Biggest Lesson Learned from Start of Detroit Red Wings' Playoff Campaign

PJ SapienzaContributor IIIMay 7, 2013

DETROIT, MI - MAY 06: Damien Brunner #24 of the Detroit Red Wings shoots the game-winning overtime goal past Jonas Hiller #1 of the Anaheim Ducks in Game Four of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2013 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Joe Louis Arena on May 6, 2013 in Detroit, Michigan. Detroit won the game 3-2 in overtime to tie the series at 2-2. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

The Detroit Red Wings are tied with the Anaheim Ducks after four games in their first-round playoff series.  They have been all over the place in the games so far. 

In the first game, they did not carry the puck enough.  They also tried too many stretch passes that the Ducks were able to steal.  The offense could not get anything going, and they ended up losing 3-1.

Game 2 saw them jump out to a three-goal lead on two different occasions.  They ended up collapsing in the third period before winning in overtime.  Two very good periods were wiped away in a horrible third period.

In Game 3, they were shut out at home for the first time in the playoffs since 2007. They could not get anything going on the power play.  Then Justin Abdelkader was called for a five-minute charging major and a game-misconduct.  Originally, there was no call on the play, but the referees convened and decided on the penalty, which changed the game.

The Ducks scored 18 seconds into the penalty and went on to a 4-0 victory. Abdelkader would end up being suspended for two games following his hit.

Game 4 was a back-and-forth affair.  The Red Wings were able to put 49 shots on net; however, the Ducks were able to get more quality shots out of their 33 attempts. The Ducks were able to take the lead twice during the game, but Pavel Datsyuk’s goal with just over six minutes to go in the third period would force overtime.

Damien Brunner’s goal in overtime gave the Red Wings the win and tied the series.

As great as Pavel Datsyuk is, he is getting double- and triple-teamed every time he is on the ice.  Johan Franzen has been his usual hit-or-miss self.  Fans may chant Todd Bertuzzi’s name in hopes that it will turn back the clock 10 years, but it just is not happening. 

Danny Cleary tries as hard as anyone, but his skates cannot keep up with his spirit.  Valtteri Filppula seems to have forgotten that in order to have the big payday he is hoping for after the season, he needs to show up in big games.

While Henrik Zetterberg, Niklas Kronwall and Datsyuk are the leaders of the team and they will of course need to play well, the team will not advance on their play alone.  Through these four games, there is one lesson that stands out: The team will live and die by the play of the youngsters.

Gustav Nyquist, Brendan Smith, Damien Brunner, Joakim Andersson, Jakub Kindl, Danny Dekeyser and Brian Lashoff have all seen their first extended amount of playing time in the playoffs. 

Having so many young players getting their first experience all at once can be troubling.  They are bound to make mistakes, and they all have.  None have been worse than Brunner coughing up the puck right in front of Jimmy Howard, which led to an easy goal for the Ducks in Game 3. On the plus side, the young group has also contributed.

During overtime in Game 4, it was five playoff rookies who were on the ice during the winning play.  Nyquist, Lashoff, Andersson, Kindl and Brunner helped to win the game for the team. All five of them touched the puck as it raced up the ice and eventually ended up in the Ducks net.  Brunner and Smith had two of the team’s three goals in the game.

In Game 2, it was Nyquist who had the game-winner in overtime. Andersson has been impressive on faceoffs, and Kindl, Smith and Lashoff have played well on defense.

Brunner leads the team in playoff scoring while Andersson, Nyquist and Smith are tied for third.  While these young players are not perfect, the fate of the team’s playoffs hope will rest on how well they can play over the rest of the series.

If they can continue to grow while minimizing their mistakes, then the team has a good chance of winning two more games against the Ducks.