Hey there Jacket fans, this is the Coach here, the newest contributor to Carry the Flag. Before I get started on how the Jackets can take down the mighty Red Wings I’d like to give you a quick rundown about yours truly. Growing up in Canada, I’ve played the game since birth. I have experience at the college, junior and professional level. I’ll try and bring a coach’s and scout’s eye to Carry the Flag.
On to Columbus versus Detroit. Goaltending is one glaring advantage that the Blue Jackets have over the Red Wings. Conklin and Osgood have both been inconsistent all season, while Mason has been a revelation. This is obvious and has been pointed out by prognosticators as the key to the series. Personally, I think they are wrong. Of course this will be a factor, but not everything. The Wings have had trouble in net all season and finished near the top of the league. Mason was dynamite most of the year and yet the team finished well behind the Red Wings. If the trends in net continue the Wings still should come out on top.
The real story here is the Columbus defence. Very quietly Columbus has become the best defensive team in the league. Mason is a part of it, but not far from the whole story. They have one of the leagues top penalty kills, are great on face-offs, rarely turn the puck over and allowed the least number of shots in the NHL. They are also very physical, finishing sixth in the league in hits. This formula of great defense, physical play and top notch goaltending is the same one used by the Oilers, Flames and twice by the Ducks to eliminate the Red Wings in four of the last five seasons.
The Red Wings are also not the team they used to be. They have regressed slightly when it comes to their puck possession. The last few seasons Detroit has been unbelievable at holding onto the puck. They have fallen off this season. In fact Columbus finished second in the league, with close to 200 less turnovers than the Red Wings. The rare times that the Jackets do turn the puck over they do not allow shots or goals off these chances.
Much has also been made of the leagues top ranked powerplay going up against the leagues worst. If I hear this again I’m going to go on a rampage. Powerplay’s go against penalty kills. In this case the leagues worst powerplay is going against the worst penalty kill in the playoffs. And the leagues best powerplay is going against one of the leagues best penalty kills. This is basically a wash.
The key to this series is who controls the puck. Detroit is a puck control team, while Columbus is effective against this type of team due to their physical nature and dedication to defense. While the organization is new to the playoffs, many of the players have a plethora of postseason experience. If the team can continue to play the way they have this season they have a legitimate opportunity to knock off the reigning Stanley Cup champions.