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Noel: Red Wings' resilience has been impressive

by Mike G. Morreale /

For additional insight into the Eastern Conference First Round series between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Detroit Red Wings, has enlisted the help of Claude Noel to break down the action. Noel will be checking in throughout the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Noel was coach for the Winnipeg Jets from 2011-14 and interim coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2009-10. He also coached many years in the minor leagues, including the American Hockey League. In addition, Noel, a former forward, had 138 points in 353 regular-season games in the AHL and played seven games in the NHL with Washington Capitals in 1979-80.

The Detroit Red Wings showed great resilience and veteran moxie in beating the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-0 in Game 5 of their Eastern Conference First Round series against the Tampa Bay Lightning and taking a 3-2 lead in their best-of-7 series on Saturday.

Detroit can advance to the second round with a win in Game 6 at Joe Louis Arena on Monday (7 p.m. ET; CBC, CNBC, TVA Sports, FS-F, FS-D).

Claude Noel was extremely impressed with how focused, structured and determined the Red Wings were after what he called a demoralizing defeat in Game 4 on Thursday.

"Detroit was on the road and basically just shut them right down," Noel said. "That bounce-back was impressive. Talk about a demoralizing loss [Thursday], but there was no residue from that Game 4, that bump in the road. And to me that was impressive."

The Lightning seemed to have plenty of motivation and momentum entering Game 5 at home, one game after Tyler Johnson scored in overtime to cap a three-goal rally for a 3-2 win in Game 4 in Detroit.

But Detroit shut Tampa Bay down in Game 5.

"That's experience within the room, the coaching staff and with the players," Noel said. "You have some players there who have been through a lot, guys who have been around and guys having confidence in their team. The game went exactly like Game 4, but only this time they kept it up for a full 60 [minutes]."

Detroit again did a sensational job in stalling Tampa Bay's offense. Goaltender Petr Mrazek made 28 saves for his second shutout of the series, and forward Justin Abdelkader had a game-high nine hits in 17 minutes of ice time.

"To me the checking game of Detroit gave them nothing," Noel said. "Detroit's back pressure was really good, through the neutral zone they were hard. They always had three or four guys back and really forced Tampa Bay to try and get pucks deep. There was really nothing happening through two periods [for Tampa Bay]; they didn't have a lot of offensive chances. That's what Detroit did in Game 4 and they continued to do the same."

By back pressure, or tracking, Noel was referring to the pressure applied by Detroit from the back or side of a Tampa Bay puck carrier that eliminated the skater's ability to make a play. Once the offensive player felt that pressure he typically was forced to dump the puck or turn it over. It was a plan that worked to perfection all game long for Detroit. It's something Detroit has been good at, but in Game 5 it was exceptional.

"Detroit was making a concerted effort to quickly get on the defensive side of the puck between the puck carrier and the goal cage," Noel said. "It happens quickly and sometimes comes in little spurts. But it worked well."

While the Lightning won the battles in the faceoff circle by a wide margin (41-23), most of those faceoff wins didn't lead to long possession time for them.

"To me it was more about the lack of space for Tampa Bay and that says a lot about the checking game," Noel said. "There was no room to move or skate through the neutral zone and the back pressure played a part in that."

To extend the series to a seventh game, the Lightning need to win Game 6 at Joe Louis Arena. To do that the Lightning will need to do a better job at getting pucks deep in the Red Wings zone which will allow them to get their offense into high gear.

"Tampa needs to get those pucks deep to get some forechecking pressure and capitalize on their power play," Noel said. "They need to be able to play their game, which is an offensive game. But they have to play a fast, north/south style, get those pucks deep and get them on the forecheck."

Detroit, meanwhile, just needs to have Mrazek continue his superb play in net and maintain its effective checking game to close the series.


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