Another day, another home opener for the Wings to play for the benefit of drawing their well-traveled fanbase to arenas in non-traditional markets. The Wings improved to 2-1 in games where they're playing spoiler to the home crowd's team, besting the Phoenix Coyotes 2-1 in overtime mere seconds before finding themselves relegated to shootout hell, where the Desert Dogs absolutely thrived last season.
Detroit outshot Phoenix 33-26 on the night, thanks to an 8-to-4 power play advantage. While the Red Wings fortunately had perfect penalty killing on the night, their 1-for-8 performance with the man advantage was an area of concern. At any rate, let's get down to it, shall we?
Jimmy Howard had an excellent game. He stopped 25 of the Coyotes' 26 shots on net and the one he let by certainly was not a weak goal. Howard's positioning and rebound control were spot-on all night. Beyond that, I was impressed with how well he recognized when he needed to get a whistle and when he needed to keep the puck moving. For a road game without the benefit of last change, a team needs their goalie to help the coach control pace. Howard did this admirably. I counted four big saves for Howard and zero bad goals. For the CSSI, his rating for this game was +4.
Scoring and plus/minus analysis after the jump.The Goals
1st Period 19:50 - Phoenix goal: Martin Hanzal (wrist shot) from Wojtek Wolski and Keith Yandle
I think it's worthy to note that before the faceoff preceding this goal, the Wings had just come off a power play and had surrendered a breakaway chance to the Coyotes' Petr Prucha, who came streaking out of the box, only to be stonewalled by Jimmy Howard. It's bad enough to give up a goal in the last minute, but it's even worse to do so right after your goaltender bails out the team. For the goal, the play starts off with a faceoff to the right of Jimmy Howard, which Helm loses. Keith Yandle receives the puck at the blue line, while the Wings are fanning out to cover their men. Yandle makes a strong move to feint towards the center of the ice to make Patrick Eaves respect that option as he comes out to challenge. Yandle finds Wolski down low behind Darren Helm. Wolski gets the puck over Lidstrom's stick to Hanzal in the high slot, who rips it by Howard before he gets a chance to square to the shooter. There's a lot of considerations here of which player should have been covering what. Stuart chased Radim Vrbata up the near-side wall on the play. While Vrbata was the guy he should have been covering, he perhaps should have been checking the lane. Lidstrom was a bit too high in the zone and not in good position to block either the pass to Wolski or the pass to Hanzal. Eaves did not get to his man quickly enough and Miller might have played too close to the Coyotes' defenseman on the opposite point to get down and keep Hanzal from getting off the shot. The bottom line here is that I don't feel any Red Wings skater did his job well enough to exonerate him of the minus he earned on this play. Darren Helm has the most defensive responsibility here. It's bad enough he lost the faceoff cleanly, but he was in no position to cover the pass down low. Helm earns an extra minus.
2nd Period 7:03 - Detroit Goal: Pavel Datsyuk (wrist shot) from Patrick Eaves and Henrik Zetterberg
This play starts with the Coyotes bringing the puck up ice through the neutral zone. Good pressure by Zetterberg forces the Coyotes to dump it deep. Doug Janik is the first man on the puck and absorbs a hit from two Coyotes' players, kicking the puck further along the boards to Zetterberg. Henrik responds to the third forechecker in by throwing the puck up the middle. Eaves taps the puck to set it on a tee for Datsyuk, who collects the puck in stride to skate in 1-on-2 against the Coyotes' defensemen. Datsyuk skates into the zone and releases a wrister which is deflected off the glass behind the net and lands just inside the trapezoid. Following up on his shot, Datsyuk prevents Ed Jovanoski from getting his stick down on the puck and tries to feed Eaves, who is skating toward the net. The puck deflects off Lee Stempniak's skate blade and past Bryzgalov. Janik will pick up a half-assist for his great decision-making behind the Detroit net which led to the breakout in the first place.
Overtime 4:42 - Detroit Goal (PP): Niklas Kronwall (slap shot) from Henrik Zetterberg and Nicklas Lidstrom
The Wings are on their eight power play of the night here thanks to Tomas Holmstrom's work in his office drawing a penalty by Aucoin. Zetterberg loses the offensive-zone faceoff and the Coyotes clear the puck. Howard comes out to get the puck up to Lidstrom, who passes to Zetterberg to enter the zone. Zetterberg is squeezed off high and finds Cleary cross-ice. Cleary receives the puck and finds no easy route to the net, so he dishes to Kronwall high and goes to the front of the net. Kronwall gets the puck to Lidstrom, who freezes the defense with a windup for a slap shot before passing to Henrik Zetterberg on the side. After Lidstrom's pass, the Wings' captain immediately skates to the net and Kronwall follows him into the open space lower in the ice created by Lidstrom's maneuver. Zetterberg finds Kronwall and passes to him for a top shelf one timer past a screened Bryzgalov for the game-winner. Holmstrom earns a plus for drawing the penalty, Cleary earns an assist for his quick pass to Kronwall and his job screening Bryzgalov out front. