Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Western Conference Mental Game Breakdown: #4 Predators vs. #5 Red Wings

#4 Predators vs. #5 Red Wings

Advantages Nashville: Experience, wins the last two games against Detroit, Disciplined team game, Shea-Suter defense pair, Rinne

The Nashville Predators run into the Red Wings again in the playoffs; their playoff nemesis. All signs show that the Preds are ready to take out the Wings. They won the last two games in the regular season against the Wings, including a convincing win at Joe Louis arena. Nashville can now finally say that they have won a playoff round, and can focus instead on going deep in the playoffs. Their experience of beating Anaheim last year should help them; they know they can get it done this year. 

Nashville is a very disciplined team and plays a team defense-first style game. Anchored by Shea Weber and Ryan Suter on the backline and outstanding goalie Pekka Rinne, the Preds are very good at winning close, low-scoring games. They have belief that this is the year they beat the Wings and go beyond the second round. The Wings finished poorly and the Preds are ready to pounce on them.

Barriers Nashville: History against the Wings, Enough scoring?

When you look at Nashville you see a very solid team. However, if things start poorly versus the Wings can they continue to believe they can beat them? Detroit’s reputation as a perennial playoff team and previous Stanley Cup success make them formidable even if they are on a losing stretch. Nashville will not want to rely on Rinne too much because Datsyuk, Zetterberg, and Franzen can score on anyone in rapid succession. A strong focus will be key for the Preds. There will be pressure on this team because they don’t score a ton of goals. While it is important for any team to get ahead, it maybe even more important for Nashville because they want to get in front and allow their defensive style to frustrate their opponent.

Advantages Detroit: Playoff experience, Composure, Mike Babcock, Datsyuk, Lidstrom

Detroit is a very experienced hockey team and will be able to shed away the poor performances down the stretch. If anyone can find that extra gear it is the Wings. And, the Wings are well prepared for the grind and pressure of the Playoffs. Led by their head coach Mike Babcock the Wings demonstrate composure at all times, and are able to execute their game under pressure. If the Wings get behind in Nashville 2-0 in the first period they will not panic. They will push for 60 minutes and consistently sustain pressure on the Preds’ defense.

While depth has become an issue in Detroit, the Wings still have some of the top performers in the league. Pavel Datsyuk is a difference-maker and even when injured Nick Lidstrom is a solid force on defense. This team has a long and storied playoff experience, and there confidence reservoir should run deep. Finally, they will be highly motivated to make a run seeing as the clock is ticking on Lidstrom’s career. A healthy Jimmy Howard in net should provide the big saves Detroit will need to overcome Nashville.

Barriers Detroit: Poor performance down the stretch, mileage, enough secondary scoring?, road performances

Despite a great home winning streak of 23 games, the Wings have been relatively average for large parts of the season. Their road record is not Wing-like, and will put the pressure on them to get one of the first two games in Nashville. If the Wings are unable to flip the switch and find the extra gear after a poor finish to the season Nashville could create real problems for a team that is lacking in secondary scoring.
Detroit has the long history of success in the playoffs but now the roster is an interesting mix of veterans and youth. Have the veterans finally run out of gas after so many long playoff runs in the spring? Can young players step up and support the veterans in the pressure moments? There are more questions than answers about the mental status of Detroit which is unusual to say the least.

Take Homes: Nashville is playing with great confidence, but getting a lead will be the priority. Detroit will make a strong stand and play very close games in this long series.

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