Canes Looking to Deflate Red Wings
March 27, 2017, 2:10 PM ET [4 Comments]
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The Canes are taking on Detroit at perhaps the best time possible. The Red Wings played yesterday and will play three consecutive games by the end of Tuesday’s second match-up. Beyond that, the Red Wings will be playing four games in five days.
If this were the beginning of the season, this many games wouldn’t be much of an issue for most teams. However, at the 70+ games played point in the season, most guys have minor dings from the wear and tear. So, the main strategy for the Canes tonight should be pretty predictable:
• Dump the puck a lot: Make the Red Wings skate to get pucks.
• Hit everything—especially on the fore-check after the dump in.
• Don’t sit back in transition, move it up quick.
• Be disciplined defensively and with penalties
In other words, wear down Detroit physically and mentally. The goal is to outwork them so hard tonight, that they are exhausted for tomorrow. Playing three consecutive games at this point in an NHL season has to be tough.
While I don’t mind the Canes carrying the puck into the zone when they have good offensive opportunities; I hope they dump the puck-in a lot early to make the Wings' defenders skate to retrieve it. Given the tired legs, this will wear down the defenders quicker—it also gives the fore-checkers tons of chances to lay the body on the D or the forward receiving the breakout pass.
The mental aspect comes into play as the Wings begin getting more tired. Most players in general don’t enjoy getting hit repeatedly—especially in a meaningless game. If the Canes can continue to wear down the Wings, then the Wings will begin to lose puck battles, turn the puck over more and make mental mistakes.
When looking at the Canes and turnovers this season, they are first in the NHL with 748. They actually have an astonishing lead as the Maple Leafs are in second with 665. This is a testament to how well the Canes apply puck pressure and will be a huge key tonight.
As for the D and Eddie Lack, the goal is the same as it was against New Jersey. Play conservatively and focus on not making mistakes. The Canes did a tremendous job of limiting the Devils scoring chances and not making mistakes. The few times they did make a mistake, Lack picked up the slack and made the save. The Wings have plenty of offensive weapons; the Canes can’t afford to give them many chances.
The Canes must play disciplined and not take poor penalties. They are first in the NHL for PIM, so tonight is not the one to have an outlier. While the Red Wings have the 29th PP in the NHL, this isn’t because of a lack of opportunities. In fact, the Wings are top five in the NHL with PP minutes with 403. They have had the seventh most power-play opportunities with 236.
Beyond the playoff implications, this is the type of game that is a must-win regardless of when it is played in the NHL season. Last week, I talked about the Canes struggles against the bottom six teams in the NHL this year —Detroit, New Jersey, Dallas, Vancouver, Arizona and Colorado. The win over New Jersey improved the Canes record to 3-6-3 against those six teams. The inability to secure points against these teams is one of the main reasons the Canes aren’t sitting higher in the standings currently.
Many believe that the last Eastern Conference playoff team will need 92 points or more. That means the Canes need at minimum 13 points in their final nine games. Looking at the next four, they have Detroit twice, Columbus and Dallas (all home). They need to get all six points against Dallas and Detroit, hands down. If they can find a point against Columbus, that’s a bonus.
This leaves them needing seven points in their final five against: at Pittsburgh, at Minnesota, NYI, St. Louis, Philadelphia.
Essentially, the must win games are Dallas, Detroit (2), NYI, St. Louis and Philadelphia for 12 points. Then the Canes need to find at least one point against either Pittsburgh, Minnesota or Columbus. Overall, it definitely is not impossible, but it certainly will not be easy.
It is fun to look ahead at the schedule, however, the fact remains that they have to perform against the bottom six. If they don’t perform well against Detroit tonight and tomorrow, the final 7 games will likely not matter.