When Wednesday finally arrived, I was absolutely ecstatic for the start of playoff hockey. 7pm couldn't come fast enough and 10pm seemed like it was days away. I still feel that way today. This is me:
The reason being? I have a good feeling about us splitting the series tonight with Phoenix. Let me list my thoughts:
1. Nick Lidstrom is pissed. And yes, those four words can be used together in a sentence. Mr. Norris is never angry, but the blown high-stick call by the referees on Wednesday night was enough to get him riled up. Having Lidstrom be even somewhat emotional doesn't bode well for Phoenix.
2. Justin Abdelkader. This guy knows how to throw his weight around and score timely goals. Just look at the SCFs last year - he had more goals than Sidney Crosby and was a pretty good enforcer for us. Look at how he filled in the gaps in our roster for a decent chunk of this season. Taking out Jason Williams is really only losing us a hard shot from the point on a power play and maybe a good chance here and there.
3. Our upset loss wasn't the only one. Have you seen the results from all of the games so far? We, legitimate Cup contenders, lost. Washington, the other Cup contenders, lost in OT to a team I thought they would easily sweep. San Jose lost [okay, I suppose that isn't surprising for all of their playoff choking abilities, but still]. Brodeur lost to Philly. The only non-upsets were Buffalo, which many people have that series being upset and going to Boston, and Vancouver [though they had to go to overtime to clinch Game One]. Can Chicago beat Nashville tonight? We'll see how that Hossa curse works out for them.
4. We've gauged Phoenix's play. We haven't faced them since early January and we didn't have a healthy roster then. From all of the interviews I've read from the players and Babcock, they seem to know what they need to do. Which brings me to a mini list within this list.
a. Players need to play with some fire under them. Phoenix was crushing us with their bodies last game and it definitely took a toll on us. Can the Yotes keep it up for the whole series? Probably not, but we need to counteract it while we can.
b. Datsyuk needs to throw his weight around. We know this guy can be dangerous. We know that when he's dishing out the body checks, he's a force to be reckoned with.
c. Homer needs to be in his office. To me, he seemed a little tentative to do so on Wednesday. It was either that or the dozens of cross-checks he took to the shoulders that kept him further out than he wanted to be. I know the NHL is cracking down on this, but when haven't they in the playoffs? Cause a raucous, Homer. Do your job and piss off Bryzgalov.
d. Kronwall. I know in my last post I said we wouldn't have Kronwalling until our boys are back in Hockeytown, but if he wanted to prelude and give Doan a taste of it tonight, that would be totally acceptable.
5. Phoenix won't get three power play goals tonight. If there's one thing I don't understand from Game one, it's how our PK was so bad when it's been so solid and how Phoenix's PP was so amazing when it was 28th in the league. If they think they're going to get three PP goals every game or even half that many good chances, they better think again.
a. And come on. A blown interference call on the play when Phoenix got their GWG and a missed call on Lidstrom? If either of those had been called, it's an entirely different game.
6. Jimmy Howard has shaken his nerves. I know in interviews beforehand, he said he wasn't nervous, but please: You're a rookie goaltender playing your first NHL postseason game away from home ice, you're bound to be a little nervous. He wasn't playing on his head on Wednesday, but he wasn't terrible. Our goaltending wasn't our downfall nor do I expect it to be. Jimmy's head has always been clear this season.
I'm not worried. Unless we play tonight's game like we did for the majority of Game Seven, which I'd rather not recall, my fear of an upset is at a minimum. Godspeed, Red Wings. Make us proud.