With Game 1 set for Friday night it’s time for the Detroit Red Wings to start removing the rust in preparation for their second round match-up the San Jose Sharks. These two teams have many similarities however their paths to this point were polar opposites. The Sharks required 6 games and 3 OT wins to eliminate a worthy Kings opponent while the Red Wings walked right over the Coyotes in 4 games. This series will be the most entertaining hockey you will find in the second round and the winner will most definitely represent the Western Conference in the Stanley Cup finals….so buckle up and get ready for a fast paced high scoring series.
The regular season series between these two teams was won by the Sharks 3-1. Detroit’s only win against the Sharks took place last year in November so it has been a while since this Detroit team has been able to best a deep Shark’s line-up. San Jose enters this series having just gone to war with Los Angeles so they have been in playoff mode for quite some time now; the same cannot be said for a Detroit team that hasn’t played a game in over a week now. With two key injuries to Detroit’s Zetterberg and Franzen it will be important for Detroit to find a way to get back into the playoff mode immediately as every inch and every game of this series will be of the utmost importance.
This series will be close and will more than likely go 7 games so it’s there for either to team have; below I have listed a few keys to victory for both teams…. however I feel that goaltending will be the “X” Factor in this series and the team that has their goaltender step up to the challenge will likely walk away with the big W.
Detroit Keys to Victory:
1) Puck Control: This is Detroit’s bread and butter; they do it better than anyone so it will be key against San Jose for them to focus on this aspect of their game. Even with Zetterberg and Franzen in the line-up the Wings don’t stack up to the Sharks forwards on paper. Puck control will be important to the Wings not only for their offense.. but rather to keep the Sharks forwards from having time with it.
2) Powerplay: Next to puck control the Wings powerplay is their second best asset. The Sharks are a physical team and based on the officiating I have seen thus far I’m assuming the Wings will end out with more PP opportunities than the Sharks so it will be important for them to make sure they capitalize on these opportunities.
3) Injuries-Rust: It has been a while since the Wings have played a game; it will be important that they find a way to match the Sharks intensity and physicality the moment this series begins on Friday night. It sounds like Franzen will be good to go on Friday so it will be important for him to find a way of maximizing his output and production immediately. Zetterberg is still a question mark for this series; if they Wings have any hope of beating the Sharks they will need his assistance sooner or later in this series.
San Jose Keys to Victory:
1) Play Physical: The Sharks are a team full of Canadians who like to take the body; and the Wings…. are not. It will be important for the Sharks to take the body every opportunity they have to limit the time and space that the crafty wings have. The Sharks should also make a point of chipping and chasing to Lidstrom’s corner as often as possible; he still is a talented defender however if the Sharks target him they should be able to wear his older body down.
2) Shut Down Datsyuk: Pavel Datsyuk seemed to have all the time and space he wanted against the Phoenix Coyotes. He is elusive but not invisible… I am typically not a fan of the match-up game but in this particular situation I am positive the Sharks need to find a line to play against Datsyuk. I think Pavelski is the man for the job as he will be able to match Datsyuk’s speed and craftiness. The entire Wings offense runs through Pavel and if the Sharks can find a way to shut him down they will shut the Wings down.
3) Stay Disciplined: This will be a tough task; the Sharks play a physical game and the Wings don’t. As we saw with the Montreal – Boston series when only one team hits they typically end out with a majority of the penalties. Being too undisciplined against the Wings will be the Sharks demise. They have to find a way to play on that fine line that so many teams struggle with otherwise the Detroit powerplay will fill the net.
X-FACTOR: Goaltending is definitely the X-factor in this series.. Niemi does have a Cup but his play through the first round would suggest otherwise. Howard had a good regular season but still hasn’t stepped up in the playoffs yet (although he didn’t have to in the first round). I’m positive that whichever team gets a solid performance between the pipes will prevail between these two Western Conference juggernauts..
Prediction: Sharks in 7
About the Author
Written by Kirk Butler
Born and raised in Murray Harbour - PEI. Like many Canadians hockey is my religion; as a kid I had the pleasure of playing my minor hockey with Conn Smythe winner Brad Richards of the 2004 Stanley Cup winning Tampa Bay Lightning. I played competitive hockey until the age of 21 which included stops in the American Prep School System, Canadian Junior Hockey and the CIS. I now get my competitive fix on the golf course as a scratch golfer. More to come: Kirk Butler PEI, Canada