Red Wings look strong heading into second round

Red Wings look strong heading into second round

April 28, 2011

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Kevin Kurz
CSNBayArea.com

Of the eight teams remaining in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, none looked as dominant, poised and balanced in the first round as the Detroit Red Wings.

It took all of four games for the mighty winged wheel to dispatch of the Phoenix Coyotes in what turned out to be an epic first round for the league, as half of the series went the full seven games. Detroit didnt have nearly the difficulty in advancing as its fellow Western Conference clubs, outscoring the Coyotes 18-10 and sending them packing (to Winnipeg?) in business-like fashion.

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Now, theyve earned another playoff date with the Sharks. There arent many secrets between these two rivals, and whoever coined the phrase familiarity breeds contempt was likely watching playoff hockey at the time. This jewel of a matchup will likely reflect that.

Here are a few things to look for from the Sharks second-round opponent, as San Jose attempts to advance to the Western Conference Finals in back-to-back seasons.

Balancing act: The most impressive stat, perhaps of the entire first round itself, is that 13 different Red Wings were able to get on the scoresheet with goals. Thats without access to their leading scorer, Henrik Zetterberg, who should be able to suit up for Game 1 against the Sharks after a knee injury late in the regular season kept him out against the Coyotes. Of the remaining playoff teams, only Tampa Bay has had that many players light the lamp, but it took them seven games to do it.

Leading the way with Zetterberg out was fellow superstar Pavel Datsyuk, who has six points to lead the Wings in playoff scoring. As is always the case with the perennial Selke Trophy candidate, his offense is just half of the story. Datsyuk dominated on both ends of the ice against the Coyotes and was arguably the best player in the league in the first round.

RELATED: Schedule for Sharks vs. Red Wings
Darren Helm and Justin Abdelkader are two players that wont necessarily make headlines, but are gobbling up valuable minutes and providing energy on the third and fourth lines.
Killing time: If there was one area of their game which was an issue in the first round, it was the Red Wings penalty-killing. Detroit allowed six power play goals in just 18 opportunities to the Coyotes, who arent exactly an offensive powerhouse. Only Nashville has a worse percentage than the 66.7 percent mark of the Red Wings when it comes to killing penalties.

The Sharks penalty-killing was a point of concern for most of the regular season, but it came through in important situations against the Kings in the first round. With special teams magnified in the postseason, and with both teams featuring such high-powered offenses, whichever club wins this battle will have a huge edge in the series.

Waiting game: The Red Wings havent played since April 20, and while its allowed Zetterberg, Johan Franzen and Co. an opportunity to heal from some bumps and bruises, thats a significant amount of time between games.

Detroit should be enough of a veteran team to not let that affect them too adversely, but look no further than the 2008-09 Boston Bruins for an example of a team that wasnt able to recover from that kind of respite. The Bruins, who were the top seed in the East that season, swept the Montreal Canadiens in the first round and had eight days off before falling to the less-talented Carolina Hurricanes in the second round.

Now, were not saying thats going to happen to the Red Wings, but it could be an obstacle they have to overcome.

Top Jimmy: This time last year, Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard was a hot shot rookie who might not have been prepared for the bright lights of playoff hockey after some outstanding regular season numbers. If his first-round performance and demeanor are any indication, hes much more prepared now.

Howard, much like Antti Niemi, doesnt necessarily have to steal any games for his club. After all, the Red Wings and Sharks are two of the most offensively gifted teams in the NHL, and just need a netminder to stop the shots hes supposed to stop. While Niemi struggled with even that in the first round, Howard did not. His 2.50 goals-against average and .915 save percentage were more than enough to help the Red Wings advance.
RATTO: 'New' Sharks need to be different vs. Detroit
What may be even more impressive, though, is that he appears more driven and focused this season. Take, for example, what Howard had to say following the Game 4 clincher: When interviewed on the ice, Howard was asked why he hadnt cracked a smile. Ill smile in June, he simply said.

In order to advance, the Sharks will need better play from their goaltender, they will have to match the scoring balance that Detroit possesses, and get off to better starts. Furthermore, Dan Boyle will have to be more responsible with the puck and play like a No. 1 defenseman, if only because Nicklas Lidstrom is on the other side of the ice.

It wont be easy. Many view the Red Wings as the odds-on favorite to win another Stanley Cup after their first round performance, and for good reason.

But theyre not invincible.

