"When Pittsburgh shoots on their power-play, they're getting it back and we're one and done on ours. In the end, the power play and the skill you have is a great thing, but the determination to get the puck back is an even bigger thing." -- Mike Babcock
Unlocking the factors behind the revitalization of the Pittsburgh Penguins
in Games 3 and 4 of the Stanley Cup Final is elementary -- special teams.
To a man, Detroit's players admit their penalty kill has been atrocious. Pittsburgh is hitting at a 44 percent clip, scoring four times on nine opportunities through four games.
On the flip, the Wings were 0-for-4 with the man advantage in Thursday's 4-2 loss in Game 4 and are a dreadful 1-for-10 in the series after going 25.7 percent through three rounds. And there's also that shorthanded goal they allowed in Game 4 that could turn out to be the turning point in this entire Final if the Pens come out of this alive.
Pittsburgh is currently sixth in the League with a 21.7 power-play percentage, while the Wings are third at 25 percent.
admitted playing with more desperation, either with or without the man advantage, would help turn the Wing around.
"When we have the puck on the PK, we have to win those 50-50 battles and make certain that when the puck is on our stick to get it 200 feet to their end so that they at least have to reset and start over again," Zetterberg said. "It's tough when we're stuck in our zone for 90 seconds because you're getting tired and that's when they start making plays. Whenever we need to get the puck out or need a key faceoff, we haven't been able to do that. We need to play with a little more desperation and grit."
On the power-play, Zetterberg said more shots will result in more goals. The Wings have totaled 14 shots on 10 power-play opportunities or 1.4 each time the team is given a man advantage.
That just isn't enough according to head coach Mike Babcock.
"When Pittsburgh shoots on their power-play, they're getting it back and we're one and done on ours," Babcock said. "In the end, the power play and the skill you have is a great thing, but the determination to get the puck back is an even bigger thing. Two of their power-play goals in this series (came) when they've basically had us out there for a chunk of time and just grinded and grinded and found a way to bang it in the back of the net."
Perhaps having Pavel Datsyuk
back in the lineup for Saturday's Game 5 will help alleviate some of the power-play woes for the Wings. Detroit finished first during the regular season with a 25.5 power-play efficiency. Datsyuk's only goal of the playoffs was on the man advantage. Whatever the case, Wings defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom
feels his team must have better awareness.
"We allowed a shorthanded goal, so that means we weren't alert enough -- we have to pay more attention to details," Lidstrom said. "I think we're slipping away from all the details that we have to do a lot better."
Babcock thought his team's power-play in Game 4 actually "sucked the life right out of us."
"We had an opportunity to go up 3-1 (in Game 4) and suddenly the game's 2-2 (after Jordan Staal
's shorthanded goal) and then 3-2 before you even recover from that situation," Babcock said. "It was a big momentum swing and it's been a big part of the series. They're winning the specialty team battle to this point and it's allowed them to have success in two of the four games."
Detroit forward Kris Draper
knows it isn't just one thing that has kept the team from successfully killing penalties against the Penguins.
"If we could pinpoint one thing, then you could bring everyone in who kills penalties and say this is what we're not doing right and what we have to do better, but unfortunately, that's not the case," Draper said. "I think when you're playing against a team like Pittsburgh that has a good power play, you have to get the puck out as soon as you get that first chance. If you don't, then they will make you pay because instead of getting fresh guys out on the ice, those guys are caught. So, maybe that desperation factor where you have to do everything possible to get that puck 200 feet down the ice hasn't been there for us."
Desperation is a good word, according to Babcock, but not the only key to a solid penalty kill.
"To me, it's just doing what you do, but doing it harder and more aggressive," Babcock said. "It's all about getting to pucks."
Contact Mike Morreale at email@example.com.