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Wings to stay the course against Rinne

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
The Red Wings and Valtteri Filppula have scored eight goals against Nashville, while its goalie Pekka Rinne has made 130 saves in this series. (Photo by Getty Images)
DETROIT – The Red Wings have surrendered the fewest shots on goal per game in the conference quarterfinals, but could be the first team to exit the Stanley Cup playoffs this year if they can’t outscore the Nashville Predators Friday night.

“Well we have to score some goals and we have to get to the net, yet I felt we did quite a bit of that in the last game,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said Thursday afternoon. “You look at the series, really, I think they’re averaging 22.8 shots a game, we’re averaging 34.5.”

The Wings’ defense is done an outstanding job of keeping Nashville’s pressure to the outside for much of the series. However, a few questionable goals and the lack of scoring, particularly in 5-on-5 situations, have the Wings facing the reality that they may be knocked out in the first round for just the fourth time in the last 17 years.

Still, the Wings’ offense has operated below the slot against the Predators, but they’ve been up against an extremely hot goalie in Pekka Rinne, who has made 130 saves through the first four games of the series.

“We have to find a way to score,” Babcock said. “Or best rebounds and opportunities off second shots (Rinne) catches everything, so we have to keep it away from his glove. But I don’t think we can tell our guys to stop shooting. We have to keep getting to the net as hard we as can.”

Detroit was in a similar situation last spring when they went up against San Jose netminder Antti Niemi, who held the Wings to two or fewer goals in three games in their first-round matchup.

“Obviously, Niemi is a very good goaltender as well,” defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “But we have to keep doing what we’ve been doing, just throw pucks at the net and create traffic.

“I think the biggest thing is to keep believing in ourselves, sticking with the program and believe in what we do. I think that’s what we did really well last year, we stuck with it and kept throwing pucks at the net and we almost got away with it.”

The Wings are among four playoff teams that have scored the fewest goals in 5-on-5, which is in contrast to what they were most prolific at during the regular-season. Obviously now it has many Wings’ players puzzled at not finding the back of the net.

“It's not time to get too frustrated,” said forward Valtteri Filppula, who has one playoff assist on nine shots. “We just have to keep going and battle through it. Their goalie has been playing great. A lot of credit has to be given to him. He makes it a lot more difficult. Shots have been coming from far away and he's able to close right away so we don’t even get a rebound. We're going to have to try and get a little closer and maybe get shots he doesn't see.”

Babcock knows all too well about hot playoff goaltenders. In his first season as head coach of the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, he had Jean-Sebastien Giguere, who got the Ducks to the 2003 Cup finals. Along the way, the Ducks defeated the Wings in the first round, but eventually lost to the New Jersey Devils in a seven-game series.

Still, for his efforts, and despite losing in the finals, Giguere became just the fifth player on a losing team to receive the Conn Smythe Trophy as the league’s playoff MVP.

“I think you believe in that, you believe that you keep everything to the outside and everything will go good,” said Babcock, referencing the 2003 playoffs. “But I can’t go off of much, except we got outshot one period in Detroit, in my first year in Anaheim, 20-1 in overtime in Game 1. The goalie stood on his head. But in the rest of the playoffs that wasn’t the case. We played well and so we didn’t give up as much. To me, when you’re not scoring, you have to go out and get them.”

In Game 3 and Game 4, the Wings have doubled the shot output that Jimmy Howard has faced from Nashville. It may only be a time before the Wings get to Rinne, however, they know that there isn’t much time.

“We just have to think positively,” Filppula said. “We hopefully still have a few more games to play. We just have to play through it and hopefully the puck starts going in.”

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose

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