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Wings' PP kept in check

by Jeff Sanford / Detroit Red Wings
DETROIT – As expected, special teams has figured greatly in this Western Conference semifinals series. Unfortunately for the Red Wings, things have been less-than-stellar on their power play and the penalty kill.

The Wings have had fleeting moments of power play success against the San Jose Sharks, tallying three power play goals in the series. Yet they’ve come in rare moments of exceptional effort by Detroit’s stars, like Henrik Zetterberg’s no-look pass to set-up Nicklas Lidstrom for the power play goal in the first period of Game 3. Generally, the Wings have had a hard time controlling the puck in the offensive zone and opening things up at the blue line, things that helped earn them a top-five power play percentage during the regular-season.

The Sharks’ strong, aggressive penalty kill has been keeping a usually potent Wings’ power play in check.

“I think they’re putting good pressure on our points on the power play,” Wings forward Patrick Eaves said. “With Nick back there with the puck with time, good things are going to happen, and obviously they don’t want that. So they’re doing a good job, but we’re also making good plays and we got a couple power play goals (in Game 3). So we made the adjustment, and we’re successful and we got to keep working on that.”

Detriot’s penalty kill has also looked shaky at times, despite killing off 13 San Jose power plays in a penalty-riddled Game 1. The Sharks have notched four power play goals so far in the series, but that number would definitely be higher if not for the extraordinary play of Wings goalie Jimmy Howard. The Wings’ penalty kill has had a hard time clearing the puck out of the zone and eliminating second, third, and fourth chances for the Sharks.

Even after killing the penalty, the Wings have a hard time swinging the momentum back in their favor. Such was the case in game one’s overtime, in which the Wings’ had just killed Justin Abdelkader’s four-minute penalty when Benn Ferriero sent the game-winner past Howard. It’s the Sharks’ ability to wait for an open play that’s made a major difference.

“They’ve been moving the puck really well,” Lidstrom said. “We’ve tried to be aggressive at the right moments, but we’ve been overaggressive, pushing a bit too much. And they’ve been moving the puck real well, and taking the shots when they’re there and have been capitalizing on their chances. I think they’re staying a little more patient.”

Puck control, or the lack thereof, at the points during the power play has plagued the Wings and fired up the Sharks in the series. With one game away from elimination, the Wings need to hold their heads up and take it one game at a time.

“We just got to keep plugging away,” said Wings forward Tomas Holmstrom, keeping things simple like always. “Stay away from the box and don’t get frustrated.”
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