Babcock elaborated, saying that getting as much pressure in front of rookie goalie Dan Ellis is key - just like it’s always been.
“You just got to maintain and get the puck on the net and get as many second opportunities as you possibly can,” Babcock said. “Now that’s easy to say, but they’re doing everything they can to eliminate that as well, just like at our net we’re doing the same. You always want to get to their net and keep them off your net. That’s been the plan in hockey forever.”
Dan Cleary, Johan Franzen
and Tomas Holmstrom
have been the Red Wings’ workhorses in front of the opposition’s crease all season, and continued to do so in Game 1 of the best-of-seven Western Conference quarterfinals against the Predators.
Detroit took a 1-0 series lead with a 3-1 victory Thursday night at Joe Louis Arena. Henrik Zetterberg
scored the game-winning goal with 13-minutes left in regulation, and added an empty-netter in the closing seconds.
Franzen scored Detroit’s first goal of the game while patrolling the front of Nashville’s crease, with Cleary setting up the play from the end boards.
The Wings’ net-front trio combined for six of the team’s game-high 40 shots.
“I thought our most physical players last night were Franzen and Cleary with the puck,” Babcock said. “That to me is a big part of the game. You have got to be able to get to the net.”
Nashville defenseman Greg Zanon said that a top priority for the Predators is making sure that Ellis has a clear view on all of Detroit’s shots.
“We just need to keep boxing out, and letting Danny (Ellis) see the puck,” Zanon said. “Holmstrom and Franzen and Cleary are really good at getting to the front, and they’re big guys. It’s just a matter of if we can block pucks, block them and move them out and not let them have a chance to set-up.”
Nashville coach Barry Trotz said that the Detroit offense does a good job of getting pressure in the offensive zone.
“Detroit always has high shot totals, they throw everything at the net,” Trotz said. “They have a strong mental drive, they create a lot of stuff of the retrieval process of shooting pucks off the net and creating a little chaos and creating some havoc and they have great retrieval skills.”
Trotz added that it’s important for his defensive units to beat the Wings to loose pucks if the Predators can expect to return home with the series tied at 1-1.
“Your defense have to be mobile, they have to seek out and win some of those retrieval battles, and we didn’t do enough of that,” Trotz said. “That’s something we do but we didn’t do enough of it last night, we’re going to have to get more pucks at the net and by that you put pressure on their defense.”
Babcock credited the Predators for bringing a physical presence in front of their goal.
“I thought they did a good job physically in front of their net,” he said. “I thought (Dan) Hamhuis boxed out well, and (Shea) Weber always tries to be as physical as he can, and (Jordin) Tootoo’s always going to finish his checks, he always does.”
Keeping up with the physical nature of the series will become even more difficult for the Predators, who lost center Scott Nichol to a broken thumb in the first period of Thursday’s game. Trotz said during his Friday press conference that the team may call up forward Josh Langfeld from Milwaukee. Langfeld spent last season in the Red Wings’ system.