May 18, 2013 at 6:10 pm

Gregg Krupa

Red Wings not alarmed by third-period struggles

Detroit — So far in the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs, third periods are not the Red Wings' best phase.

The Blackhawks and Ducks have outscored them, 15-5.

But how much does it matter, and is there a specific cause?

Through eight games, the Wings have scored more than their opponents in the third period only once.

In Game 4 against the Ducks, they scored two — one by Brendan Smith to tie the game at 1-1 and one by Pavel Datsyuk to tie the game at 2-2 and send the game to overtime. The Wings won that game on Damien Brunner's wrist shot.

In two of the Red Wings' eight playoff games — Games 5 and 6 against the Ducks — they scored as often as their opponents in the third. In those contests, they were 1-1, losing Game 5 and winning Game 6.

Of the remaining five games in which their opponents outscored them in the last frame of regulation, the Red Wings won two and lost three.

Asked about the situation Friday after practice, the Wings generally said they think the scoring imbalance in the third period is less important than addressing elements of their play, like providing their best effort, executing the game plan, taking care of the puck and skating hard.

"I haven't thought about it," said Henrik Zetterberg, who plainly has thought about a lot of other things, after leading his team to a first-round upset over the Ducks before losing in Chicago on Wednesday.

"If you want to win games, I think it's better to score more goals than they do in the third," he said, underlining the logical and fairly obvious.

But, in considering the issue, Zetterberg talked about the Wings' efforts on individual goals, rather than addressing some trend.

"In Game 1 (against Chicago), I think the goal they got when the puck was kind of behind the net there, for a bit, that was kind of an easy one for them," he said, referring to Marcus Kruger's goal, which made it 3-1 Blackhawks, after the puck rested on the mesh on the back of the net.

By rule, the play could have been blown dead within three seconds.

"The second one, they made a good play," Zetterberg said.

"We weren't good enough to score goals in the third. That was the difference.

"You know, I think in that game we didn't have enough jump. I think we couldn't really get enough going in the third."

Energy lacking in Game 1

But, in truth, that was not a whole lot different than the second period. And that frame was scoreless, thanks in large part to goalie Jimmy Howard.

Third period or not, Zetterberg said the Wings' level of effort and performance Wednesday resembled some of the games they play at Joe Louis Arena after long trips to the West Coast or western Canada, when their performances sometimes lag and it is clear their levels of energy and fortitude are low.

Johan Franzen viewed the issue as a subset of the overall question of the Red Wings' energy, especially after playing a game against the Blackhawks in which, among other things, they did not skate hard and showed little oomph.

"Yeah, we're just thinking about golf or something," said Franzen, stirring some wit into the sarcasm and chuckling.

"No, I don't know," he shrugged, when asked about the third-period issues.

But, about their ability to generate intensity, overall, he said, "That shouldn't be a problem. It's the playoffs, we have energy.

"That's not a problem."

That said, it was not a normal regular season and, perhaps, that is having an impact.

It was a 48-game regular season played in 99 days, a schedule both shortened and compressed by the lockout.

All teams, all players are tired.

They also are reminding themselves that they are not allowed to feel fatigue in the playoffs.

But it happens.

Meanwhile, some teams, like the Red Wings, did not have the benefit of clinching playoff spots early, to allow rotating players in and out of the lineup in the last days of the season to garner some rest.

Perhaps fatigue is coincidentally affecting the Wings in third periods.

Nervous vs. Anaheim

Mike Babcock said he has noted different reasons for the problems in the third periods.

"I thought in the Anaheim series when we got ahead, we played nervous," Babcock said.

That was especially true in Game 2 when the Wings were up 4-1 and yielded three third-period goals, before winning in overtime.

While the performance against the Blackhawks in the third was not strong, either, Babcock said it was not because the Wings, with their crew of young players inexperienced in the playoffs, were jittery.

And, in fact, they never had the lead.

"I thought the last game that they skated us into the ground," he said.

Then he talked about the concept of trying to identify trends, as opposed to deriving specific lessons from events that have occurred.

"It's important in your business, you've got to come up with trends and theories and stuff, and so do I.

"And so, I watch video, and we go from there."

gregg.krupa@detroitnews.com

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Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg, left, and forward Todd Bertuzzi chat while stretching prior to Friday’s practice at Joe Louis Arena. Zetterberg has three goals and five assists in the playoffs. / David Guralnick/Detroit News