Pittsburgh at Detroit (3/21/11)

March 21st, 2011

The Red Wings were at home tonight playing against the Pittsburgh Penguins. The goalies were Jimmy Howard and Brent Johnson. Datsyuk, Franzen and Hudler were all still out for the Wings. Salei was back in the lineup but since they were short one forward they went with an extra defenseman and Kindl was able to stay in. The Penguins were also missing two of their top players in Crosby and Malkin.

The momentum in this game swung back and forth all night long. The first period started out all Red Wings and then the Penguins picked it up. The Red Wings didn’t score however and the Penguins did. Dupuis and Kunitz both scored for Pittsburgh while the Penguins were surging in the first period. It was clear early on that Howard was having a problem controlling rebounds tonight and the Penguins took advantage of that.

Pittsburgh continued to dominate through most of the second period. Dupuis scored a shorthanded goal and then Kennedy scored to make it four to nothing. Howard got the hook at that point and MacDonald came in to relieve him. The Red Wings continued to battle hard. Their energy level seemed to be going up steadily while Pittsburgh was starting to slow down. The Penguins had played the night before and the Red Wings were rested so that could have made a difference as the game went on. Zetterberg broke the Red Wings’ goose egg when he scored late in the second period making it four to one Penguins.

Incredibly, Detroit scored three more unanswered goals in just over half of the third period to tie the game. Filppula scored one and then Cleary and Modano scored power play goals. With nearly ten minutes left in the game it was all tied up. The Red Wings really dominated the rest of the game but didn’t score again.

In the overtime it was all out war. The two teams went at it with scoring chances galore at both ends. It was really exciting to watch but it didn’t solve anything and the game went to a shootout.

Bertuzzi, Modano and Cleary were the shooters for the Wings and Johnson stopped them all. The Penguins went with Kovalev, Letang and Neal. Unfortunately, the final shooter, Neal, placed his shot perfectly over MacDonald’s shoulder. It was a really tough shot that probably wouldn’t have been stopped by any goalie in the league.

The Penguins got the extra point but the Wings showed a ton of poise to not panic and stick to their game plan even being down four to nothing. It was an amazing comeback and MacDonald deserves a lot of credit for coming into to a really tough situation and battling through it.

This game had a nasty edge to it. The Penguins were running the Detroit players every chance they got. Unbelievably, they were even dishing out shots to the head. I didn’t expect that after the suspension that was just handed out to Matt Cooke. Abdelkader was slammed into the boards by Niskanen who then used his forearm to pin his head into the glass. That was pretty cheap and unnecessary. That one was called at least, but a few other hits to the head were not called even though they looked almost like suspension-worth shots.

All in all this was a great game. It was very exciting and even without a lot of the big stars it still felt a lot like some of the Stanley Cup Finals games of years past.

This 5-4 overtime loss brings us to:
95 points

Detroit at Nashville (3/19/11)

March 19th, 2011

The Red Wings were on the road tonight playing the Predators in Nashville. The goalies were Jimmy Howard and Pekka Rinne. The Red Wings were short staffed tonight since Hudler still had the flu, and Datsyuk and Franzen were both out with day-to-day lower body injuries so they went with one forward short. Salei was still out for family leave but Kindl was filling in for him.

This was a violent game.  The Predators were doing a lot of hard hitting and they seemed to be trying to hurt people. There were at least two elbows to the head in the first period alone and neither one was penalized. Lidstrom was hit well after the play at one point and it took him a while to recover. Helm was driven over the boards into the Predator’s bench area. It was really pretty crazy and almost nothing was being called. What they did call, though, was incidental contact on Holmstrom which negated a goal. He was standing at the top of the crease and Rinne bumped into him. I guess Holmstrom is breaking the rules just by existing anywhere on the ice that the goalie might want to be. The Wings scored first anyway, though, when they had a power play near the end of the period. Bertuzzi passed it down low to Zetterberg who centered it to Cleary in front of the net. Cleary chipped it up and over Rinne to make it one to nothing Detroit.

Early in the second period the Red Wings were shorthanded and Eaves went down and blocked a bullet of shot by Shea Weber. He took it in the leg and was unable to stand up. The puck was cleared deep but the Predators were starting back up ice so the referees didn’t blow the whistle. Eaves was crawling to the bench so that somebody could come out to replace him. Kronwall saw what was happening and decided to help him along. He used his stick to shovel eaves over to the boards in front of the bench where the linesman helped him the rest of the way. It was a pretty funny looking scene, although Eaves was clearly in a lot of pain. I can’t say I’ve ever seen that happen before. It was a real display of guts by Eaves to struggle to the bench and some quick thinking by Kronwall to scoot him along. Luckily, Eaves wasn’t seriously hurt and was right back on the ice a few minutes later. It must have just been a stinger that paralyzed his leg for a little while.

