5 keys for Red Wings in Game 5 vs. Lightning
The Red Wings can’t afford anymore defeats in this series.
They now must win three consecutive games to eliminate Tampa Bay and advance into the second round.
But there are things the Red Wings can improve upon and give themselves a chance.
Five keys to a Red Wings' Game 5 victory, and beyond:
Stay out of the penalty box
Too often during this series the Red Wings have hurt themselves by taking needless, dumbfounding penalties that put themselves at a disadvantage.
In Game 4, it hurt them in the respect the penalty-kill unit wasn’t up to par and allowed three Tampa Bay power-play goals.
But more than that, the rotation suffers. Players who aren’t on the penalty kill (Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, Dylan Larkin) can’t get on the ice, players that do kill penalties (Justin Abdelkader, Danny DeKeyser, Jonathan Ericsson) get worn down playing tough minutes.
Also, it gives the Lightning momentum even if they don’t score but create some offensive opportunities. With Tampa Bay at home, the Red Wings can’t afford to give the Lightning any sort of momentum.
Power play has to awaken
The power play has been a season-long problem for the Red Wings, so expecting it to somehow explode in this next game, or two, or three, might be far-fetched.
The power play caught fire toward the end of the regular season with Riley Sheahan and Abdelkader sparking the uprising with some effective net-front presence.
Wings recalibrate as season hangs in balance
But in this series, the Red Wings are 1-for-21 and nothing is working.
They’ve had difficulty gaining entry, passing the puck, establishing themselves in the zone.
Game 4 was almost like rock bottom. There’s nowhere to go but up for this unit, which seems to be playing with zero confidence.
Penalty kill needs to rebound
Evidently the Lighting made adjustments to their power play and it worked extremely well, torching the Red Wings for three goals.
The Red Wings’ penalty kill, which hadn’t been an issue, now needs to counter and subdue the suddenly red-hot Tampa Bay power play.
Lighting forward Jonathan Drouin, in particular, was finding seems all throughout Game 4, finding open teammates for one-timers or redirects.
There were too large of gaps and the Lightning exploited the uncovered lanes.
The Red Wings have to tighten things.
Mrazek has to steal a game
Petr Mrazek wasn’t the cause for the Game 4 loss, but he’ll likely need to be a key reason if the Red Wings are to win all three of the next games.
Mrazek gave the Lightning all sorts of grief last season in the playoffs, being a large reason the Red Wings were able to take it to a Game 7.
But thus far through two games, you get the sense the Lightning aren’t frustrated by Mrazek.
They solved him during the regular season, and getting three goals in Game 4 for a crucial victory will give Tampa Bay players confidence they can score on Mrazek in the deciding games ahead.
Nobody is quite sure yet, also, if Mrazek is over his slump.
He was barely tested in the Game 3 shutout, and in Game 4, he really didn’t have a chance on any of the goals allowed.
Have to win two road games
The Red Wings lost twice in Tampa Bay during the regular season — and the first two games of this series at Amalie Arena.
Somehow, if they want to win this series, they now have to win twice in Tampa Bay within a three-game span.
That’s not easy.
The Tampa Bay crowd is one of the more underrated in the NHL and the Lightning will be out to clinch this series and earn much-needed time off and rest for a lineup that could see defenseman Anton Stralman (fractured leg) returning in the next round.
The Red Wings do have one big motivation. They’re playing to stay alive this season.