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22 May 2008

Keys To Beating The Red Wings

The 4th and Final Installment of the Playoffs. Pretty kick ass to be able to say that.

I've been taking some time with this one because the Red Wings are a much different type of matchup than what the Pens have gotten so far in the playoffs. The Red Wings have speed, they can pass the puck extremely well. Their transition game is excellent. They play their system about as good as any team in the league. They aren't very physical but they are a puck possession team..

1. Get physical with the Red Wings. It worked out for Anaheim last season. The Red Wings like I noted are a puck possession team. They are very systematic. Guys like Brian Rafalski will avoid physical contact to move the puck. The Wings are a good transition team. Playing physical with them, slows their game down. It also is the Pens best chance to force the Red Wings into turning the puck over. The Pens need to finish checks, rub guys out along the boards, smack a few open ice hits. Get it in the back of their head that the Pens aren't just a run n gun team.

2. Don't Press. The Red Wings are similar in a way to the Devils. They play their system well and it could fristrate the Pens. The Pens need to take what is given. They don't want to be pressing against Detroit and make ugly turnovers anywhere on the ice because Detroit can turn that around quickly.

3. 2 Way Play. The Pens forwards have been stellar in their 2 way play this playoffs and that will definitely need to continue against Detroit. With Detroits passing game and transition game, the Will need all of the players on the ice to get involved to not only defend against the Red Wings but to create turnovers and chances for themselves.

4. Holmstrom Factor. This could go beyond Homstrom but right now the guy is the best crease player in the league. He goes there and he parks his 200 lbs. ass in front of opposing goalies and screens and often times interferes. The Pens need to clear Holmstrom from the crease and not allow him or any other Red Wings play to camp out in front of Fleury. Detroit has defensemen that can and will shoot. Detroit makes it's living out of screen and crease play. The Pens are going to have to more than clear the crease, block pucks well, lift sticks, take away good shooting angles.

5. Malkin Line has to be superb. Crosby's line should get Lidstrom which means the Malkin Line should have a little mroe freedom. They have to produce and Malkin (along with Crosby) can't be throwing desperation blind passes all series long against Detroit.

6. Forecheck. If there was a series for the Pens to need a physical forecheck it's this one. Detroit's defense isn't real physical and some of them lke to Whitney out on the play and avoid contact. The Pens need to forecheck strong and take away that possession game of Detroit and make it their own.

7. Park some bodies in the crease. Osgood looks good because he's not being challenged. Opposition isn't shooting a lot and considering the Pens aren't a big shooting team, this means that when they do shoot they have to be quality chances. Like any goaltender, if you create traffic in front of Osgood, you're doing yourself a favor. Our blueliners are going to have to shoot more and our forwards are going to have to crash the net more and create chaos for Detroit. Detroit isn't exactly a team that will punish you for being in their crease, so do it.

8. Steal a game in Detroit and continue playing strong at home. I don't want this to go 7 games, which means the Pens wil have to continue taking care of business at home and steal one from the empty seated Joe in "hockey town".

9. Shutdown the Red Wings first Line. I will assume that Detroit is going to run their first line against our first line and when we get home ice, I'm going to assume that Therrien will try to match Staal's line against the Zteerberg/Datsyuk line. The Red Wings don't have great secondary scoring especially with Franzen being out. Even with Franzen in there, the guy was racking up ridiculous stats against an injury plagued Colorado team. He was average at best against Nashville. I have no problems with the Crosby Line and Datsyuk Lines coming to a draw since I believe we have better depth scoring.

10. Special Teams. Both teams have been excellent scoring and keeping teams from scoring on Special Teams in the playoffs. Something is going to break in this series. Pens simply need to continue with their strong Penalty Killing but the Power Play has to start clicking. This is the most jeckyl and Hide Power Play I've ever seen. If they aren't scoring a goal, the Pens PP looks like complete crap, which means they look like crap more than 70% of the time. Create more chances, shoot more and make Detroit work hard. Often times the Power Play looks like it is making it really easy for the opposition.

Those are my 10. I left off individual stuff that is kind a redundant like Fleury etc... We all know that individual players need to play well. We know that we need strong goaltending, disciplined and well positioned defensive play. We need the defense to be making good smart first passes in the transition game etc... These are all things commonly needed to win. The above 10 things weren't neccesarily things we've had to do in all of the series we've been in. We've played teams where we've been able to work through the neutral zone on with ease. We've faced teams that either played good system defense (Rags) or played bad defense (Flyers). We've yet faced a team that can move the puck and score as well as Detroit.

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