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Home 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs One more thing: Mutual respect shown after series
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One more thing: Mutual respect shown after series

Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock could have been stubborn. His team’s season just ended in a frustrating five-game series loss to the Nashville Predators. But the experienced bench boss had high praise for the team that just ousted his Red Wings.

“I think their goaltender was outstanding,” said Babcock, recalling the series after the Predators’ 2-1 Game Five victory. “I thought their depth up front was better than our depth up front – especially their third and fourth lines. I liked it better when they had them all on two lines but when they put them on three lines, because they can do that – they had us in trouble big time there on the matchup.”

Much of the same respect was doled out by Predators head coach Barry Trotz following the win.

“We got tested. We got measured by the Detroit Red Wings – they’re a great hockey team,” he said. “Obviously, beating Detroit in the first round is a step in the right direction. But I’ll tell you what – they’re a good hockey team. I marvel at how they are so resilient. It was a series of inches and battles.”

Babcock mentioned the Predators’ depth made a big difference in this series ending as soon as it did.

“You’ve got to give them credit,” Babcock said. “Spaling gave them a third line center, but I thought Legwand and Fisher had excellent wingers. They probably have seven top-six forwards, so that gives them good depth; and the Bourque kid played great. I don’t consider him a top-six yet, but he played great.”

Only two Predators – Ryan Suter and Roman Josi – failed to notch a point out of the players that played in all five games. They had contributions all throughout the lineup. Meanwhile, four important Red Wings – Nicklas Lidstrom, Johan Franzen, Todd Bertuzzi and Danny Cleary – were nonexistent offensively and combined for just one point.

“So when you go through that process,” Babcock said, “they were deeper than we were.”

While Babcock was complimentary of the Predators, he was not happy with how his team played in a losing effort.

“I thought this was our worst game of the series,” Babcock said. “I thought we played lots of good hockey in the series, but I didn’t think we were very good today.

“When you lose 4-1 in a series, you can talk about all the games being a one-goal game. To me that’s not close. 4-1 is not close.”

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This and That:

- The Predators are the first team in the league to advance to the second round. Their next opponent is yet to be determined. The other three Western Conference series are all 3-1, with the Blues (2nd seed), Coyotes (3) and Kings (8) leading. If those teams all win, the Preds would draw the third-seeded Coyotes. Now, the Preds will sit back and relax. They’ve earned the rest.

- While Babcock praised their depth, there was one substantial reason why the Preds are advancing and Detroit is not: Pekka Rinne. The season-long workhorse was just that in the hard-fought series win against the Red Wings. Rinne’s save percentage was .944, as he stopped 151 of the 160 shots he faced. (Contrarily, Jimmy Howard’s save percentage was .888 for Detroit.) Aside from a couple moments in Game Two, Rinne was on his A-game throughout the entire series. Did he steal the series? No. Was he the best player in the series? Yes.

- Outside of the final 5-10 minutes of the second period, the Preds really controlled Game Five. They outshot the Red Wings 25-22; the Preds also had the advantage in hits (32-22) and faceoffs (60% success rate).

- David Legwand and Alexander Radulov each played their best game of the series. As highlighted in our game story, that line, which also included Gabriel Bourque, was terrific all night. Their goal just 13 seconds into the third period to go up 2-1 was a real back-breaker after Detroit took the momentum into the second intermission. The trio ended the series with a plus-5 rating.

- Isn’t it fitting that Legwand, the franchise’s first draft pick and a Detroit native to boot, scored the game-winning goal against to knock out the Preds’ biggest rival? Also, this comes one year after he scored the memorable series-clinching empty-net goal last spring against Anaheim in Game 6.

- Detroit was the best 5-on-5 team in the NHL in the regular season. The Preds were the better 5-on-5 team in the series, outscoring Detroit 11-4.

- That atmosphere last night may have been the best I’ve ever seen in Bridgestone Arena. Having experienced every playoff game the Preds have played at home, I don’t recall a consistently louder, more festive, electric and raucous crowd than the one last night. Everyone in the building was on their feet for the opening video intro and during much of the third period, and that’s not including the deafening finish to the game and the three separate TV timeout ovations.

The first series win was special – but that wasn’t against Detroit. Preds fans have been waiting a long time for the moment to finally beat Detroit in the playoffs, and they got their wish last night.

- Craig Smith being substituted into the lineup was the only change Barry Trotz made. Smith had a minus-1 rating in 7:20 of ice-time, but he seemed to be a threat in the offensive zone and was determined to get the puck on net. It wouldn’t be surprising if we saw more of Smith if he keeps playing like that.

- Did we see Nicklas Lidstrom’s last NHL game? Though he’ll be 42 years old later this month, I have a hard time picturing the future Hall of Famer retiring. At the same time you can’t play forever. Here’s what Babcock said about Lidstrom prior to Game 5:

“I think Lidstrom retires when he thinks he’s not a good player anymore. … I know his wife and she doesn’t want him at home for sure, so why wouldn’t you keep playing?

“He’s too good to quit.”

- As you could see, Babcock praised Nashville every chance he could after the game. Are the Predators a team the aging Red Wings could now try to model after? It’s been the complete opposite ever since the Preds arrived in the NHL. With this series win for the Preds, though, we could have seen a changing of the guard.

***

Smashville 24/7 3 stars of the night:
1. David Legwand (1 goal, 1 assist)
2. Alexander Radulov (1 goal, 1 assist)
3. Shea Weber (27:27 TOI, 5 hits, 4 blocked shots)

Recaps around the blogosphere:

Preds On The Glass Inside Smashville Section 303
Puck Scene Hockey Night in Nashville On The Forecheck
 
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