May 4, 2010 at 10:42 am

Ted Kulfan

Five changes the Wings must make to stave off history

Wings forward Justin Abdelkader received a goaltender interference penalty on this play in Game 2. (David Guralnick/The Detroit News)

They've seemingly always come back from any obstacle, deficit or presumed trouble.

But the Red Wings haven't been in a situation like this -- trailing 2-0 -- since 2003, when they were swept in the first round by the Ducks. The last time Detroit came back from being down 2-0 was in 2002 against Vancouver. The Wings won that series in six games on the way to the franchise's 10th Stanley Cup championship.

But with the Sharks gaining confidence with every passing game, the two-game hole is looking increasingly difficult to overcome.

History is against the Wings. More than 80 percent of teams that have won the first two games of a series have gone on to win.

The Wings and coach Mike Babcock, however, are battlers. With the next two games at Joe Louis Arena, they are far from finished. After all, the Sharks have won only five of 35 regular-season games in Detroit and are only 3-6 in the playoffs.

Here's how the Wings can get back in this series:

Win faceoffs

This is a part of the game the Red Wings have always taken great pride in and considered vital to their attack.

If you have the puck, the other team doesn't. In this series, the Sharks have had the puck.

The Sharks have won more faceoffs (62 percent in Game 2), have generally owned the puck (outshot the Wings, 45-31, in Game 2) and have scored one more goal than the Wings in each of the first two games. Even more alarming, the Wings won only nine of 28 faceoffs in the defensive zone during Game 2.

Pretty simple, but an effective formula.

Said Sharks coach Todd McLellan : "It's as important for us to have the puck as it is for us not to let them have it. (The Wings) are dangerous off the faceoff. They get a lot of motion going, so we have to continue to bear down in the faceoff circle."

Until they reverse fortune, the Wings will continue to watch the Sharks dictate the game.

Stop Pavelski

Year after year in the Stanley Cup playoffs, a player steps into the limelight.

Remember Edmonton's Fernando Pisani ? Colorado's Claude Lemieux did it (infuriating Detroit fans). Anaheim goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere made a name for himself. Detroit's Johan Franzen did it a couple of seasons ago.

Someone always goes off and plays mind-blowing hockey for two months.

Joe Pavelski is doing that for the Sharks.

Sunday's two-goal game was his third consecutive multi-goal game and gave Pavelski a league-leading nine for the playoffs.

He also set up a goal and was 13-of-16 on faceoffs.

"Whatever planet he's on, I think everyone wants to get on it with him," said Sharks forward Joe Thornton , who suddenly has become the least popular of the Joes on the Sharks.

Pavelski's success on a line with Ryane Clowe and Devon Setoguchi has given the Sharks two dangerous offensive units.

The Wings, who have the last line change at home, have the opportunity to put a good defensive forward on Pavelski. It wouldn't hurt to hit him hard a few times, too.

Stop taking penalties

The Wings were the second-least penalized team in the NHL during the regular season. The playoffs have been a different story. They are the most penalized in the postseason.

The Sharks were on the power play 10 times for a total of 12 minutes, 54 seconds in Game 2. The Wings, by comparison, had the man advantage four times for 4:38.

The officiating was dissected all day Monday on forums and chat rooms and talk radio. There's no use analyzing or predicting what'll occur from the officials in the games to come.

The Wings know some of those calls were self-inflicted and correct. They simply can't put themselves in those kind of positions.

"We need to be more careful and not give up so many power plays," Pavel Datsyuk said.

"The reality is that you can't have momentum if only half your players can get on the ice because they are sitting in the penalty box all night long," coach Mike Babcock said.

You have to think the Wings will be more disciplined.

Watch goalie interference

With three calls for goalie interference in Game 2, the only surprising thing was Tomas Holmstrom wasn't called for any of them.

But Justin Abdelkader and Todd Bertuzzi were, along with San Jose's Dany Heatley . Evidently, the league is out to protect its goalies again.

It seems as if it happens every spring. Especially when the Wings, and Tomas Holmstrom , are involved.

No player has been better at being a net-front presence than Holmstrom. He was superb in Game 2, disrupting Nabokov, and was a factor in two goals.

All three interference calls in Game 2 were questionable. It'll be interesting to see how much leeway Holmstrom gets from here on.

Big names must produce

It's hard to be critical of Franzen. In recent years, he has been the team's leading scorer in the playoffs.

This year, he has two goals in nine games, not bad but on a team that lacks true goal scorers, it is not good enough.

Franzen has had a lot of good chances, but isn't finishing like he has in recent postseasons. He came back four months after a serious knee injury and it might be that he came back a little too soon.

The Wings need Franzen at his best to advance.

Henrik Zetterberg has not had a good series. He isn't scoring and is getting beat like a drum on faceoffs.

Zetterberg has the talent to take over a game, but thus far in this series he hasn't done it.

By the numbers

3rd San Jose's penalty-kill ranking. It has allowed three goals in 24 attempts.

9th Detroit's penalty-kill ranking. It has allowed 10 goals in 49 attempts.

8th San Jose's power-play ranking. It has converted on nine of 42 chances.

9th Detroit's power-play ranking. It has converted on nine of 43 chances.


The Sharks have gotten the better of the Wings -- and the Avalanche in round one -- in the faceoff circle. Here is how each team's top faceoff men have fared in the playoffs:

Red Wings

Pavel Datsyuk, 52.9 percent

Darren Helm, 51.1 percent

Henrik Zetterberg, 45 percent


Manny Malhotra, 65.7 percent

Joe Pavelski, 55.2 percent

Joe Thornton, 53.7 percent


"Are they (the Wings) out of gas after being stretched to seven games by Phoenix? Or is there another gear left in their game? We bet on the latter. This series isn't over yet."

-- Pierre LeBrun, hockey expert"> (313) 223-4606

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