Avoiding as many grueling seven-game series as possible is critical to a club’s chances of making a deep postseason run. The Detroit Red Wings have an opportunity to end their quarterfinal series against the Phoenix Coyotes quickly by winning Wednesday’s Game 4 and completing a sweep.
The contest will begin at 7:30 p.m. (PT), with the Versus network providing television coverage as part of a National Hockey League doubleheader. An Eastern Conference battle between the Capitals and Rangers will get the evening started at 4 p.m. (PT).
Most sports books monitored by Don Best Sports’ Real-Time Odds have opened the Red Wings as 140 road favorites for Game 4, with the total set at 5 ½ ‘under’ (minus 115).
The Red Wings are 17-5 in their last 22 playoff games as a favorite of 150 or less, while the Coyotes are 1-5 in their last six playoff games as an underdog.
Detroit took a commanding 3-0 lead in this series Monday by defeating the Coyotes as a slight 105 road underdog, 4-2. The combined six goals skipped above the 5 ½-goal closing total, allowing the ‘over’ to cash in each of the first three games in this series.
That is not too surprising considering the Red Wings entered the series as the highest scoring road team in the postseason. They also own the most proficient power play of the 16 playoff squads.
The victory enabled the Red Wings to improve to 13-2-2 in their last 17 trips to Phoenix, with the ‘over’ going 8-2-3 in the last 13 matchups in the desert.
Getting off to a quick start was a problem for the Wings after the all-star break, but they have scored the first goal in two of the first three games of this series and have led going into the final stanza on all three occasions.
Shrugging off some big early hits by a Phoenix team that perhaps emphasized body-checking at the expense of positional play, the Wings continued to control the puck and push their attack.
The game was not even two minutes old when 190-pound Darren Helm knocked 230-pound Ed Jovanovski off the puck behind the Phoenix net, grabbed the puck and flung it toward the slot. Defenseman Ruslan Salei, who was pinching in from the point, then fired a slap shot past a shocked Ilya Bryzgalov.
Then, as the Wings continued to control the puck, Drew Miller tipped a Niklas Kronwall shot from the blue line into the net at 2:41. Two minutes and 12 seconds before Phoenix would fire its first shot, the Red Wings led 2-0.
In fact, for the first 8:30, the Wings outshot Phoenix 8-2 en route to a 13-9 advantage at the end of one period. Detroit finished the game by out-shooting the Coyotes, 34-30.
Jimmy Howard stopped 28 of those 30 shots to raise his save percentage during this series to .923. That’s considerably higher than his .908 save percentage during the regular season.
Bryzgalov, who was unanimously appraised at the start of the series as a key advantage for Phoenix, has clearly been outplayed by the 27-year-old Howard.
Valtteri Filppula and Johan Franzen scored the other two Detroit goals. Franzen was playing with a visor to protect his stitch-filled face thanks to a Shane Doan check that sent him crashing to the boards face-first in Game 3.
David Schlemko and Ray Whitney provided the Coyotes’ offense with power play goals. Phoenix went 2-for-4 with the man advantage, while the Wings failed on their four power play opportunities. Detroit’s power play is now 3-for-12 in this series, while Phoenix is 5-for-16.
Detroit forward Henrik Zetterberg, who has missed the first three games of this series with a sprained knee, is listed as “doubtful” on the Don Best Sports injury report.