Originally posted on Fox Sports Detroit  |  Last updated 4/19/12
Although the Red Wings said all the right things after their 3 -1 loss to the Nashville Predators on Tuesday, you couldnt help but notice that each player had the "look." Its not a look of desperation or of defeat; its a faraway, empty look of resignation. Detroit is on the brink of being eliminated from the Stanley Cup playoffs. And while they know what needs to be done to stave off elimination, they also realize how theyve found themselves in this uncomfortable situation. If theres one thing we need to remember about the Predators, it's that theyve been pointing to this moment for their entire existence. When they were awarded an NHL franchise, the Predators brass was well aware that the Wings were their measuring stick. Nashville would never be regarded as legitimate until it was able to compete with and eventually beat the Red Wings. If the Predators can knock off Detroit, it will be their signature accomplishment. Think of it as when the Pistons finally knocked off the Celtics or the Bulls finally got the best of the Pistons. You need to crown a champion in order to become one. But, despite their three-games-to-one deficit, this series could still fall the Red Wings' way. Until you win that fourth game, you really havent done anything but put yourself in a position to win. As they proved last season against the Sharks, the Wings are a tough knockout. They have more than a puncher's chance of coming back in this series if these four keys are achieved: Jimmy Howard must be better: Until he broke his right index finger, Howard was arguably the NHLs top goaltender. With acrobatic Pekka Rinne, doing a spot-on impression of Dominik Hasek at the other end if the ice, Howard needs to up his game. Jimmy hasnt been horrible, but the easiest way for the Wings to get back into the series is for Howard to outplay Rinne. A shutout would be nice, but just timely goalkeeping would be an upgrade. Scorers must score: Johan Franzen, Valtteri Filppula, Jiri Hudler, and Henrik Zetterberg were Detroits top four goal scorers during the regular season, combining for 99 goals between them. Thus far in the playoffs, they have a combined four goals, with Zetterberg leading the way with two. Zetterberg has played extremely well. Hudler picked up the pace in Game 4 and scored a power-play goal. Filppula and Franzen have been forced to the outside by Nashvilles defense, and they seem content playing an outside game. They both need to go to the net much harder. Franzen might be angry, but he appears far too frustrated to get anything done on the ice. Its not a coincidence that his only goal was scored when he was in Rinnes crease. Secondary scorers must pick up the slack: If the Wings' top guns continue to misfire, the responsibility to score falls on the shoulders of Dan Cleary (playing on bad knees), Drew Miller, Todd Bertuzzi, Justin Abdelkader and Tomas Holmstrom. In four playoff games, they have a combined total of one goal, scored by Holmstrom. All these players except Holmstrom seem to be pressing way too much. Theyre aware of the Wings' goal-scoring drought, but they seem too manic to make plays. With all due respect to Cory Emmerton, if he continues to be the Wings' leading secondary scorer, theres big trouble brewing in Detroit. Power play must become powerful: Detroits power play has either been a mystery or a juggernaut this year. So far during the playoffs, its been erratic at best. The Wings are 4-of-21 with the man advantage, which is sixth best in the playoffs. But they were 1-of-7 in Game 4, which contributed mightily to their defeat. If the power play clicks, it will give confidence to Detroits scorers and, hopefully, jump start their stagnant offense. Defensive mistakes have cost the Wings dearly, but their main issue is a power outage offensively and, to a lesser degree, Rinne outplaying Howard. Although they will never admit it, the Wings' frustration level has to be bursting. They have played well and have dominated for long stretches. Unless their scoring picks up, though, the NHLs hottest tune will be Dixie.
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