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Quick on the draw

by Lindsey Ungar / Detroit Red Wings
Darren Helm (43) and the other Red Wings' centers won 63 percent of the face-off draws against Dallas in Game 1.
DETROIT — In Game 1 Detroit was dominant in every zone, which helped the Red Wings dominate the scoresheet.

But the puck-control game looked easy because Detroit was extremely over-powering in one category — faceoffs. The Red Wings’ centermen won 63 percent of Thursday's draws.

“I think we had a good two or three shifts to start the game, and then the ice got tilted the other way,” Stars forward Brendan Morrow said. “We were chasing it. They were doing a good job putting the pucks in there and chasing it down.”

While the home team’s centerman has the advantage of putting his stick down last in the playoff circle, the run-and-chase game the Stars were forced into helped the Red Wings draw four obstruction-type penalties in the first period alone. And that resulted in a 2-0 lead for the Wings.

While stats can often be misleading, the Stars’ top three centers were atrocious, even if the numbers were exaggerated for Brad Richards (29 percent), Mike Ribeiro (33 percent) and Mike Modano (30 percent).

“They have good faceoff people, so I don’t expect that to continue,” said Babcock, who insists on keeping his own face-off statistics. “And yet it’s something we take a lot of pride in. I think we were best in the league this year, and want to continue to do that. They have real good players down the middle. I don’t know of any team that can go one-two-three like they can.”

Coming into Game 1, Dallas had lost the faceoff battle in half of its 12 playoff games — but always by slim margins. Thursday night was the first time Dallas dropped below 40 percent as a team this postseason.

Stars coach Dave Tippett blamed the disparity on a lack of focus, especially early in the game.

“Things that (are successful) when you’re engaged in a game and doing things at a top level,” Tippett said. “We didn’t have enough people at that level.”

But Detroit’s success in the faceoff circle can’t completely be blamed on Dallas’ bad faceoff outing.

“We like ours (centermen), too,” Babcock said. “We don’t think we’re any slouch there.”

Detroit’s third goal was the clearest indication of its strength, and showed how wins and losses in the faceoff circle are important to a team's overall success.

On the power play, Henrik Zetterberg lost the draw cleanly to Stars center Steve Ott. But Tomas Holmstrom gobbled the puck up behind Ott before his teammate could. The Wings worked the play around the perimeter until Holmstrom deflected Nicklas Lidstrom’s shot past Stars goalie Marty Turco.

But it all starts with Detroit’s centermen — Kris Draper, Henrik Zetterberg, Valtteri Filppula and rookie Darren Helm.

Draper leads the league, winning draws at a blistering 62.2 percent. And Helm, who was inserted into the lineup in Game 5 against Nashville, hasn’t missed a beat, either.

“The play of Helm has really solidified our middle,” Babcock said. “He’s just so quick. So you add him with the quickness of Draper and Filppula and you can flat out fly. And Z’s not bad, either.”

Can that dominance continue?

“Tomorrow will be a different game,” Babcock said. “We understand that totally. And you gotta get prepared and focused.”

Especially inside the circles.

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