Red Wings Are Running Out of Shots, Chances, and Time


Another Guest Post from Mario Dicicco. An eerie feeling hung over Joe Louis Arena late Tuesday night, one that hasn’t been felt in this town in a very long time. The Red Wings have faced dire straits in the past after losing an important home playoff game, but this one had the feel of not only a season suddenly on the brink, but an era as well. The Wings fell to the Predators inDetroit3-1 on Tuesday night and will head toNashvillefor Game 5 on Friday night, down three games to one in their first round series. The effort has been there forDetroit, and the shots have certainly been there. But, Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne has stood tall, literally and figuratively this entire series and is the biggest reason whyNashvilleis in their current position. WheneverNashvillehas had a breakdown defensively in this series, Rinne has been there to clean up the mess. He’s turned away chance after chance, sometimes with a little help from his friends or the post, but whatever shots the Red Wings keep firing at Rinne, not enough have gotten past him.

In previous playoff disappointments, a lot of things would be questioned: the effort, the performance, the coaching, take your pick. Through four games in this series, none of those things can be legitimately criticized. The Wings have carried the play throughout most of this series. They could easily be the ones going toNashvilleup 3-1 or at the very least heading into Game 5 tied at two games apiece and making this a three game series. But in the playoffs, as much as you need skill, you also need to have a finishing touch and that has been sorely lacking for the Red Wings through four games. They’ve had many cracks at Rinne, but have been unable to close the deal, and whenever they make a mistake, the Predators have finished the job and lit up the red light. Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg have been the two consistent forces on offense forDetroit, but the secondary scoring has been sorely lacking throughout this series. If the Red Wings are going to make any attempt at a comeback, players like Valtteri Filppula, Johan Franzen, Jiri Hudler, and Todd Bertuzzi must get their games going offensively. Between the four players, they have a combined one goal through the first four games of this series, and that’s simply not going to cut it in the playoffs.Nashville’s gotten contributions from numerous players so far,Detroithasn’t. That must change for the Wings if the tide in this series is going to turn.

In the days heading into Game 5, the elephant in the room has surfaced once again. Much like the last two springs when the Wings have found themselves on the brink of elimination, the Nicklas Lidstrom retirement questions are being thrown out to players and coaches. Teammates and coach Mike Babcock believe that he’ll return for another kick at the can, but only Lidstrom knows what he’s thinking and will make the final call himself at some point in the offseason. An early exit from the playoffs for the third straight year may be enough for Lidstrom to call it a career and for management to make significant changes to the roster, but those are decisions that will be made at the appropriate time. In the present, the Red Wings must find a way to solve the big “Pekka” monster that has turned them away nearly every chance, match Nashville’s smarts and intensity, and attempt to push this series back to Detroit in a hostile environment. Or else they’ll be coming back home, with no more games to play, and potentially see their era of sustained excellence come to a crashing, and sad end.