Later on in the second period the Predators tied the game with a tip-in goal by Geoffrion.

In the third period Nashville took the lead with a power play goal. Ericsson blocked a shot and it bounced right to Blum who was in perfect position to tap it in.

The Red Wings tried to tie the game but the Predators played great defense. Howard went to the bench for an extra skater toward the end but Legwand put one into the empty net and that was it for the Wings.

This was a good game and was well played by both teams. The goalie interference calls are starting to get annoying though. Also, the non-calls in this game, while sort of refreshing, were pretty unusual considering what’s called on most nights.

The Red Wings have two tough home games coming up next. Pittsburgh comes to town on Monday and Vancouver will be there on Wednesday.

This 1-3 loss brings us to:
94 points

Detroit at Columbus (3/17/11)

March 17th, 2011

The Red Wings played the Blue Jackets tonight in Columbus. Steve Mason was the goalie for the Jackets and the Wings went with Joey MacDonald since Jimmy Howard had just played the previous night. Draper was a healthy scratch, Hudler was out with the flu, and Salei was still in California on family leave since his wife had recently delivered a new baby girl. Osgood was supposed to be back but he wasn’t quite recovered yet from his sports hernia surgery.

The Wings played well tonight. There were not a lot of goals in this game and they came early. In fact the game winning goal was scored just 33 seconds into the game. It was on the very first shift. Helm, Eaves and Miller enter the zone and Helm shot the puck. Mason blocked it but the rebound came to Miller who was right in front of the empty side of the net. He tapped it in and it was one to nothing Wings. Later in the period the Red Wings were on a power play and Franzen passed it through the slot to Filppula who quickly shot and scored to put the Wings up by two goals.

Although there was no more scoring in the game, the Wings allowed the Blue Jackets 37 shots on goal. That’s way too many but it was mostly due to Detroit getting penalized a lot, especially in the third period. Luckily, Joey MacDonald battled hard and got the shut out even though he was severely peppered by the Blue Jackets.

Rafalski and Datsyuk both left the game after hard hits. Rafalski went awkwardly into the boards and seemed to hurt his knee but in the post-game report they said he was fine. Datsyuk had some sort of lower body injury but hopefully it isn’t too serious.

This was the fourth win in a row for the Wings who seem to have recovered nicely from their mini-slump. This was also the 300th win for Mike Babcock since joining the Red Wings. He accomplished this feat in just six seasons. Only two coaches in history have hit the 300 mark in six seasons. They were Scotty Bowman with Montreal and Glen Sather with Edmonton, so Babcock is in some highly elite company!

Next up for the Wings is a road game in Nashville on Saturday.

This 2-0 win brings us to:
94 points

Washington at Detroit (3/16/11)

March 16th, 2011

The Washington Capitals made a rare appearance at Joe Louis Arena to play the Red Wings tonight. The goalies were Jimmy Howard and Michal Neuvirth. Rafalski returned to the lineup tonight after recovering from back spasms. Eaves and Miller were healthy scratches. Salei was not available because his wife was about to deliver a baby, so Kindl got to stay in the lineup even with Rafalski coming back.

This was a great game between two top teams. The Capitals came into this game on hot streak having won their previous nine games. The Red Wings have been struggling at home lately so they had their work cut out for them.

The defense was pretty tight on both sides. There wasn’t much room in the neutral zone and both teams were doing a good job of not allowing the puck in their own end for any significant amount of time. The Wings seemed to be managing to get set up and cycle the puck more often than the Capitals, but it was tough at both ends. Zetterberg opened the scoring about halfway through the first period. It was a great passing play that went all over the ice from Cleary to Bertuzzi to Rafalski and finally to Zetterberg who slapped it home. Just a few seconds later, though, Carlson scored to tie it up for the Capitals. Howard was screened by Datsyuk and didn’t see the puck until it was too late. The Red Wings got the lead back again a few minutes later when they worked the puck down low and Filppula tipped it in from right in front of the net. The period ended with the Wings up two to one.

There was only one goal in the second period but it was incredible. Ovechkin entered the zone with speed but Stuart was right on him. Stuart appeared to have his stick in the way but Ovechkin still managed to release a blistering shot that I don’t think any goalie in the league would have stopped. From an impartial viewpoint it was a thing of beauty. It was a great display of Ovechkin’s abilities but unfortunately it cost the Red Wings a goal to witness it.

