Saturday, May 24, 2008

NHL Blogging: Why I Think the Wings Will Win

Obviously, I'm rooting for the Red Wings tonight. It's a shame that the game has to be on at the same time as the basketball game. You'd think that a league struggling for ratings and recognition like the NHL is would at least have tried to move it up to the afternoon but, well, there are two critical playoff home games going on at the same time in and around thecity tonight. And I'll be watching the Wings, too, because the opening of a finals beats out a Game 3 of the conference for me.

But while the Pens have been on an amazing roll this postseason I still think the Wings have a better than average chance to win this series. I'd feel a lot better about it if Franzen were in the line-up starting tonight instead of potentially later on, of course, because that would give the Wings two excellent lines to throw on the ice. They could really use that because Pittsberg goes four deep. Like the Red Wings of yore, they come at you in waves. And they play the kind of team defense that makes it easy to overlook.

But I remember the last time the Wings went into the finals against a team from Pennslyvannia led by a gifted center who was supposedly the next big thing, whose team had rampaged through the playoffs, and who looked to be ready to continue that streak against Detroit. That team was the Philadelphia Flyers. With Eric Lindros and his Legion of Doom, the general consensus was that they were going to run away with the series and the championship - turned out they got swept away. It's not quite as clear-cut now but I am prepared for an unending torrent of Crosby love to flow from the broadcasters.

Still, put aside that Detroit has its own pair of superstars in Datsyuk and Zetterberg. Forget that their defense corps with Lidstrom and Raffalski and Kronwall and more is among the best in the league and certainly the best at the kind of tape to tape passing that ignites the Wings' offense. And that power play which has been so deadly so far.

No, the Wings are going to win this because of one simple thing: face-offs.

The Red Wings have been outstanding on face-offs this year and the Penguins have been atrocious. That's only a difference of 10 percentage points but that's an awful lot when it comes to winning face-offs. Especially because winning those draws is where the Wings play starts. The puck-control style they're so good at, the way they skate and pass around and deny the other team the puck to begin with, all begins with those wins. Against Pittsberg, I expect them to keep winning more than their fair share. And for that to translate into chokingly few chances for the Penguins to put their stamp on the game.

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