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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.

RELATED: Spotlight on the enemy: Detroit Red Wings
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.

Hitting the high notes: Steph and Ayesha have 'bucket list' moment on Fillmore stage

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AP

Hitting the high notes: Steph and Ayesha have 'bucket list' moment on Fillmore stage

As a two-time MVP, two-time NBA champion and one of the most popular players on the planet, you'd think there isn't much left for Stephen Curry to accomplish. 

The same can be said of his wife Ayesha -- a business powerhouse in her own right. 

But the two had a "bucket list" moment last night in San Francisco when they were welcomed on stage at the Fillmore for a performance with Johnnyswim. 

Johnnyswim is an American folk, soul, blues, pop music duo, consisting of singer-songwriters Amanda Sudano and Abner Ramirez who hail from Nashville, Tennessee. The duo is out on our promoting their studio album "Georgica Pond" and the live album "Live At Rockwood Music Hall"

The Currys weren't there just for show either -- social media videos show the two in song.

@JOHNNYSWIM #INeedMeSomeHome

A post shared by Wardell Curry (@stephencurry30) on

In her post, Ayesha said "What a night! This was definitely a bucket list moment w the amazing peeps @amandasudanoramirez @johnnyswim ... also @stephencurry30 yaaaaaaas."

Stephen isn't a stranger to showing off his vocal chords -- last season, he hit the late-night screen with an episode of "Carpool Karaoke" alongside James Corden

De'Aaron Fox lives up to billing, looks ready for primetime after solid debut

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USATSI

De'Aaron Fox lives up to billing, looks ready for primetime after solid debut

SACRAMENTO -- Watching tape of De’Aaron Fox looks like a video stuck on fast forward. The comparisons to John Wall don’t do him justice. Teams deliberately sag off the rookie and dare him to shoot and he still manages to race by them in a blur.

If his opening night performance against the Houston Rockets was any indication, the Kings have landed a special player. From barking orders on the court to his teammates to going at NBA veteran defenders, Fox looked ready for primetime just 24 minutes into his professional career.

“I got to get my first NBA game out the way, I think it went well,” Fox told a huge crowd surrounding his locker. “We played hard. It didn’t go the way we wanted it to, we wanted to get the W, but there’s a lot of things we learned out of today.”

Dressed in a burgundy suit and shoes that would have made Omri Casspi blush, the rookie hung around for way too long after the game, giving every camera and microphone a good talking to. He’ll learn quickly that the media is drawn to him like a moth to a flame.

His numbers look modest - 14 points on 7-of-15 shooting and five assists. But he was facing a title contender in the Houston Rockets and the moment wasn’t too big for the 19-year-old point guard. Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni even showed the rookie respect when he shifted one of his better defenders in Trevor Ariza over to cover the speedster.

“This is game 1, we’re not expecting him to be a Hall of Famer right now,” George Hill said. “It takes steps to do it and baby crawls. But I think he took a huge step today in proving what he can do. He looked good out there.”

Hill started in front of Fox, but the two guards played alongside each other for plenty of minutes. That is the plan this season, although there are plenty of other players vying for minutes in the backcourt.

Everyone in the building seemed impressed by the youngster. He has an ability to drop the pedal down on an opponent and then downshift on the fly to stay under control.

“He’s pretty fast, you know,” Dave Joerger said of his star rookie. “He has a terrific charisma about him and I think he’ll be fun to play with.”

His teammates appeared to have no problems keeping up. They ran the floor and pushed the tempo when Fox was in the game and the team seems to feed off his energy.

“They play hard, man,” Vince Carter said of Fox and team’s other young players players. “They just go for it and that’s all you can ask. It’s just great and it’s going to get better. You can show them all the film you want, but they’re not going to learn until they get thrown into the fire. That’s the best lesson.”

Game 1 is in the books and Fox is already earning a longer look. The team embarks on their first road trip of the season beginning Friday night against the Mavericks. Waiting for them in Dallas is another young point guard in Dennis Smith Jr., setting up the first of many battles between the star-studded draft class of 2017.