Taking Care Of Business

Final (Hi Mr. P!)
Red Wings 6, Coyotes 3
(Red Wings win series 4-0)

I always find it difficult to write about a game that played out pretty much the way you thought it would. No, I’m not trying to claim clairvoyance or anything along those lines. Rather, it’s a matter of understanding the situation and anticipating the moves. We all knew the Red Wings were going to face a stiff test from the Coyotes last night, and the Desert Dogs held up their end of the bargain for the better part of 60 minutes. They were game, they brought the energy and the intensity, and they capitalized on the chances they had to keep the game close and lead for the majority of the contest.

But you just kinda knew…

You just had that feeling that the Wings were playing a little bit of rope-a-dope with Phoenix, especially throughout the third period. The scoring chances were everywhere; spread across the ice like colorful eggs on an Easter morning scavenger hunt. Even when Phoenix took the first of their leads, the Wings kept generating opportunities, most of them of the high quality variety. Bertuzzi, Filppula, Rafalski. Everyone had chances and it was only a matter of time until they started connecting. The third period was that time, and the Wings left no doubt about who was the better team when the final horn sounded. That’s what the good teams do. They finish their business on time and they look confident doing it. The Wings were both tonight, which is refreshing to see from a team that struggled to find their killer instinct throughout much of the regular season.

Am I glad this series is over? Of course. Phoenix was a tricky challenge both on and off the ice, yet the Wings navigated those waters much more smoothly than last season. They’ve earned their rest and let’s hope it does them well. There be rough waters ahead, so the Wings best get prepared. The true tests are yet to come.

Quickly, some additional bullets:

  • Todd Bertuzzi. The man was everywhere last night. Making plays, hitting posts, generally kicking ass. Big Bert’s been playing with an intensity and passion that gets even the most skeptical fans to take notice, and it was good to see him get rewarded with a lucky bounce into the net last night. Bertuzzi’s one of the veterans who seems to have found the fountain of youth this postseason and who looks like he’s finally comfortable in his own skin. He’s one of the key depth pieces that gave Detroit an edge this series and he’ll need to be that same player next series if the Wings are going to make a deep run this year. He may not hit the scoresheet every night, but his playmaking ability below the net should force defenses to pay him some extra respect and allow the slot to open up.
  • It didn’t start well for Jimmy Howard last night, but he pulled it together in the latter stages of the game and got himself back to the form he exhibited during the first three games of the series. It looked like Howard was struggling to see the puck in the early stages of the game, and the first two goals were ones that he undoubtedly wants back. That said, Howard was a rock during the entire series and the more shots he sees and eats up, the better his confidence gets.
  • Darren Helm continues to be a one man wrecking crew despite “slowing down his game” a bit. His forecheck is relentless and forces the opposition into costly turnovers and scoring chances for the Wings. The Eaves goal he assisted on last night was textbook Helm: lay a big hit at the blue line, force the turnover down low, drive to the net and make it count. It wasn’t the prettiest play, but that’s the key to Helm’s success. Mucking, grinding and taking what the defense gives him makes him oh so dangerous, and the more he embraces that, the better the Wings will be.
  • Finally, Niklas Kronwall continues to put together a quietly efficient playoff campaign, despite a sluggish start during the first two games against Phoenix. Following a pair of performances that kept him off the scoresheet, Kronwall went 1-3-6 and +6 on the trip to Phoenix, and led the Wings in TOI in both games 3 and 4, playing over 23 minutes in each game. I know I had plenty of questions surrounding Kronwall heading into these playoffs, but the only one left standing at this point is whether or not he can maintain this play throughout the rest of the playoffs.

One More Thing…
You’ll notice that there’s no mention of the whole “Coyotes to Winnipeg” situation in this post, and that’s by design. All I will say (for now) is that I thought Phoenix brought everything they could last night in an attempt to put on a good show for their fans, and everyone in Jobing.com Arena seemed to appreciate that last night. I know the jokes are running rampant about the potential sale and move of the team, but until something is announced by the league, it’s all conjecture and speculation. If and when something happens, I’ll offer up my own take on the situation. Until then, there’s no point in kicking the bees nest just to get a reaction.

Photo courtesy of Christian Peterson/Getty Images