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Red Wings plan few changes for Game 4

Thursday, 05.29.2008 / 1:00 PM / 2008 Stanley Cup Playoffs

By John Kreiser - NHL.com Columnist


Detroit Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock says
his team intends to stick to their game plan to get
the series back to Joe Louis Arena, with a chance to win the Stanley Cup at home in Game 5.
Stanley Cup Final Game 3 highlights   
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PITTSBURGH – "Panic" is a word you won't find in the Detroit Red Wings' dictionary.
 
Sure, the Wings lost Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final to the Pittsburgh Penguins, reducing their lead in the series to 2-1. But that doesn't mean the Wings plan to go running around, making a lot of changes – either in strategy or personnel.
 
"I think we had a pretty good game, but they ended up on top," captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. "We knew it wasn't going to be easy. They're playing real well, too. So you have to stick with the game plan that we have.
 
The Wings have no intention of making major alterations to that game plan. They out-shot the Penguins 34-24 and dominated most of the first and third periods. This time, though, coach Mike Babcock said, the Penguins got the bounces they didn't get in the first two games.
 
"I thought last game they had better puck luck than they had in our building," Babcock said. "We turned the puck over. When we turned the puck over when nothing was going on, on a set breakout, out, they shot the puck, it bounced right back to them.  They banked another one from below the goal line. It didn't bounce to them in our building."
 
Nor is Babcock going to get down on his team – or himself – about losing one game, even one as important as Wednesday night's.
 
"No sense beating yourself up over it," he said. "We didn't win the game. It's a new day tomorrow. It's a new day today. It's sunny. Let's go."
 
Coaches always have the temptation after a loss to overthink and overanalyze, looking for something they might have done wrong. Babcock said it can be a tough trap to avoid.
 
"I had a lot of questions in the Dallas series," he said. "We lost two games (after winning the first three) and everyone was talking about, 'you're going to change this, change that.' We said, 'No, we're not changing that. This is what we do.' And if we needed to change something, we'd change it.
 
"But it was interesting to me is last night their coach went back to the way they were. Why is that? Sometimes you get in the way, too, as the coach. I think you have to be real careful of that. We've got to go back to our simple foundation, our blueprint, whatever we call it, the same thing we worked on at training camp, the same thing that's led to success.  And I believe under pressure you go back to who you are anyway – so do what you do."
 
One tweak Babcock does figure to make in Game 4 is to make sure his top forwards actually see a little less ice time. Henrik Zetterberg played 24:40 in Game 3, the most of any forward in any game this series, while Pavel Datsyuk played 22:40. Babcock said that won't happen again.
 
"Our plan going into the game last night was to have our shifts at 35 seconds," Babcock said. "So you say that, as a coach, you know that means 40. When they end up at 51 seconds and you pile that on over a period of time, 29 or 28 shifts end up to be too many minutes.
           
"Don't get me wrong: These guys are elite, elite players and they're trying to win.  And sometimes in doing that, instead of just doing your part, you're on the ice too much," he added. "I thought we did that fine last night, except we overplayed some guys and our shift length was too long as a group, and in the end, we didn't get the flow we wanted."
 
Zetterberg agreed that the long shifts took a toll.
 
"I think last night, the shifts were a little too long," he said. "That's what happens when you want to do too much. It's easy to stay out a little bit longer, and you get tired."
 
The Wings have lost two of their three Game 4s in this year's Playoffs – all of which have been played on the road, as is this one. Moreover, they're playing a team that hasn't lost a home game in more than three months: The Penguins are 17-0 at Mellon Arena since a 2-1 shootout loss to San Jose on Feb. 24.
 
"I think they feed off the fans here," Lidstrom said. "I think last night they came out with lots of energy, and I think the fans really help them with that.  I think they feel confident playing here at home – so as a road team coming in here you have to play real well in your own end, and you have to make them play defense, too. I thought at times we were able to do that in that third period, but we have to stick with it even longer."
 
The Red Wings dominated the last half of the third period, scoring once and forcing Marc-Andre Fleury to make a number of fine saves to preserve the lead. Lidstrom feels the strong finish is something his team can build on going into Game 4.
 
"We're trying to take the good things we did with us to the next game," he said. "I thought we finished the game strong. We had some chances to tie the game up, as well.  That's something you want to build on. You want to carry it into Game 4 and take the good things with you, and I think that's one of the things we can take with us – that third period, where we played real hard."

Quote of the Day

We've got a team filled with captains, that's what I think. With these first two games we got in, we're really dominating and moving the puck really fast, and it's worked out really good.

— U.S. goalie Brandon Halverson after a 6-0 win against Germany in the World Junior Championship on Sunday