DETROIT – As impressive as the Wings’ first-round series sweep of the Phoenix Coyotes was, there one aspect of their game that needs improving.
And it needs improving quickly.
After killing off all six of the Coyotes’ power play chances in Game 1, including a lengthy 5-on-3 in the opening period, Phoenix scored six power play goals in its next 12 chances.
“We know we got away with having a bad PK the first round,” Wings forward Darren Helm said. “It’s something we need to be a lot better on if we want to move past the second round. It was addressed right away to all the (penalty killers) that we have to be a lot stronger.”
“It’s got to be better,” Detroit defenseman Brad Stuart said. “We gave up a few too many goals. A couple of unlucky bounces off sticks and players, but overall we can be better working together as a unit, limiting opportunities.”
“It’s huge down the road here because it’s all specialty teams,” Wings forward Patrick Eaves said. “Every team now has a great power play. We need to get in the way and cause havoc for them.”
The Wings’ have the second worst ranked penalty kill in the playoffs at 66.7 percent. Only Nashville is worse at 63.6 percent.
“We know the structure and we were doing the right things,” Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “It was just small breakdowns and the puck ended up in our net. We just have to stick with the game plan full out. We just missed in a few areas. Our PK has to be a lot better than that for us to have success.
“We need to win the faceoffs and just clear the puck every time we get a chance,” Kronwall continued. “There were a few times (against Phoenix) when we had the puck and couldn’t get it out of our zone. We just have to make sure the puck goes all the way.”
What made the Wings’ poor play on the penalty kill more alarming was the fact that Phoenix ended the regular season with just the 23rd best power play in the league.
“That’s just how things are with momentum,” Kronwall said. “You just have to bear down and make sure the other team doesn’t get that momentum going. Phoenix got a few goals and they were just rolling. We just couldn’t figure out how to stop it. It was just a matter of doing the little things right.”
The Coyotes scored three power play goals in Game 2 and followed it up with two more in Game 3.
“That’s one area we’ve got to do a better job,” Wings defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom said. “We weren’t good enough in front of our own net. They were taking shots and were there for the rebounds and getting those kinds of goals. We can’t get spread out as a group of four. That’s when they find the openings.”
Phoenix also had three minutes and 21 seconds of 5-on-3 power-play time.
“The good thing is we know the parts we can correct and need to correct,” Wings forward Drew Miller said. “Other big thing is we can’t give them two-man advantages like we did. We’ve got to try to stay disciplined as much as we can when we’re down a man. Just getting in lanes and doing that will to get the puck out of the zone.”
“We can’t be taking as many penalties as we were,” Helm said. “Guys get tired when they’re killing 4-5 penalties a period.”
“You’ve got to stay out of the box,” Lidstrom said. “Teams have good power plays and you can’t be giving them two-man advantages. It’s hard to kill those off.”
Some of the Wings’ lack of success on the penalty kill could be pinpointed to Lidstrom being taken off the units.
Lidstrom averaged 2:40 per game on the PK during the season.
Wings coach Mike Babcock made a concerted effort to reduce his ice time down the stretch of the regular season.
Against the Coyotes, Babcock decided to all but take Lidstrom off the penalty kill. Lidstrom had a total of 1:19 of ice time on the PK in the series, or an average of 19 seconds per game.
He was not on the ice for any of the Coyotes’ six power play goals.
“Nick doesn’t play on the penalty kill for us right now,” Babcock said. “He’s unbelievable on the power play, unbelievable on the puck, so why would you wear him out doing that (PK)?”