The Detroit Red Wings are on the brink of elimination after their 3-1 loss in Game 4 of the Western Conference Quarterfinal series Tuesday night against the Nashville Predators. With a 3-1 series lead, the Predators are in the driver’s seat and are one win away from pushing the Red Wings out of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Jiri Hudler scored the lone goal for the Red Wings, but Jimmy Howard had a less memorable game by giving up all three goals in the third period (on seven shots) and stopped a total of 14 shots.
It seems like the more shots the Red Wings fire at Predators’ goalie Pekka Rinne, the stronger he plays. That was the case again as Rinne made 40 saves with 17 of them in the second period. Another player on the Predators who has been a thorn on the Red Wings side is Kevin Klein, who scored the deciding goal at 6:25 of the third period. Klein also provided tight defense by blocking some key shots for the Predators.
The game plan for the Red Wings was to take control from the get-go, which they did, but couldn’t capitalize on their opportunities. They also failed to cash in on the power play and went 1-for-7 with the man-advantage.
After a scoreless 40 minutes, it seemed that the Predators were going to take the lead at 1:28 of the third when David Legwand scored from a bad angle, but the whistle was blown at around the same time, but the goal was disallowed. It was thought to have given the Red Wings some momentum, but the Predators struck back 27 seconds later when Alexander Radulov skated from behind the Red Wings’ net and fired a shot that redirected off of Todd Bertuzzi’s skate, but Gabriel Bourque was there at slot and fired a shot that beat Howard on the glove side.
With a man-advantage, the Red Wings tied it up 79 seconds later when Niklas Kronwall fired a shot from the point which was redirected by Hudler, who was in front of the Predators’ net, making it 1-1.
The Predators regained the lead at 6:25 when Martin Erat skated coast-to-coast and drew the attention of three Red Wings’ skaters and Howard which led to Erat passing the puck to an open Klein and fired the puck into an open net.
With 55.8 seconds left in regulation and Howard pulled for an extra skater, Henrik Zetterberg took a penalty at the wrong time was sent to the box for high sticking which killed any chance of the Red Wings tying it up. That came true 17 seconds later when Legwand scored a power play goal as he stripped Danny Cleary of the puck in front of the Red Wings’ net and tipped it in, sending the Red Wings fans home.
The Red Wings had control for most of the game and after the outcome, it was a game that they deserved to lose. They even held the Predators without a shot for the first 9:44 of the second period. They had their chances, but at the same time, they shot themselves in the foot, especially with the Klein goal when three skaters (including Nicklas Lidstrom) drew the attention of Erat. Howard overplayed the one-on-three rush by getting out of his crease, which led to an open skater and an open net.
How can the Red Wings solve Pekka Rinne? Besides firing high shots, (which they did in Game 2) they have to create traffic in front of the net just like Hudler’s PP goal early in the third. Despite Hudler’s size, perhaps have Johan Franzen or Todd Bertuzzi (who are bigger and stronger) than Hudler in front of the Predators’ goal. Wouldn’t putting either of them in front of Rinne (who is 6′ 5″ without skates) create a distraction for him?
Jimmy Howard didn’t have a great game and that will draw a bigger bullseye from the critics. In almost every NHL city a goaltender’s fate is decided if he helps bring home a Stanley Cup. Detroit is one of the few cities in the league that has the bar raised even higher and Howard has to raise his “A+ Game” sooner rather than later or he’ll be placed along with Curtis Joseph and Tim Cheveldae as Red Wing goalies who were labeled as scapegoats after not winning the Stanley Cup.
I hate to throw it out there, but have we seen Nicklas Lidstrom play his last game at the Joe Louis Arena? I would like to see the Red Wings return for Game 6 against the Predators, but we’re facing reality and if the Predators wrap up the series in Nashville on Friday, we may have seen the last of Lidstrom, who will turn 42 next week. Will he want to come back to go through another training camp and play another season? It’s premature to think this, but let’s hope that the Red Wings win Game 5 so we can host Game 6 and enjoy watching one of the best defenseman to have played the game.
It’s either win or enjoy tee time, possibly with the Pittsburgh Penguins, as they head back to Nashville for Game 5 on Friday at the Bridgestone Arena.
About the Author: Alex lives in Hockeytown, USA. He is a huge Red Wings fan going back to the 1985-86 season when they were dead last with 40 points. He has seen the transition from the 'Dead Wings' to one of the top franchises in sports. You can also follow him at twitter.com/alexmuscat73.