Let me start by saying sorry to miss the post for game 2. I was remarkably busy Saturday and didn’t get a chance to write it up.
I thought Nasville was the better team for almost all sixty minutes of the game Sunday. Even when defending their lead late in the game and letting Detroit just keep coming at them Nashville was playing the game they wanted to play. I will grant that they did have some luck on their side during that stretch in the 3rd where they allowed the Wings to just keep coming at them but whether intentional or not they were able to get that strategy to work out. The Wings kept coming and getting more confident with each push. Eventually they got a little overconfident and over extended, Nashville turns that into an odd man rush and get’s the eventual game winning goal.
The Wings were prone to a lack of movement in that game, particularly on powerplay and occassionally on defense (see Kevin Klein’s goal). While the Wings have had, surprisingly, the better powerplay in the series I don’t think that the credit should fall on Detroit. In game 3 we saw how predictable that powerplay can be as the Wings struggled to maintain the offensive zone and when they did they were not able to manufacture many chances. Nashville’s penalty kill is generally able to just camp out in a basic box and take away the strong majority of passing and shooting lanes away from Detroit.
Compare that to the Nashville powerplay that is routinely generating chances but due to either misfortune or one Lord James Howard III are not able to capitalize. Nashville’s cross crease passed on the powerplay are quite remarkable. If they start putting more of them on the tape and getting good shots away the Nashville powerplay is going to end this series.
One last point of concern on the Wings is the defensive pairing of Ian White and Kyle Quincey. White isn’t a slouch defensively but it certainly isn’t the strongest aspect of his game. Kyle Quincey, on the other hand, reminds me of a poor man’s Brian Rafalski. His defensive play is just painful to watch. His position is poor, his stick work is poor, and his decision making in the defensive zone is poor. Add that to his less than stellar offensive game and I think the Wings probably regret losing that first round pick, weak draft pool or not. Having the two weakest defensive defenseman on the same pairing is not working and I would like to see Brendan Smith get a shot if Quincey doesn’t turn things around in game 4.
And now for something completely different.
Watching the Stanley cup playoffs this year I see a disturbing trend in the general play. At what point did “playoff intensity” in professional hockey change from “raising one’s effort and general level of play” to “doing whatever you can get away with to win”? There are little chippy type things like maybe an extra little shove after a hit that doesn’t bother me at all. Is it not neccessary? Most definitely, but that’s acceptable run-off from an elevated emotional and physical investment in the playoffs. What bothers me is the tendency I see towards hits aimed high, often at the head, and the frequency with which the elbows are coming up. Rather than playing harder players are tending towards playing dirty to get the edge.
The Philly-Pittsburgh series is full of it. The San Jose-St. Louis series has seen it’s fair share. The Wings and the Preds are not immune. I’ve see a few Predator’s players aiming hits high or getting their elbows up. The most notable player on the Detroit participating is Johan Franzen. He is playing mad rather than playing hard and it’s causing him to go out of his way to take some dumb penalties. I can’t remember if the preds have capitalized on any one particular stupid Franzen penalty, but he keeps taking them I am certain that they will at some point.
But as a fan of sport it saddens me to see this transition. Sport is supposed to be a contest of ability and physical prowess within a particular rule set. Breaking the rules for the sake of winning doesn’t show commitment, dedication, or heart. It displays a lack of confidence in the skill that should be on display. Sadly winning validates that behavior and it seems to have invaded the psyche of athletes throughout the league. When players play like this it shortens, and in the worst cases ends, careers and cheapens victories. When that happens the fans lose too and the sport becomes meaningless. Hockey is too great a thing to be lost this way so let’s hope that this is an anomaly rather than a glimpse into the future of the sport.
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