The shadow knows
Babcock didn't care when Zetterberg was out last; the theory was that Crosby would be just as tired. He just made sure that Z, Nicklas Lidstrom and Brian Rafalski were out there to contain Crosby.
Here's the only time that plan doesn't work ... when the Red Wings have a power play. Zetterberg can go with Crosby at even strength and on Pittsburgh power plays because Crosby is on the ice at the same time. But when the Wings have the man-advantage, Z is on the first unit and Crosby is on the bench. Fortunately, the referees only gave Detroit two power plays. (Joking. I didn't turn into a RW hater.)
If you told me this before the series, I would say I wouldn't want Z as a shadow. You're turning your top offensive player into a shadow, taking away from his full range of abilities. Let him play against Crosby most of the time, but don't kill Z to do it 100 percent of the time.
Well, the shadowing has worked. Zetterberg outdueled Crosby once again last night, getting a goal and an assist and being a plus-1. Crosby had one assist -- his first point of the series, a second assist -- and was a minus-1. Z even outshot Crosby, 4-3.
It was on a Penguin power play that Crosby was finally on the ice against Zetterberg for a goal, but that wasn't the fault of the shadowing. Zetterberg and his first-unit PK teammates couldn't clear the puck out of the zone for a line change and were on the ice for 1:23.
Zetterberg did look tired several times in Game 3 and played 24:19 -- the most ice time for any forward in this series. But that's just window dressing. The results were sterling.
"You could see what Mike (Babcock) was trying to do with getting Zetterberg out there on the change every chance the could get," said Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma. "I think the one advantage we had because they were trying to get Zetterberg out there so much, there were times when he got out there tired."
It wasn't Zetterberg, however, who cost the Red Wings a Game 3 victory. It was Detroit's supporting cast.
While Maxime Talbot, Sergei Gonchar and Kris Letang were scoring for Pittsburgh, Detroit didn't get much from Jiri Hudler, Mikael Samuelsson, Dan Cleary, Valtteri Filppula and the other forwards.
It will be interesting to see if Babcock tries to dictate matchups again in Game 4 despite being on the road.
"(Being at home) just makes it easier to get people on and off the ice smoother and get what you want," said Babcock. "But we had that for two games too. So it works out."
If Pavel Datsyuk returns, the plot will thicken. Zetterberg has been the Red Wings' shut-down forward all season, but Datsyuk is an amazing defensive player who won the Selke Trophy last spring.
Babcock could either forget the shadow of Crosby and be satisfied with Datsyuk and Zetterberg being on the ice for 40 minutes, making Crosby work in the spare time. Of Babcock could continue the shadow of Crosby and try to match Datsyuk up with Evgeni Malkin as much as possible.
Whatever the case, this game of matchups makes for fascinating viewing.