Despite the fact Nashville managed to push Detroit into overtime before quickly succumbing to a Johan Franzen breakaway, the Wings and Rangers – who finished off their series against the Devils – displayed remarkably similar tendencies in dispatching their opponents.
New York, which won 5-3 in a very exciting, often bizarre contest, simply had too much talent for the Devils and essentially exposed New Jersey as either a team in need of a new system, or one which must bring in a higher calibre of two-way, disciplined skaters for next season.
The Rangers had this game all but wrapped up in the second period when, up 4-1, a fluke goal by Bryce Salvador and a Devils 5-on-3 power play shortly thereafter conspired to bring New Jersey within one of the Blueshirts.
Perhaps the most telling shift of the night came after the Salvador tally. Brandon Dubinsky, whom the fluke shot glanced off to beat goalie Henrik Lundqvist, went full-bore right away and together with linemate Jaromir Jagr, created a whirlwind of a cycle in the Devils zone in hopes of choking off the momentum; the Rangers had the drive and the ability.
A look at New York’s forwards illustrates the gulf in talent between the two teams and was a major factor in the Rangers taking this series in five games; Jagr, Chris Drury, Brendan Shanahan, Scott Gomez and Sean Avery all bring different crucial skills to the table.
Now, New Jersey has some fine forwards, but none looked scary in this series, though Patrik Elias picked up a point in each contest and would certainly be the focus of any counter-argument from a Devils fan.
Similarly, Detroit is just too deep for Nashville right now. The Preds went into Game 5 without David Legwand and captain Jason Arnott, who was felled by a flu a mere hour before puck drop.
With those two out, Nashville’s attack was toothless, as indicated by Detroit peppering goalie Dan Ellis with 33 more shots than his Red Wings cohort, Chris Osgood, faced.
Ellis was once again incredible and given his unrestricted free agent status in the summer, currently employs one of the happiest agents in the world.
His solid positional play, coupled with a definite lack of neck-stepping by the Wings (how do you throw more than 50 regulation shots on net and only score once?) gave the Preds that last-minute window to tie things up, which Radek Bonk did to send the game to OT.
Can Nashville win this series? Well, they can certainly win Game 6 at home. But considering the franchise has still yet to win a road playoff game and will face a much more aware team of Wings than they did in Game 5, the situation looks grim.
THN.com’s Playoff Blogs, featuring analysis and opinion on the action from the night before, with insight on what happened and what it all means going forward, will appear daily throughout the NHL playoffs. Read more entries HERE.
Ryan Kennedy is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey’s Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Wednesdays and his features, The Hot List and Year of the Ram, appears Tuesday and Thursday, respectively.
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