While the series remains in Joe Louis Arena for Game 4 we have learned an awful lot from this series already. We know how the coaches will react and how certain players will play. Each matchup has its own little back story, some better than others. Thus far four things have sprung to mind when watching this series.
1. Jon Cooper is a sneaky good coach
I think most of us knew about this before the series began, but his line matching in Game’s 1 and 2 left the Wings on their heels a good portion of the game. He thoroughly out-coached rookie Red Wings boss Jeff Blashill and really showed off the Wings’ weaknesses. After mixing up the lineup and the lines, Blashill had Cooper on the ropes but in a bit of a savvy move, Cooper called for a second review. It may not seem like much of anything, the review itself was fruitless but it sent a message that he was is willing to do anything to win, even on nights where his team just doesn’t have it.
2. Andreas Athanisiou is good, like, really good
There is a huge divide between the fan community and the coaching staff in regard to AA. They want to develop him and make him into a more complete player. What if I told you that AA may actually be better than half of the lineup already in place? You wouldn’t want to keep that player at less than 10 minutes a night then would you? That seems to be the Wings plans as of right now, AA isn’t going to keep it that way for long with his electrifying plays and instant offense. Part of the reason they were so strong defensively was the constant threat from the defense and players like AA and Dylan Larkin pressuring a defense that plainly just wasn’t ready for it. While I don’t think he deserves twenty minutes a night, I do believe he needs an opportunity to make a difference that is tangible. He has already made a mark on this series, let him become something more.
3. These two teams don’t like each other very much
While our own Kyle Krische has written about Justin Abdelkader’s actions, from the other night at great length. I do think both teams have had times where they went over the line. Alex Killorn at the end of last night’s affair was acting more like Liam Neeson in “Taken” then a professional hockey player. These are the types of things each team dreams about at night. You want to take the other team out of its comfort zone and into a place it doesn’t like to be. Neither of these teams are considered “thugish” but they have devolved into some pretty rough and tumble styles of hockey. The Wings had seven power plays in Game 3, nearly spending a whole period with the man advantage, that is the type of stuff that wins you hockey games. Let them attack you and hurt them where it counts, the scoreboard.
4. You’ll win a fair amount of games when the opposing side only shoots 16 times
I touched on this slightly in point number two, I pointed out how it is going to be very hard for a team to win a hockey game when they can’t get the puck on net. Petr Mrazek was on an absolute roll last night, it didn’t have to do much with his actual play, rather the players around him. The possession statistics last night were almost 2/3 in there favor. It is going to be tough for another team to score when you have the puck the entire night. If you can dominate that portion of the game you will win more often than not, the Wings need to rely on the analytics to show them where exactly they can take advantage of the Lightning.