Posted on May 9, 2008 09:46 AM | Permalink
DETROIT - For the Detroit Red Wings, a 4-1 domination of the Dallas Stars in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals Thursday was simply a continuation of everything that has been working in the playoffs.
The Red Wings skated the puck well, controlled the pace of the game, took advantage of special teams play and received solid goaltending from Chris Osgood. The only surprise, really, was they were able to conjure that kind of performance after a weeklong layoff.
''We've got a group that wants to win bad, and we're determined,'' said Detroit coach Mike Babcock. ''We've been here before and never got the job done. We'd like to take the next step.''
As strange as that sounds to say about the dominating Red Wings, this edition hasn't won the Stanley Cup since 2002, when Dallas' co-GM Brett Hull was then a member of the team. Babcock said his team remembers last season's Western Conference finals loss to the Anaheim Ducks as a wasted opportunity, and now they are on a mission. Detroit has won seven straight playoff games, and outscored the opposition 32-11 in that span.
''We got rested up and, if anything, you get eager to play again,'' said Osgood, who pushed his playoff record to 7-0 with 20 saves in net. ''We missed playing. We wanted to start playing again.''
That showed, as Detroit attacked the play, drew five power-play opportunities in the first 26 minutes of the game, and cashed in on three of them. In all three situations, the Red Wings went to the front of the net, set up camp with Johan Franzen and Tomas Holmstrom, and blasted pucks past Stars goalie Marty Turco.
Holmstrom created a 5-on-3 situation on the first goal by drawing a roughing penalty from Dallas defenceman Mark Fistric and then set a screen for a Brian Rafalski shot. Franzen tipped the second power play goal in as he scored his 12th goal of the playoffs and tied a Red Wings franchise record by scoring for the fifth consecutive post-season game. And Holmstrom then pushed the game out of reach with his third goal of the playoffs.
''We did a good job of getting pucks on Marty, making things difficult for him,'' Osgood said. '''We do have flashy players, but tonight we scored by going to the net and getting guys in front of the goalie.''
Turco, Stars, continue to struggle at Joe
Marty Turco dismissed his 0-8-2 career record in Detroit as inconsequential after his team had a shaky outing in Game 1. Stars coach Dave Tippett also gave Turco a pass for a 4-1 loss in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals. But what is clear is that the Stars really struggle to win at Joe Louis Arena.
Dallas is 0-3 in Detroit this season and 2-7-0 over the past four seasons.
Turco dismissed it as a tough run against a good team.
"I personally don't think there's much correlation," Turco said of his record in Detroit and his performance in Game 1. "They've got good teams, they've had them here…purpose, skill, grit, the power play, they really work well together. We've seen that before, and we know what to expect from them. So, really, it doesn't matter, it's one game down for us, and we have to win at least one here if we're going to take the series, so we'll look at taking Game 2.''
If Turco needs any confidence, he can look back on his 18-5-0 record at Joe Louis Arena when he was a member of the Michigan Wolverines.
Franzen steps into heady territory
Johan Franzen has scored 27 goals in the last 27 games, including a run of five straight games in the playoffs with at least one goal. In doing so, he has pushed himself into the Red Wings record books next to two legends - Gordie Howe and Ted Lindsay.
"I shouldn't be scoring this much,'' Franzen admitted in the morning. "I've never done this before.''
Franzen, 28, wasn't a big scorer in the Swedish Elite League and had 10 and 12 goals in his two previous seasons with the Wings. He had just 12 goals this season before going on a run and scoring 15 in the last 16 games. His opportunity came when Tomas Holmstrom was injured and they moved him up to the No. 1 power play with Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg.
"He got his chance to play with Pavs and Hank, and he has taken advantage of it,'' said Wings center Kris Draper. "Maybe I need to get a chance on that line.''
Draper said Franzen has more than earned his goals.
"He's working hard,'' Draper said.
The Stars placed Brad Winchester in the lineup for the first time in the playoffs and scratched B.J. Crombeen. Winchester played 9:04. However, Stu Barnes (concussion-like symptoms) went through an extended skate on Thursday and could be a player for Game 2 Saturday. He has missed four games.
Detroit subbed in Kirk Maltby for Darren McCarty. Maltby, who had been out since April 2 with a hamstring injury, played 7:11 and had three hits.
"It was a tough decision," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. "Mac's played real good. Maltby's a good penalty killer and plays with tempo. This series will be faster and faster."
Stars expected to sign Fabian Brunnstrom
The Stars had agreed in principal to a free agent contract with Swedish winger Fabian Brunnstrom Thursday and were simply awaiting a fax with the signed document. The two-year deal will be a standard rookie contract for a 23-year-old - with a base salary of $875,000 and incentives that could push it above $2 million.
The Stars were both intense and calm in their wooing of Brunnstrom.
"We're missing our first round draft picks for two seasons, so this was one way to get that back,'' said co-general manager Les Jackson, who handled the recruiting of Brunnstrom. ``We think if he would have gone in the draft, he would have been a top pick.''
The Stars traded away last season's first round pick for Ladislav Nagy and moved this year's No. 1 for Mattias Nortsrom at the trade deadline last season.
But Jackson said the team simply made its pitch, stood back and allowed Brunnstrom the space to make his decisions. The highly-sought free agent had more than 20 NHL teams pursuing his service, but narrowed the field to Dallas, Detroit and Montreal.
Dallas appears to have an opening on a line next season with center Brad Richards _ a prospect that appealed to Brunnstrom.