In the third period the Red Wings were on the power play and Zetterberg took the puck in deep. As he passed Neuvirth he let go a backhand shot that found the tiniest of holes over the goalie’s shoulder. Even in slow motion it was tough to see how that puck got into the net but it did, and the Wings had the lead again.

At the end of the game the Caps pulled the goalie and Zetterberg was on the ice hoping for a hat trick with the net empty but there was no more scoring.

Both teams played really well tonight. It was great to see the Wings step it up and play well at home against a tough team. Rafalski had assists on all three goals so clearly it’s nice to have him back in the lineup.

This 2-3 win brings us to:
92 points

Detroit at St. Louis (3/12/11)

March 12th, 2011

The Red Wings were on the road tonight playing the Blues in St. Louis. The goalies were Jimmy Howard and Jaroslav Halak. Rafalski was still out but he’s expected to be back in the lineup by Wednesday. Osgood is also expected back sometime next week.

Detroit played pretty well in the first period but it seemed like the Blues were getting too much time in the Red Wings’ zone. During one example of this, the Blues scored the first goal of the game when Cracknell fired a snapper that beat Howard. The lead didn’t last long though as Salei scored just a few seconds later and then Helm scored just 16 seconds after that. The shots on goal were pretty even but Detroit ended the period with the lead.

The second period was also pretty even. Near the end of the period Detroit was on the power play and Kronwall ripped one from high in the slot. It deflected off the stick of one of the Blues and went into the net. That made it three to one Wings at the second intermission.

Early in the third period the Red Wings had a bit of a collapse. The Blues were getting too much time in the offensive zone and were moving the puck well. First Backes scored after the Blues played keep away in the Red Wings’ end for a while. Then a few minutes later D’Agostini scored after the Wings failed a clearing attempt and turned the puck over. Suddenly it was all tied up again. Datsyuk had something to say about that, however. He made a great move between two guys and then went to the net, made another move around a defender and put the puck in the net high on Halak’s glove side. It was an incredible play by Datsyuk and it came at, get this, 13:13 of the third period. Serendipity! Then, just 80 seconds later, Abdelkader scored a beauty after going coast to coast with speed and using a Blues player for a bit of a screen. That made it five to three Red Wings. The Blues pulled Halak in final few minutes but the Red Wings held them off for the win.

I thought the Blues had too much time and space in the Detroit’s end during portions of this game but for the most part the Wings played pretty well. They were great offensively and did a decent job shutting down the Blues most of the time.

This 5-3 win brings us to:
90 points

Edmonton at Detroit (3/11/11)

March 11th, 2011

The Edmonton Oilers played the Red Wings tonight at Joe Louis Arena. The starting goalies were Jimmy Howard and Devan Dubnyk. Rafalski was still out with back spasms.

The Oilers have been hit with a bunch of injuries this season and they have the worst record in the league. That being said, they can still win a game on any given night especially when they play tight defense, their goalie stands on his head and their opponent gets lulled into complacency. Edmonton played a 1-3-1 defense for most of the night so there was no room for Detroit coming through the neutral zone. It was a frustrating night for the Wings.

In the first period Ryan Jones shot the puck and it looked like it was going wide. Instead it hit the inside of Howard’s right leg and deflected into the net giving the Oilers the lead one to nothing.

For almost the entire rest of the game the Red Wings tried to tie it up and the Oilers just stuck to them like glue. Even through many power play opportunities the Wings could not score. Dubnyk was incredible. He was very big in the net and his positioning was excellent. He stopped everything. The only thing that got by him was a shot from the point that Bertuzzi reached down for apparently trying to catch it. It deflected off his glove and into the net but the goal was disallowed because of the fact that he reached out for it. Even though it didn’t look like an intentional redirection, they ruled that it WAS intentional just because he reached for it. It was an interesting call and will probably spark a lot of debate.

At the end of the game the Wings pulled the goalie. Lidstrom finally broke Dubnyk’s shutout with a shot from the point with just 25 seconds left on the clock. That tied it up and sent the game to overtime.

With just 42 seconds left in the overtime Datsyuk got the puck. He went left to right across the slot with his defender laid out for a block. Datsyuk dangled and waited for him to slide by. Then he fired a wrister that somehow made it through a bunch of people and found the back of the net.

So after trailing almost the entire game the Red Wings came away with the win. Dubnyk played very well and deserved a better fate, but I’m glad he didn’t get it. The Wings needed this win as they try to break out of the slump they’ve been in lately. They head to St. Louis now where the Blues are home and waiting to play them tomorrow night.

