The Columbus Blue Jackets
have three players in their lineup who have helped eliminate the Detroit Red Wings
in the playoffs in recent years -- defenseman Mike Commodore
with Calgary in 2004 and Michael Peca
and Raffi Torres
with Edmonton in 2006. These veterans have a first-hand respect for the Wings, but they also have some good advice for their young Columbus teammates.
Commodore was front and center at the Blue Jackets’ pre-series dinner Wednesday night.
"I knew many of these guys had never experienced the playoffs," Commodore explained. "It's all intensity and emotion and keeping your head at the most frenzied times.
"I told the guys to try to keep an even keel. I know that sounds cliché, but it's important. It would have been important if we had won the first game (instead of losing Game 1, 4-1, Thursday night). It's important to look back right after the game and single out the things we could have done better.
"Then you forget it all, because there's another game, with more challenges on Saturday."
To the 29-year-old Commodore from Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta, who went to the Final in 2004 with the Flames and lost in seven games to Tampa Bay and then came back in '06 and won it all with Carolina against Edmonton, you can't pick your poison against the Red Wings because they have so many weapons -- on offense and defense.
"The key is to get in and hit Nicklas Lidstrom
and Brian Rafalski
and Niklas Kronwall
as often as we can. They make that team's transition game work," Commodore said.
That didn't work in Game 1, where Detroit actually outhit the Blue Jackets 19-7 in the first period and 37-26 for the game.
"It's all about making them play our game and take them off theirs," Commodore continued. "The key is Pavel Datsyuk
and Henrik Zetterberg
and Marian Hossa
and Tomas Holmstrom
and a couple of others are all great players. And we can't go around trying to catch up to them. We have to initiate. Make them play our game."
Commodore talked about the strength of the Red Wings being at center. He said the Blue Jackets had to keep those centers from skating up the middle of the ice. That, plus hitting the Wings defense, and lastly getting more than 21 shots on Detroit goalie Chris Osgood
Coach Ken Hitchcock liked his team's start, but he thought their attention to detail, particularly in the faceoff circle, cost the Blue Jackets.
"The game was right there for us halfway through the first period," Hitchcock said. "That's when they took over the faceoff dots and started to control the game. Once they started to control the faceoff dots, they started to have the puck a lot more.
"We put two in our own net, but it started to turn halfway through the second period when they started to win faceoffs."
Detroit won 32 of 56 faceoffs for a 57 percent success rate.
Hitchcock said blocking shots is an art, but not when you can only get a piece of the shot and not deflect the shot wide. Jonathan Ericsson
's goal went in off Manny Malhotra
's glove and Kronwall had his quick wrister go in off Jan Hejda
Hitchcock said he would make some lineup changes for Game 2 (Saturday, 6 p.m. ET, NHL Network US, TSN), but would not elaborate on what those changes might be.
and Derek Dorsett
are two forwards who bring a robust snarl to the lineup with their hitting and power moves to the net. That might be Hitchcock's secret.