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Red Wings look to up tempo, pressure on Rask

by Dan Rosen

DETROIT -- Mike Babcock's feelings about the Detroit Red Wings' struggling offense might be best summed up by the coach's analysis of the impact Boston Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask has had on the Eastern Conference First Round series.

"He's a world-class goalie, skates great, looks great in warm-up," Babcock said. "That's where he's getting his most shots."

In fairness, Rask faced 35 shots in Game 2 and 82 through three games in the best-of-7 series; he's stopped 80 of them, including 57 of the past 58, for a .976 save percentage and 0.67 goals-against average. He's second in the Stanley Cup Playoffs in both categories to Minnesota Wild goalie Darcy Kuemper, who hasn't allowed a goal but has faced only 36 shots.

The fewest goals Detroit has scored in a series which lasted at least five games is eight (twice, in five-game series in 1944 and 2000). The Red Wings, who trail the series 2-1, managed only 23 shots on goal in a 3-0 loss in Game 3 Tuesday, but the number of times they tested Rask fell far short of their total number of shots.

Game 4 is Thursday at Joe Louis Arena (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TSN, NESN, FS-D).

"He's had light nights against us so far," Babcock said. "I really thought with the exception of Game 1 they've done an exceptional job of pushing us out of the middle and putting us on the outside. To me, that's not good enough. You have to be harder, be on the inside, make the goalie work way more. We've been behind so fast in the last two games you don't even get to test Boston because they're just ahead. You've got to have them down to find out if they're any good. We've gotta get on the inside to find out if Rask is doing anything. We haven't got to him."

The Red Wings know the only way they will is if they generate more speed through the neutral zone and get inside the Bruins' defense once they get into the offensive zone. They feel they didn't give themselves a chance to do that in Game 3 because they were too careless with the puck and on line changes that led to turnovers and goals.

Bruins defenseman Dougie Hamilton scored at 9:00 of the first period on a power play created by Detroit having too many men on the ice. Boston forward Jordan Caron scored at 15:48 of the first period after the Red Wings turned the puck over and had a bad line change.

However, even when they did manage to break out of their zone and get into the offensive zone, the Red Wings don't feel they won enough battles to make life difficult on Rask. Those problems persisted on the power play, which went 0-for-3 in Game 3 and is 0-for-9 in the series.

The Bruins are 3-for-8 on the power play in the series.

"I thought on our power play late in the game, we had entries no problem, but they have four guys on the inside, and we've got one guy standing at the net and we've got four guys on the outside," Babcock said. "You're not scoring like that. So let's get involved in the game."

Babcock said he asked his players Wednesday if they thought the Bruins were doing anything to compromise their game.

"If there is, then do something about it," he said.

The Red Wings players insist they're going to try in Game 4.

Several players said it starts with their speed game, which they never got to in Game 3 because of the turnovers and the quick 2-0 deficit. They also trailed 2-0 just 10:35 into Game 2.

"If we play with our speed we're going to be able to skate in and skate 'em down and stay there," said forward Gustav Nyquist, who scored 23 goals in a span of 28 games from Jan. 20-April 2 but has no goals in nine games since.

Generating speed on the Bruins is difficult because of how big and physical they are, and how effective they are in applying back pressure.

Their opponents struggled all year to generate speed on them, which is why the Bruins allowed only 177 goals, second fewest in the NHL behind the Los Angeles Kings (174).

"There is a reason why they gave up the least amount of goals all year [in the Eastern Conference]," Red Wings forward Justin Abdelkader said. "They play a really well-structured, sound game, well-coached. At the same time we're making it easy on them."

You won't hear Babcock disagree with that, and it's troubling to him because he knows the Red Wings can make life difficult on the Bruins. They did it in the regular season, when they were the only team to beat Boston three times in regulation.

Detroit outscored Boston 13-9 in four regular season games, but as Babcock pointed out in a matter-of-fact way, things are different in the playoffs.

"The Stanley Cup Playoffs are for men, each and every year," Babcock said. "That's where you earn the right to be a good player in the League; not in the regular season, in the playoffs.

"When I first arrived here they said Pavel Datsyuk didn't perform in the playoffs. Well he hadn't scored yet. It takes you a while sometimes as a kid in this League to figure it all out and to score, but do you want to wait for it, or do you want to just do something about it now?"


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