The Detroit Red Wings, despite pulling out a gutsy overtime win to even the series in Anaheim, suffered a potentially crushing loss on the blue line in the process.
Danny DeKeyser, a rookie defenseman who had managed to stabilize Detroit’s back end since March, went down with a broken thumb and is now out for the playoffs. Considering what DeKeyser had done for the Red Wings with his solid defense and excellent puck moving skills, the loss cannot be understated.
As any experienced coach or player would admit, though, overcoming injuries is an essential part of surviving the Stanley Cup playoffs. In a battering sport like hockey whose playoffs lasts from April to June, chances are, someone important will either be hobbled or lost completely. Championship teams always have the pieces to rebound and overcome such trouble, and someone unexpected always manages to step up.
The Red Wings certainly aren’t lacking capable bodies to fill in during DeKeyser’s absence. On the sidelines ready to go is a nice mix of size with 6’3″ Brian Lashoff, experience with 31 year old Carlo Colaiacovo and some proven offensive punch in the playoffs with Ian White, who has 10 points in 22 career postseason games. It could be argued from a personnel standpoint that given the amount of bodies that could fill in, the one place Detroit could successfully endure an injury was on the defensive end.
None of Lashoff, Colaiacovo or White should be considered a major answer, but it’s possible for all to play a clutch role during the rest of Detroit’s playoff run. Lashoff played exceptionally to start the season as a rookie, and is probably the Red Wings’ best option to log extended quality time on the back of the defensive end. For a bit of offense and a capable power play performer, White could be the next option. Neither of the two will provide the kind of difference making, puck moving play that DeKeyser has, but in a bit role, any of the three could certainly compensate in the lineup.
No matter who fills in, bet on Colaiacovo, Lashoff or White to hustle when given their opportunity. Seeing action in the Stanley Cup playoffs is a point of pride for role players, so there won’t be a drop off in effort when any are asked to step in. Losing DeKeyser certainly hurts, but it’s comforting to know the Red Wings have a nice mix of defenders ready to step in. Someone will have to step up now.
Best Play In Anaheim: Valtteri Filppula sets up Gustav Nyquist for beautiful overtime goal. With some slick stick work, Filppula helped tie the series, as he dangled around the Ducks and fed a backhanded pass to Nyquist, who easily beat Jonas Hiller. The slick moves of both Filppula and Nyquist were beautiful to watch, and the Red Wings looked potent on the power play in game two in space.
What Must Change In Detroit: Focus. During the first two games in Anaheim, the Red Wings seemed to lose focus and interest at times. This happened worst in game two, where Detroit managed to cough up a 4-1 lead in the third period and barely limped into overtime. In game one, the Red Wings played Anaheim close after quickly tying the game, but a temporary lapse allowed the Ducks to take the lead. The Red Wings have played decently in the series, but lapses have cost the team. If there’s a cleaner effort at home, the Red Wings will be in business.
Stat To Watch: Giveaways. In a game one loss, the Red Wings had 13 giveaways to Anaheim’s five, which was the difference in a 3-1 loss. In game two, Detroit got started fast thanks to a few Duck turnovers and survived late. Anahiem finished the night with 11 turnovers to Detroit’s five, certainly giving fans an interesting stat to watch for both upcoming games at Joe Louis Arena.
Max DeMara is a senior editor at The Detroit Sports Site. You can find him on Twitter @SportsGuyTheMax