Down on the Farm: Beede earns third win with River Cats on 24th birthday

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AP

Down on the Farm: Beede earns third win with River Cats on 24th birthday

Tyler Beede stepped on the hill at Raley Field in Sacramento on Tuesday night one year older and came away with one more win after the River Cats defeated the Memphis Redbirds, 6-2. 

Beede, now 24 years old, didn’t churn out his most impressive or dominant performance, but he limited hits and found a way to earn his third win of the year. On the night, he completed 5 1/3 innings pitched and only allowed four hits and two earned runs. He did, however, walk more batters (3) than strikeouts (2), which is his lowest strikeout total in a game this season. 

Those numbers shouldn’t be too surprising when looking at Beede’s trends this season on the mound. In his nine starts for the River Cats, he is walking slightly more batters than last year when he was in Double-A Richmond, and he’s significantly striking out less batters. Through 49 innings pitched, which leads the River Cats, Beede is issuing 3.31 walks per nine innings (3.24 BB/9 in 2016) while only striking out 5.88 batters per nine, compared to 8.25 K/9 last year. 

Instead, the Giants’ top pitching prospect is turning to ground balls, setting him up smarter for the future. After forcing seven groundouts to three flyouts on Tuesday, he is now rolling ground balls 56.5 percent of the time, an increase from 47.9 percent last season. 

Sacramento plays in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League. All teams outside of the River Cats, who are last in the league with a team batting average of .238, are averaging just over five runs per game and almost one homer every game. Beede, isn’t letting the ball fly through air and has only allowed three homers off of him this season. This plays well for his and the Giants’ future. 

Whenever Beede finds his way to San Francisco, he doesn’t need to rely on his mid-90s fastball to get outs. The strikeouts will come, but life will be much easier watching a Gold Glove infield scoop up grounders for years to come. 

While Beede waits his turn to join the bigs, he’s showing maturity on the hill and stayed undefeated at home on a birthday night to remember. 

Around The Horn

— The Giants’ top power prospect, Chris Shaw, has been called up from Double-A Richmond to Triple-A Sacramento. Shaw, 23, played only first base in the minors before this season, but has transitioned to left field. He played 18 games at first and 18 games at left for the Flying Squirrels, registering no errors in the outfield. 

— Kelby Tomlinson is working in center field while with the River Cats. Insider Alex Pavlovic spoke to Bruce Bochy about the move

— Bryan Reynolds, the Giants’ top pick in 2016, finished a home run short of the cycle on Sunday. He went 5-for-6 with four RBI in the San Jose Giants’ win. On the season, Reynolds now has 14 multi-hit games in 38 games played. Here’s the breakdown: Six two-hit games, seven three-hit games and one five-hit game. 

More Curry-Durant pick-and-roll? Mike Brown: 'I love Steve, but...'

More Curry-Durant pick-and-roll? Mike Brown: 'I love Steve, but...'

The Warriors led the NBA in offensive rating (113.2) during the regular season.

The Warriors are second in the league in offensive rating (115.8) in the playoffs.

Scoring is not an issue.

But will we see the Warriors run more pick-and-roll in the NBA Finals, specifically the Steph Curry-Kevin Durant combination?

"Steve (Kerr) isn't really into this much," interim head coach Mike Brown told ESPN's Zach Lowe. "He's more about spacing and movement -- and that's fantastic. I love Steve, and wherever I might go, I'm going to incorporate a lot of stuff he does.

"But in the playoffs, sometimes you have to attack a mismatch. When I need a bucket, that's what I'm going to do."

Mr. Kerr -- your response?

"Mike is right about me, but I also recognize the need to do it more as defenses get tougher," Kerr told ESPN. "It's about finding the right balance between isolating when we need to, and keeping the flow that makes us who we are."

During the regular season, the Warriors ranked last in pick-and-roll possessions per game -- both when the ball-handler ended the possession, or when the roll/pop man ended the possession.

Steph Curry averaged 6.1 pick-and-roll possessions per game -- 28th in the NBA.

That number is up to 7.5 per game in the playoffs.

“I think we’re still at our best when we’re simple about what we’re doing,” Curry recently told Marcus Thompson of the Bay Area News Group. “Whether it’s pick-and-roll and you’ve got everybody spaced. You’ve got shooters where they need to be. You’ve got the dive man where he needs to be with space to put pressure on the rim. 

"You’ve got a ball-handler playmaker with it that can come off and shoot it, get a bucket. Sometimes it doesn’t need to be more complex than that. We’ve got the awareness that, that needs to happen.”