This 1-2 win brings us to:
88 points

Los Angeles at Detroit (3/9/11)

March 9th, 2011

The Red Wings hosted the L.A. Kings tonight at Joe Louis Arena. The starting goalies were Jimmy Howard and Jonathan Quick. Rafalski was still out with back spasms and Kindl was taking his place in the lineup.

The Red Wings got off to a pretty good start in this game. They played hard in the first period and outshot the Kings by a wide margin. Early in the period the Wings were pressuring and Helm took a shot at the net. It looked like Quick had it but it slipped between his legs and trickled in. That gave the Red Wings the early lead.

In the second period the Kings started playing a lot harder. Penner shot one from the point that bounced in on net. Howard had to be sharp just to track it and knock it down. Unfortunately, the rebound dropped down next to him in front of the open net with Kopitar right on the doorstep. He banged it in to tie the game. Later in the second period the Kings were on the power play. Handzus swung his stick around hitting Lidstrom in the mouth and cutting him. Apparently, everybody missed it and no penalty was called. A few seconds later, during the same play, Martinez fired from the point. The puck changed direction a couple of times and was finally tipped in by Dustin Brown. That one was hard to take because it should have been a four minute double minor for the Kings and instead they got what turned out to be the game-winning goal.

The game was pretty even from that point on. The Kings played great defense and didn’t give the Wings any room. Detroit pulled the goalie at the end but they weren’t able to tie the game.

The real story of this game was Jonathan Quick. After the initial flub when Helm scored, he was red hot. He absolutely robbed the Red Wings on several occasions and had them shaking their heads in disbelief. On top of that the Kings’ defense was excellent.

This is the fourth game in a row without a win for the Red Wings. They have two losses and two overtime losses in that time. They’re going to have to turn this around quickly or they might find themselves in the thick of the battle for the playoffs instead of standing near the top watching the mayhem.

This 2-1 loss brings us to:
86 points

Detroit at Phoenix (3/5/11)

March 5th, 2011

The final game of the Red Wings’ current road trip was tonight against the Coyotes in Phoenix. The goalies were Jimmy Howard and Ilya Bryzgalov. Draper was the healthy scratch for this game and Miller was in.

Detroit got the scoring started early in this one when Helm stole a puck and got it quickly to Miller. He stepped across the blue line and fired a long shot at Bryzgalov. Somehow he missed it when he tried to swat it away and it slipped past him and into the net. Later in the period Franzen scored a power play goal with a nice wrister that was set up by Lidstrom. Franzen’s shot was perfectly placed just over the shoulder of Bryzgalov’s glove hand. This was the first goal for Franzen since his five-goal burst 15 games ago so it’s good for him to get that out of the way.

Towards the end of the first period Turris scored for the Coyotes. I still can’t believe the goal was allowed. Howard was just outside the crease and tried to move towards the post to make the save. MacLean was in his way and prevented him from getting into position. The Phoenix broadcasters (which were all that were available on NHL Center Ice) said that MacLean had every right to that piece of ice. And I would have agreed with that until I saw the goal waved off in the previous game because Franzen was standing (outside the crease) and the referee decided that Niemi might have wanted to stand there. Franzen didn’t bump him; Niemi didn’t run into Franzen trying to get into position, Franzen was just standing there. This case was much worse. Howard tried to move and hit a brick wall preventing him from doing his job. What better describes goaltender interference? Clearly, this is a case of two referees with two different interpretations of the rule and that isn’t supposed to happen. I’ve never been more sour about a non-call. I would have been okay with it if much less of an infraction hadn’t been called on Detroit just the other night.

In the second period Filppula scored from behind the goal line by banking the puck in off of Bryzgalov’s shoulder. Then late in the period Phoenix was on a power play and Helm raced after a puck that was cleared deep into the Coyotes’ end. He was charging as hard as if he was trying to negate an icing and I think it confused the Phoenix players. Helm won the race, got the puck and took it to the front of the net where he ripped a wrister that beat Bryzgalov for a demoralizing, late-period, shorthanded goal. It was a great individual effort by Helm who just continues to impress me. You gotta love this guy! That made it four to one Wings at the end of the second.

Early in the third period Howard came out behind the net to play the puck around to Kindl. Kindl tapped it to Helm in front of the still empty net. The pass was a little tight in Helm’s feet and he missed it. Boedker was right there to grab it and put it in the empty net as Howard dove for it. That made it four to two in favor of Detroit. With a little over five minutes left in the game Whitney scored with a shot that he swept around Howard’s pads and into the net. That one was a bit of a soft goal, I thought. Then with about two minutes left Hanzal scored for the Coyotes after a bit of a scramble in front of Howard. Suddenly the game was tied. The Wings had given up three unanswered goals in the third period.

