Shame on me for not posting about the Wings' 6-5 sweep victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets what feels like ages ago - while it might not have been the team's greatest victory (congrats to the Jackets and their fans for putting up the fight that they did; your team has a bright future ahead of it), it was a victory nonetheless which means the Wings have moved on to their next opponent - the Anaheim Ducks, a team that the past few years have turned into a pretty big rival.
Of course this preview is late as well, but let's just pretend no one noticed that.
Keys to Winning:
First and foremost the Ducks are one of the most physical teams in the league, and a huge part of this series is going to rest on the Wings' ability to deal with this and yet remain healthy. They have to play physically, but also stay smart - the Ducks are good at getting under other teams' skin, and there's a huge difference between playing pissed and letting that anger make you stupid. Unfortunately, staying healthy isn't always something a team has much control over (and the Wings are already missing Andreas Lilja, Kris Draper, and, at least for Game 1, Brian Rafalski), and thus there are plenty of other things the Wings are going to have to do if they want to move on. In line with this, the biggest factor in this series is going to be discipline. The Wings and Ducks both have some serious powerplays, but the advantage the Wings have here is that they've done much better than the Ducks at staying out of the box, averaging 10 minutes in the box per game to the Ducks' 17.
Another factor that could turn the series in Detroit's favor is their success at screening the goaltender. While the Ducks' Jonas Hiller looked great in the first round against the Sharks, the Wings will test him early, often, and constantly with the amount of pucks they put on the net in any given game, and even more importantly have some of the best screeners in the game to block his view and tip pucks in - guys like Tomas Holmstrom, Johan Franzen, and Dan Cleary. Hiller may be strong, but a lot of that is the Ducks defense in front of him - a team that shut down Steve Mason as easily as the Wings didn't shouldn't have a big problem putting pucks past Hiller, especially with the lineup and the depth they have.
Around the Web:
Friday, May 1 at Detroit, 7:00 p.m. VERSUS, TSN2 Sunday, May 3 at Detroit, 2:00 p.m. NBC, TSN Tuesday, May 5 at Anaheim, 10:30 p.m. VERSUS, TSN Thursday, May 7 at Anaheim, 10:30 p.m. VERSUS, TSN *Sunday, May 10 at Detroit, 5:00 p.m. TSN *Tuesday, May 12 at Anaheim, TBD VERSUS, TSN *Thursday, May 14 at Detroit, TBD VERSUS, TSN
The usual Detroit culprits can be found at:
I know Game 1 is already over and the Wings won 3-2 (expect that post soon!) but I still felt the need to post a preview, because I expect this to be a hell of a series. I want to say the Wings will win, but I feel like, given the Ducks' gritty performances so far, and the outcome of tonight's game, that it may take 7 games to do it.
I leave you with one of my favorite Mike Babcock quotes ever, on my favorite Wings rookie and Grand Rapids favorite Jonathan Ericsson:
"Big body. Actually, he looks like Chris Pronger. Except for the cross checking."Awesome. GO WINGS!