You play to win, Mr. Milbury

April 7, 2012

According to NBC hockey analysts Mike Milbury the Red Wings 3-2 shootout loss to Chicago on Saturday – which clinched the fifth spot in the Western Conference for Detroit – was bittersweet.

Milbury gave the Wings full marks for pulling goalie Jimmy Howard during the last minute of play, which lead to Pavel Datsyuk's game tying goal with forty-six seconds left. But he couldn't help wondering why Detroit would pull out all the stops.

How does professionalism and integrity of the game sound to you, Mike?

In Milburyland, it would have served the Wings better to lose to the Blackhawks 2-1 in regulation – thus avoiding the Nashville Predators in the first round of the playoffs.

Nashville, which loaded up at the trade deadline, will be the hockey world's overwhelming pick as 'the team that nobody wants to play' during the playoffs. The Predators are big and talented up front, solid defensively and have perhaps the NHL's top goaltender in Pekka Rinne.

Make no mistake, Nashville is a formidable foe and a legitimate Stanley Cup contender, so I can understand Milbury's logic up to a point. Yet, how can Milbury explain what the Blackhawks did after the Wings tied the game?

Chicago pulled goalie Corey Crawford.  Once the puck was in Detroit's end, the Blackhawks elected to add the extra attacker, which should have had Milbury scratching his head.

If Chicago would have scored and won in regulation they would have secured the fifth seed in the Western Conference and would have played the Predators instead of the Wings.

Give the Wings and Hawks credit, they played to win.  And that's how the game should have been played.

Regardless of playoff positioning, each team played with conviction.  Each team wasn't thinking about the Nashville Predators.

That may be a novel approach for Milbury, since he believes that the team seeded sixth (Chicago) draws the Phoenix Coyotes, a weaker opponent than the Predators – even though they're the Pacific Division champion.

Really, Mike?  With Mike Smith in goal, Phoenix can beat anybody.

Maybe there's a reason you're locked into the broadcast booth after botching it as an NHL GM.

Rule number one Mr. Milbury: At this time of year if you're fixated on potential playoff opponents and not winning, you're not going to go far whether you're playing Nashville, Phoenix or the Salvador Dali College of Art.