in order for the Wings to extend their stay. Nashville has been converting on their chances in a very timely fashion, preying on Detroit miscues. Kevin Klein was able to capitalize when THREE Detroit defenseman converged on Martin Erat and Klein was able to bang in the puck into a wide open net. Not only will Howard have to step up, but Detroit will have to tighten up defensively. It's one thing to be dominant in the attacking zone for most of the game, but that dominance doesn't matter much when the other team scores a couple softies when given the opportunity.

These kinds of breakdowns and defensive gaps come down to coaching. Although Mike Babcock is considered one of the league’s best coaches, a brief 5 game stint against the Preds isn't something that will boost his resume. Look for Babs to come out with a game plan against the Preds that will smother them early and often. He'll be re-enforcing attention to detail and physical play. 

In general, Red Wings fans should be pretty confident that their team will be able to extend this series at least one more game. Recent history tells us that the Wings were able to hold off the Sharks three times last year when facing elimination. It's also important to mention that this could very well be Nick Lidstrom's last game wearing the Winged Wheel, so the team will have no excuses to come out flat. The Wings need to come out and score a quick goal to complement the dominant puck possession they have displayed. If Nashville goes up by two at any point in this game, the Wings' chances become as good as Raffi Torres playing again in this year's playoffs.
 
The Red Wings have an opportunity to disprove everyone who thinks they are old, to keep their coach from looking out-coached, and to give their ‘other’ legendary captain at least one more chance to lace up his stakes at The Joe. In 2006, we all watched Stevie walk into the dressing room in Edmonton with his head down. You can bet your bottom dollar the Red Wings will come out swinging tomorrow night. That's a guarantee.

 

 

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