The tie held to the end of the game and throughout the overtime. In the shootout Bryzgalov stopped Datsyuk, Hudler and Bertuzzi for the Wings. Howard stopped Turris and Boedker, but unfortunately the second shooter, Vrbata, scored to give the Coyotes the unbelievable win.

This was a two point gift from the Red Wings to the Coyotes. It was a terrible collapse in the third period and in fact, although they scored a lot of goals, they didn’t play particularly well. The Coyotes outshot the Wings in every period of the game. It was kind of misleading because the score made it look like the Wings were dominating but they weren’t and they were also taking a lot of penalties. The Wings were lucky to get one point out of this game but I can’t help but wonder how different the game would have been if the Coyotes’ first goal would have been disallowed.

This 4-5 overtime loss brings us to:
86 points

Detroit at San Jose (3/3/11)

March 3rd, 2011

The Red Wings and the Sharks played tonight in San Jose. Joey MacDonald got the start tonight for Detroit and the Sharks went with Antti Niemi. Draper was in the lineup tonight and Miller was a healthy scratch. Rafalski was still out with back spasms so he went back to Detroit and Kindl continued filling in for him.

Dany Heatley started the scoring early in the first period when he banged in the rebound after a shot by Ian White. Later in the first it looked like Detroit had tied the game but the goal was waved off because of goalie interference by Franzen. On the replay it was clear that there was no contact. The only possible justification is that Franzen was standing in front of Niemi and so he couldn’t come out of the crease as far as he wanted to. It was a pretty weak call. Near the end of the period though, Holmstrom scored to tie it up for the Wings. Modano’s shot was going wide and Holmstrom redirected it into the corner of the net. The Wings were pretty lucky to be tied at the end of one period since the Sharks were outshooting them and generally playing a better game.

Detroit stepped it up in the second period and outshot the Sharks 12 to 5. Unfortunately, one of the Sharks’ five shots ended up in the net. It was Heatley scoring again. This time he tapped in pass from Pavelski. The Wings didn’t score in the second so they ended the period down two to one.

In the third period MacDonald came out to play a puck and it either jumped over his stick or Marleau chipped it over. Either way it went over his stick and bounced into the net behind him making it three to one in favor of the Sharks. Detroit pulled the goalie in the final few minutes and struggled to score but they were not able to do so.

This is the first road game in quite a while in which the Wings failed to get at least one point. It seemed like the Sharks had the Red Wings’ number in this game. Even though the shot total ended up pretty even the play didn’t really seem so. The Wings played pretty well but the Sharks just seemed to have found another gear.

This 1-3 loss brings us to:
85 points

Detroit at Anaheim (3/2/11)

March 2nd, 2011

The Red Wings were in Anaheim tonight to play a road game against the Ducks. Jimmy Howard was in net for the Wings and the Ducks went with Dan Ellis, recently acquired from Tampa Bay. In fact, his goalie mask still said ‘BOLTS’ on the top. All of the Red Wings’ forwards except Eaves were healthy and available tonight so Draper was chosen to be the odd man out and was scratched.

The Wings seemed to get off to another slow start in the first period. They were generating some offense but weren’t able to do much against the Ducks defensively. Anaheim had more good scoring chances and a lot more shots on goal, even though Detroit had more power plays including a lengthy 5 on 3. Luckily, Howard was superb. He made several great saves to rob the Ducks and keep his team in the game.

In the second period the Red Wings played better. They outshot the Ducks and Datsyuk scored a power play goal from in deep below the goal line.

The third period was pretty even, but Jason Blake scored a goal for the Ducks by using Salei as a screen. Jimmy Howard didn’t see the puck coming until it was too late.

The game went to overtime tied at one. In the OT Salei got called for a hook on Bobby Ryan. It was a very light touch with the stick and Ryan collapsed in a heap. He should have been called for a dive but instead he was awarded a penalty shot. He fired off a beauty that beat Howard cleanly for the first time in the game and gave the Ducks the win. Howard was understandably sour and broke his stick over the goalpost.

Anaheim was a lot more aggressive than the Wings tonight. The hits were especially one sided in Anaheim’s favor. It’s too bad the Wings didn’t win but really I think Anaheim played better overall. The bad call was a tough way for it to end though since Howard was on the verge of stealing one for his team.

This 1-2 overtime loss brings us to:
85 points