Lessons learned in Wings’ Game 1 loss to Coyotes

Dana Wakiji
FOX Sports Detroit

There are some things we can learn from the Red Wings’ 3-2 loss in Game 1 of their first-round series.

The first thing is, it’s going to be a physical fight from the Coyotes. Captain Shane Doan set the tone with a whopping nine hits among the team’s 43. Ed Jovanovski had seven. The Wings had just 20, with Darren Helm leading the way with five.

“I think it’s real important to be physical at playoff time,” coach Mike Babcock told FOX Sports Detroit’s John Keating after the game. “I think we have to be more physical than we were tonight.”

After the game, FOX Sports Detroit’s Mickey Redmond suggested that one way to counter this would be to play Justin Abdelkader. Abdelkader led the Wings in hits before he was sent down to Grand Rapids. He got valuable playoff experience last year.

That means someone would have to come out of the lineup. The most likely candidates are Kris Draper and Jason Williams. Williams played 7:43 and Draper played 7:22. Both finished even. Williams had two shots and won his only faceoff. Draper won three of five faceoffs.

Babcock told Keating he would have to watch the game again and then he would decide on possible lineup changes.

The second thing we learned is, the Wings’ special teams that looked so good after the Olympic break didn’t look very special at all. The Coyotes’ power play, third worst in the league in the regular season, scored all three of their goals with the man advantage. The Wings scored just once in six power-play opportunities.

“I thought it was a game we could have had,” Babcock said. “I didn’t like our specialty teams. They got some momentum on the specialty teams. Obviously, our specialty teams have to be better.”

The Wings have to do a much better job of clearing the puck out quickly on the penalty kill. On the power play, they need to create way more traffic in front of goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov.

It would be helpful if Johan Franzen started one of his famous playoff scoring streaks. He had five shots, but if he got a power-play goal, that might kick-start a streak.

The third thing we learned is that, even though the faceoffs were even (each team winning 34 and losing 34), it’s when those faceoffs were won that counted. The Coyotes scored two of their goals after winning a faceoff in the Wings’ zone.

The Wings, specifically Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, have to really bear down on faceoffs in their own zone.

“We’ve got to play better and we’ve got to play harder for longer,” Babcock said. “I thought they got stronger as the game went on.”

Every road team in the playoffs wants to steal one of the first two games in the other team’s building. Since they didn’t win the first game, now the Wings look to Game 2.

“We knew right at the start that it wasn’t going to be easy,” Babcock said.

The Wings have been in this situation before. They know what they have to do and they should be better Friday night.