|Of the four teams still playing, the Red Wings had the lowest power-play percentage (20.9 percent, 10-for-49) entering the Conference Finals. But they got their chances in Game 1 and made the Stars pay with three power-play goals.
Is it possible that a week off actually made the Red Wings a better team?
Hard to say, really, considering the Wings were already pretty good. They won the Presidents’ Trophy as well as eight of their first 10 playoff games, including six in a row heading into their break between the Western Conference semifinals and Finals.
However, what we now know after Detroit’s 4-1 victory Thursday night in Game 1 over the Dallas Stars at Joe Louis Arena is that the layoff did not make the Red Wings any worse.
The Wings killed off an early penalty on Niklas Kronwall and proceeded to score four straight goals, including three on the power play, before Dallas mustered one. The game was essentially over by the 15:37 mark of the second period, when Valtteri Filppula scored on a breakaway after slicing through Dallas’ defense.
We know the Red Wings lead the series 1-0, with Game 2 Saturday night back at the Joe, where Dallas goalie Marty Turco is still winless in 10 games now and Detroit is still perfect in seven playoff games this year.
Here are five talking points from Game 1 to discuss while daydreaming at work about Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals in Pittsburgh.
1. Power Players
Of the four teams still playing, the Red Wings had the lowest power-play percentage (20.9 percent, 10-for-49) entering the Conference finals. But they got their chances in Game 1 and made the Stars pay with three power-play goals.
The fact is Dallas spent too much time in the box Thursday night, a crime you just can not commit against the extremely powerful Red Wings. The Red Wings were 3-for-7 on the power play in Game 1.
The Stars committed four first-period penalties, and even gave the Red Wings a 5-on-3 that didn’t last very long. Brian Rafalski scored on the two-man advantage 4:28 into the game, and Johan Franzen potted his league-leading 12th goal of the playoffs about 11 minutes later.
Tomas Holmstrom’s tip-in power-play goal 6:40 into the second gave the Red Wings an insurmountable 3-0 lead.
NHL.COM'S THREE STARS:
Tomas Holmstrom was one of the Detroit forwards who made life miserable for Dallas goaltender Marty Turco in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals. Check out who made NHL.com’s Three Stars of the Night.
A week off did nothing to slow down the Detroit Red Wings.
Johan Franzen continued to be the NHL’s hottest playoff scorer with his league-high 12th postseason goal and Detroit scored three times on the power play as it rolled over the Dallas Stars 4-1 on Thursday night in the opener of the Western Conference finals.
Penalty trouble isn’t new for Dallas, which was shorthanded 49 times in the first two rounds (12 games), but allowed only seven power-play goals. If Dallas hopes to avoid returning home in a 0-2 hole, it simply must play more disciplined hockey.
2. Power Outage
For as good as Detroit’s power play was, Dallas’ was surprisingly ineffective. The Stars, who were clicking at a 25-percent clip in the first two rounds (15 goals on 60 power plays), were held scoreless on their four power-play opportunities Thursday.
Dallas had a chance to set the tone early when Kronwall was called for hooking just 1:11 into the game, but it did nothing. The Stars had some good chances on their lone second-period power-play, but Chris Osgood stood tall.
The Stars’ power-play carried them through the first round against Anaheim. It was effective again against San Jose. It needs to click if they want to beat Detroit.
3. ‘Net Presence’
If you were watching the VERSUS telecast, you heard the phrase uttered all night. Detroit coach Mike Babcock said it during an in-game interview with Bob Harwood, and it’s a term that describes exactly how the Wings hoped to beat Marty Turco.
Turco was a hot goalie entering this round, but the Wings felt if they got into his kitchen they could find ways to beat him with some dirty and greasy goals. Consider the mission accomplished, at least in Game 1.
Two of the Red Wings’ four goals came via tip-ins in front of Turco, who showed some frustrations and is now 0-8-2 in his NHL career at Joe Louis Arena.
Franzen got position on Trevor Daley in front and redirected a Kronwall shot for a first-period goal, and Holmstrom got deflected Nicklas Lidstrom’s shot into the net for his second-period goal. Holmstrom was close to a goalie interference penalty, but no whistle was blown despite Turco’s complaints.
Rafalski’s goal also traveled through some traffic, including a screen by Holmstrom, before beating Turco high.
The Wings clearly have a game plan that they executed to near perfection tonight. How the Stars’ defensemen answer in Game 2 will be very interesting to watch.
4. Kronwallian Hits
Credit that phrase to VERSUS play-by-play man Mike Emrick, who said it after Kronwall laid his body out for a big hit early in the third period. The phrase could have legs throughout this series, the way it has throughout the season.
Kronwall isn’t afraid to throw his body around, and he can line up some whoppers if the Stars aren’t looking. He was credited with only three hits, but he spared no effort.
His best of the night came on Antti Miettinen with about 10:30 to play in the second period. It appeared Kronwall might have left his feet for the hit just inside Dallas’ blue line, but no penalty was called.
Kronwall set the physical tone for this series, which was very important in the Red Wings building a 4-0 lead. The Stars, led by Steve Ott, picked up their physical game in the third period, which they need to carry over into Game 2.
5. Fine Firsts Continue
The Red Wings once again dominated the first 20 minutes, which is becoming a trend this postseason. Their 2-0 lead after tonight’s first period gives them a 15-5 advantage during that period in the playoffs, a staggering number that will win you a lot of games.
Coaches and players always talk about the importance of a good start, and getting one in the playoffs is especially important. Detroit did it again by taking advantage of the power plays afforded to them.
Good starts are nothing new for the Red Wings, who outscored the opposition 76-56 in the first period during the regular season.
The third period, though, was actually the Red Wings’ best this season. They finished with an 87-53 advantage, but for a lot of these playoffs, including Thursday, Detroit had been in coast mode by the time the third period rolls around so there has been no need to push the issue too much.
The Stars need to change that — they need to make the Red Wings play desperate late in the game.