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Round 2
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Stanley Cup Final

Wings still see room for improvement

Wednesday, 04.22.2009 / 10:27 AM / 2009 Playoffs Conference Quarterfinals

By Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer

"It seems like the teams that are doing it right now in the playoffs are the teams that have a maturity about them that is exceptional. Those teams with this knowledge of pressure-position are having success like Boston, Anaheim, Vancouver and Detroit. They can play with a level of intensity, but the maturity of their positional play has made them very successful. They don't give up odd-man rushes, they don't give up easy opportunities and the only opportunities you get are in the zone, it usually doesn't happen as a result of breakdowns or breakaways."
-- Ken Hitchcock

COLUMBUS -- There's still a sense emanating from within the Detroit Red Wings dressing room that the best is yet to come.

And this, even after shutting down the Columbus Blue Jackets' offense for a third-straight game en route to taking a commanding 3-0 lead in this best-of-7 Western Conference Quarterfinal. The Wings scored a 4-1 victory at Nationwide Arena Tuesday in Game 3.

"We can play better; I've seen us play a lot better defensively," said Red Wings goalie Chris Osgood, who is now 3-0 with a microscopic 0.66 goals-against average in this series. "We could have played better in the second half of (Game 3). The good thing about this team is we forget what we've done one game and move on and treat each game like a separate game. We'll now focus on Game 4 and what we need to do to improve."

"You can always play better and do things a little bit better," Red Wings forward Henrik Zetterberg said. "We take it game-by-game, so we'll go out and have a good practice (Wednesday) and then go for the fourth one."

A victory in Game 4 on Thursday in Columbus (7 p.m. ET, TSN) will enable the Red Wings to become the first defending Stanley Cup champion to reach the second round of the playoffs since the Colorado Avalanche in 2002.

If there's any room for improvement in Detroit's game, inquiring minds would like to know right about now. The Wings are clicking on all cylinders, outscoring the Blue Jackets by a 12-2 margin. Of those 12 goals, nine different players have scored at least once, including a team-leading three by Zetterberg.

"We try and roll four lines as much as possible and different players get opportunities and that's when you take advantage," Zetterberg said. "It's especially important to do that now in the playoffs."

In addition to the goals, the club has made a concerted effort to stand up and be counted defensively.

"It seems like the teams that are doing it right now in the playoffs are the teams that have a maturity about them that is exceptional," Columbus coach Ken Hitchcock said. "Those teams with this knowledge of pressure-position are having success like Boston, Anaheim, Vancouver and Detroit. They can play with a level of intensity, but the maturity of their positional play has made them very successful. They don't give up odd-man rushes, they don't give up easy opportunities and the only opportunities you get are in the zone, it usually doesn't happen as a result of breakdowns or breakaways."

Still, Detroit coach Mike Babcock did find a chink in his team's armor.

"I thought (Columbus) had a real good push (on Tuesday)," Babcock said. "They missed the net 13 times and we had 46 shots directed towards our net and we had 35. That doesn't happen to us very often."

That discrepancy notwithstanding, the Red Wings did a masterful job in their positioning on the ice while allowing Osgood (31 saves) to see most of the shots. And when those attempts did get through, the 36-year-old goalie corralled each and every rebound.

"Whenever Columbus got a chance, Ozzie was there to make the save," Zetterberg said. "He's been really good and that's the way he plays. He gives everyone else confidence as well."

If Detroit's best is yet to come, that certainly doesn't bode well for those future opponents of the defending Stanley Cup champion.

It means a lot to us, we're very excited. We're looking to continue to build on [our] top core talent of young players. It's just a great opportunity for us to really build high.

— Panthers vice president of hockey operations Travis Viola after Florida won the No. 1 pick in the NHL Draft Lottery