Red Wings, Flyers, Capitals Look to Get on the Board

The NHL schedule tonight is interesting, as the first games of the night start at 7 p.m., and the last game starts just an hour later, which makes for not a lot of complete television coverage nationally.

First, the Flyers travel to Boston to try to right the ship and chip away at this 0-2 deficit they find themselves in.  Plenty of people will make the joke that the Flyers don’t need to start playing until Game 4 against the Bruins, but that’s just not true.  Sure, they made the 0-3 comeback last year, and given that hockey is the ultimate “one game at a time” sport, I wouldn’t argue that any team has ZERO chance just by being down 0-3.  But these series are a race to four wins, and you can’t be spotting teams a huge head start and expect to escape consistently.  Some have pointed to Philly’s shaky goaltending situation as the reason they have not clicked in these playoffs, and I would have to agree, but the reason that the future doesn’t look bright for the Flyers has more to do with the absence of Chris Pronger.  He has been ruled out for Game 3, and it is sounding like a longer absence is expected.  Philadelphia certainly has the skaters to win games, but the problem is that the Bruins do too.  Boston has been on the shortlist in the east all season, and up until the Montreal series, were lauded for their physical play.  That play seems to be returning, and it comes in conjunction with Tim Thomas continuing his regular season Vezina form.  Add to that the home ice tonight, and the Flyers will have to really hunker down and limit Boston’s shooting space, something they didn’t come close to doing in Game 1, and barely improved in Game 2.  One positive note is that Philadelphia is leading shots on goal by 7 per game, but of course that was from inside their own building.  They will have to try to keep that average going in order to grab a big road win tonight.  Otherwise, they will be looking up from the same 0-3 hole as last year.

Also starting at 7 p.m., and being shown on the NHL Network, is Game 4 of Washington – Tampa Bay.  The Lightning lead the series 3-0 after last night’s win, and the defeatist, Boudreau-bashing has begun from the Capitals’ followers.  Many are questioning Boudreau’s tactics — specifically his choosing Alex Ovechkin to serve a bench minor for too many men on the ice.  But for all the validity of the points made by Washington’s detractors, worrying about the past will do the Caps no good tonight.  People will say that they need to win four in a row, and that’s true, but they really just need to win two.  If they are able to do that, as we’ve seen as recently as round 1 with Chicago – Vancouver, then the perception will change on the series, and Washington will be clear of the panic mode that 0-3 teams find themselves in.  If we accept that Washington is still a good hockey team and should have a decent chance of winning a Game 5 at home, then all they should worry about is tonight.  There’s not a lot to say about the actual game, except that Mike Green played another gem of a game last night, if anyone paid attention.  Not that I called for his healthy scratching before last game…

At 8:00 p.m. ET tonight, the Red Wings will try to avoid following last year’s blueprint for elimination and set up an actual Game 4 with something hanging in the balance.  Last year, after losing both games in San Jose by one goal (just like this year), the Red Wings came home and took a quick 1-0 lead in Game 3.  They couldn’t keep up with the faster Sharks though, and ended up giving up an odd man rush in overtime to fall behind 0-3 in the series.  Supposedly Detroit is better rested this year, but it hasn’t shown in this series. San Jose has dominated puck possession and scoring opportunities so far, and if Jimmy Howard had played just above average, this series would be a blowout.  But Howard has been incredible in giving up only 4 goals in over 126 minutes in this series, despite dealing with defensive breakdowns and quality chances seemingly every two minutes.  Detroit keeps saying that they are fine, and that tonight’s home game will be different.  But, as I wrote the other day, there is statistical evidence to back up this claim.  The Red Wings are asking fans to simply have faith, as the team has won only 2 of the last 12 games against the Sharks.

One thing that we’re supposed to have faith in is the splitting up of Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, in an effort to create two lines that can come close to threatening Sharks goalie Antti Niemi, instead of just one.  Maybe it will work, maybe it won’t.  But what needs to happen is the rest of the team stepping up and playing Game 3 as if it’s an elimination game.  The urgency and execution in Games 1 and 2 were unacceptable.  I hope to see a change tonight, if for no other reason than to see an actual series, instead of a moping admission that the Wings have been passed by.


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