15 years ago in Winnipeg, the Detroit Red Wings finished off the Jets in the final game before that franchise moved to Arizona and became the Coyotes. With speculation swirling about the Coyotes potentially moving back to Winnipeg this summer, the Red Wings may have delivered the death blow to another era of the Coyotes/Jets franchise on Wednesday night. Detroit beat Phoenix, 6-3, to pull off a series sweep and send the Coyotes packing for the offseason and potentially for a move back to Canada as well.
The story of this game in the first period was puck luck. The Red Wings had none, and the Coyotes managed to take a lead thanks to it. Following a marvelous play by Pavel Datsyuk to set up a Tomas Holmstrom goal as he was falling down, the Coyotes scored a pair of goals thanks directly to puck luck. Neither goal was Jimmy Howard's fault, as both were scored because the puck redirected off the skate of a Red Wings defenseman and into the net. The second goal gave Phoenix its first lead since Game 1 of the series, but Patrick Eaves evened things up before the first intermission thanks to an outstanding play by Darren Helm to not only get the puck, but also to make the centering pass that set up the goal.
The story of the second period was converting power plays. The Coyotes' Martin Hanzal scored 1:09 into the second on a power play to give Phoenix a 3-2 lead. Jimmy Howard was caught out of position and couldn't slide over to make the save.
The Coyotes' lead didn't hold up for long thanks to a Red Wings power-play goal. The puck squirted out of a mad scramble in front of the net and went right to Niklas Kronwall. He fired a wrister past Ilya Bryzgalov for the game-tying goal at the 4:49 mark of the second period.
Things were quiet during the rest of the second period and for more than half of the third. Then puck luck once again became the story, but this time it was on the side of the Red Wings. With 6:19 to go in the third, Dan Cleary secured control of the puck next to the boards and below the goal line. He hesitated and then decided to fire the puck on net. Somehow Bryzgalov wasn't guarding the post and the puck bounced off him and into the net, putting the Red Wings up 4-3. Less than two minutes later, Todd Bertuzzi picked up a goal when the puck redirected off the skate of a Coyotes player in the crease and drifted into the net past Bryzgalov. The puck luck was without a doubt in the Red Wings' favor when it mattered most, although Eaves needed none when he fired the puck into an empty net to seal the 6-3 victory and finish off the Coyotes.
With the sweep, the Red Wings become the only team that is able to sit back and relax right now. Every other series is still going on and has seen both teams pick up at least one victory. This is great news for the Red Wings because they get to rest and heal up while the other playoff teams continue to beat up on each other. Considering Henrik Zetterberg missed all four games of the series and Johan Franzen was out for Game 4, the potential week-long break will definitely be welcomed by Detroit.
As for potential opponents in the second round, it depends what the Canucks and Sharks do. If Vancouver finishes off Chicago as most expect they will, then the Canucks will play the lowest-seeded team in the second round. That would leave Detroit playing San Jose if the Sharks beat the Kings (SJ leads the series 2-1 right now). If the Sharks were to be upset, Detroit would have home-ice advantage in the second round no matter what the Canucks do, so from that standpoint a Kings upset would be ideal for the Red Wings.
Whatever happens, it will be nice for the Red Wings to have a week or so off before they have to kick things into high gear again.