GOOSE: “That’s him. Iceman. It’s the way he flies, ice cold, no mistakes. He wears you down, you get bored–frustrated–do something stupid and he’s got ya.”
Transition. That’s the Wings’ game. They wait for you to make a turnover, make a mistake and immediately swarm to your net and then make you pay. By their position through the neutral zone, they are ready to expose the opposing defensemen willing to throw errant passes along the boards or down the middle. In the neutral zone, they stick check and dare you to skate around them. The Wings rely primarily on positioning rather than power to take the puck away and create turnovers.
Offense. This is not a team with a heavy forecheck or a cycle after the puck is stopped along the boards. Their version of a forecheck is zone entry and quick passing. Their passing is exceptional. Not just stick to stick but on the move. Rarely do you find the Wings stationary and waiting to receive the puck. Skates in motion, through the center of the zone or down low. The Wings are also the opposite of the “just shoot” mentality that permeates Terry Murray’s style. They do shoot and quite often, but generally from the center of the offensive zone or circle and only after there is a lane. Once they have control, it is not unusual to see two to three players between the hash marks, ready for one timers. Against the Ducks, every time Detroit had the puck, they were looking for that one time shot. The problem for the defense starts when the Wings gain that lane due to their zone entry and after they force the defense to move to cover the potential shooter. What happens after the shot? Unfortunately, they have five to six players willing to stand in front of the net and look for the deflection or rebound. This is a team concept and each line, from first to fourth, plays the exact same game.
The defensive side of the game was most interesting. Detroit will give you the first shot. They are more focused on picking up rebounds and clearing them through quick transition passes. This shows me two things. First, they have confidence in their goaltender that the initial shot, when seen, will be stopped. Second, they recognize that so many goals are scored down low so collapsing two players at all times near the net will limit second chances in those high percentage areas.
In goal, I don’t know yet know if we’ll see Jimmy Howard. He played against the Ducks and played well. If we do, we’ll see a small goaltender who is very flexible and plays high in his crease. His set up is also high but he drops quickly to his pads.
This is a very well coached team. In some respects, I am jealous. To see a creative offense and a team concept that doesn’t rely on slowing down the game and endlessly cycling along the boards but using the skill to optimum levels makes me question what Detroit’s style within our organization would and could do.
I know what you’re thinking, “Holy crap Scribe, what do we do?” Fret not. I was actually encouraged watching the Wings take the Birds apart 4-0. Let’s go through the keys of winning this thing.
No turnovers. I am looking at you Jack Johnson. If the pass is not there, skate it out and fortunately, we have good skating defensemen in Johnson, Doughty, Scuderi and Martinez. Greene is exposed and it’s important he keep the passes short and let our more mobile defenders carry the puck.
Play your offensive game with a tweak. The Wings are not built for the physical game. They are not a small team, but if the Kings can gain the zone entry and use their size to control the puck, we should cycle it well especially if they give us lanes and that first shot. None of this will mean anything if we are hanging out along the boards. We must (here is the tweak to which I referred) get the puck to the center of the offensive zone. In many respects, the Wings are vulnerable against their own style. Of course, that shot from the circle will mean little if Smyth, Brown and Handzus are not permanent fixtures in front of their goaltender. If the Kings create traffic, they will double that which already exists around the Wings’ goaltender. Also, look for Kopitar to get his body down low. Hanging out above the circle isn’t going to do it. That deadly wrist shot of his, with bodies in front, will be nearly impossible to stop if the shot is released around the low / inside circle and near the hash marks.
Quick will need to be sharp. Rebounds will happen. It’s unavoidable against this team. However, our defense must be ready with a support player to receive the pass. If Quick is giving up rebounds and there is nobody there for the Kings to pass and skate the puck away, we are in trouble.
Coaching? Not even close. Watching Babcock match lines against Carlyle was fun. They were jousting all night and both are good coaches. Murray’s admitted lack of concern with matching lines will mean our fourth line will sometimes see Detroit’s first, just like the game against Chicago. Henceforth, it is incumbent on our defense to avoid mistakes and therefore pressure when our best players are not on the ice.
Games like this can bring out the best of Doughty and Johnson or expose the worst. Games like this can kick-start winning streaks by bolstering confidence in beating one of the best executing teams in the league or test your conviction and send you back to the drawing board.
I am excited…and for some reason I have a XXXL shirt that is three Xs and one L too big for me, with a huge “RED WINGS SUCK” on it. Oh yeah…that’s coming to the game. It’ll be a flag I wave and, when nobody is looking, wrap around a bandwagoner’s neck until he admits he’s never been to Michigan, has no family there and only supports the Wings because he’s soulless maggot with no purpose in life and that’s after his girlfriend buys me a beer and I tell her “no” when she asks to see my long but distinguished…Johnson…Jack mother f’in Johnson who will have a solid game.
Fuck Detroit. GO KINGS!
Categories: L.A. Kings News