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Game 1 Notebook: Helm wreaks havoc

by Michael Caples / Detroit Red Wings
He might not have picked up a goal in Game 1, but Wings’ forward Darren Helm left his mark on the opening contest of the 2009 Stanley Cup finals.

Helm played for 17:08 Saturday night, and in that time frame he recorded eight hits.  The quick-footed center disrupted the Penguins’ break-out on numerous occasions, flying around the ice and hitting anything in black and gold.

“It’s the way I gotta play,” Helm said.  “That’s the style I gotta keep playing with in the playoffs, using my speed and hitting guys.  I think the crowd likes it and the guys can feed off it.”

The crowd certainly loved it, cheering louder and louder each time Helm threw his 5’10” frame at the opposition.  Helm wasn’t intimidated in the slightest, even attempting an open-ice hit on 6’7” defenseman Hal Gill.

The Winnipeg native said that a few early checks gets him focused in a game like tonight.

“It gets me into the game,” the 22-year-old said.  “A few checks, a guy bumps me it gets me going, and it’s the style I like to play.”

Face-offs key in Game 1 win

The Red Wings dominated the face-off circle in Game 1, winning 71 percent of the draws.  Going into the series, the Wings’ ability to win crucial face-offs was a question mark, due to the injuries to centers Kris Draper and Pavel Datsyuk.  The Wings led the NHL in team face-offs at 55.1 percent, but Draper (60.3 percent) and Datsyuk (56 percent) are the team’s top face-off men.

Picking up the slack for Draper and Datsyuk in Game 1 were Henrik Zetterberg and Helm.  Zetterberg won 15 of 20 face-off attempts (75 percent), and won 11 of 16 against Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby (69 percent).  Helm won 11 of 15 draws (73 percent), and nine of 13 against forward Jordan Staal (69 percent). 

The Wings’ other face-off men impressed, as well.  Justin Abdelkader won four of five (80 percent), and Valtteri Filppula won six of 11 (55 percent).

However, coach Mike Babcock won’t take the Game 1 domination of the face-off circles for granted.  When asked if the Wings have an advantage in the face-off circle, or if it was just a good night, Babcock responded simply.

“Just a night,” the Wings’ coach said.  “I think it goes like that. Some nights it goes your way, other nights it doesn't. Obviously, if you have the puck, you don't have to chase it.”

Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma said that his team expected a difficult time in the face-off circle tonight.  Crosby was six for 20 (30 percent), Malkin was four for nine (44 percent), and Staal was six for 19 (32 percent).

“Well, you know, we've done our homework on these guys,” Bylsma said.  “We know they're good there. I know it's an area of focus. They're a puck possession team as are we. And starting with the puck is better than not.”

“One of the things we've talked about is our wingers being aware and ready to jump in and help out,” Bylsma continued.  “The centerman doesn't often win it clean back, a lot of those are puck battles off the draw. Being aware, being ready and winning those battles are the responsibility of the wingers and the "D" when it's in the defensive zone. So that's an area we can do a better job of. We'll look at it, and try to get better in that regard.”’

Ericsson looks just fine

Much of the postgame talk was that captain Nicklas Lidstrom looked just fine in Game 1 (he led the Wings in ice time with 24:07), but it’s important to note that Jonathan Ericsson returned to the line-up as well.  Ericsson underwent surgery for acute appendicitis Wednesday afternoon.  Three days later, he was back on the ice, and not shying away from the physical play.  Ericsson lost his helmet on one of his first shifts, and he stayed out for the full shift, and even threw a few checks while he was at it.

"I felt good,” Ericsson said.  “In the warm-ups I didn't feel that great so I took some local shots at my big incisions. As the game went on, it felt better and better. No problems."

Ericsson played 16:47, recorded three hits, blocked one shot, and finished plus-one.

Some finals facts and figures:

Teams that win Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals have gone on to win the Stanley Cup in 54 of 69 seasons (78 percent), since the league began best-of-seven play in 1939.  The Wings beat the Penguins 4-0 in Game 1 last season.

The Red Wings have 21 players who have won a Stanley Cup previously, and 40 Stanley Cup rings in their dressing room.  The Penguins have five players, and five Stanley Cup rings.

Johan Franzen has 24 goals, and eight game-winners, in his last 33 postseason games.

The Red Wings out-hit the Penguins 43-39 in Game 1.
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