DETROIT -- On the one hand, the Detroit Red Wings couldn't be happier about their penalty-killing units in their first two Western Conference Quarterfinal games of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Detroit has killed all 12 power plays that were granted to the Nashville Predators and the Red Wings haven't allowed a power-play goal in the last nine games dating back to the conclusion of the regular season -- totaling 37 straight successful penalty kills.
On the other hand, the Wings also took significantly more penalties in the first two games than they'd averaged per game all season.
"I have no idea how many in a row it's been," Red Wings defenseman Jonathan Ericsson said of the penalty-kill streak. "The last two games there, have been a bit too many penalties we've taken. We don't really want that."
What they do want is to continue doing the things that have sparked such recent success while playing with less skaters -- such as blocking shots in bunches, clearing out loose rebounds and winning faceoffs inside the defensive zone.
"I think we've just been doing a great job frustrating them, blocking shots, taking away passing lanes and just working hard out there," said Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard, who's also been a big part of the defensive special teams unit's hot stretch. "I really think it's the sacrificing [of] the body, the way we've been blocking shots. Guys have been putting their bodies on the line out there. It's not easy to step in front of Shea Weber's shot. Guys have been doing it."
The Wings have also been doing it without the help of two top penalty killers -- Darren Helm and captain Nicklas Lidstrom. Helm is out for the remainder of the playoffs after severing tendons in his forearm in Game 1, while Lidstrom isn't playing on either penalty-kill unit because of a deep bone bruise on his foot that's susceptible to getting hit again by a hard shot -- which is what caused the initial injury.
"Not having [Helm] out there is a huge blow," Howard said on Saturday. "With his speed and everything ... he gets up ice and then disrupts the flow of their breakouts. But at the same time, guys are stepping up and that's great to see."
Speaking of things to see, Howard's been having a difficult time seeing shots because of traffic in front of the net caused primarily by Patric Hornqvist -- who said he patterned his net-front game after fellow countryman Tomas Holmstrom.
Though Hornqvist hasn't scored yet on the power play, he's definitely making his presence felt in front of Howard.
"He's just like [Holmstrom]," Howard said. "He's really going to get his stick on pucks. As a goalie, he just makes your life miserable out there. He's a hard guy to move as well."
That's why it's nice to have the big body of Ericsson back from a wrist fracture that kept him out for much of the final stretch in the regular season. Ericsson's play in all situations has been noticeably improved this season, especially since his return, but especially so while killing penalties.
"That was one of my goals before the season and from the meetings I had, was to take a step on the penalty kill and become a bigger factor for the team," Ericsson said. "That's how I wanted to contribute. I think I got better throughout the year on the penalty kill, but you're always working as a unit out there. Everyone has to work together. It's not one player or two."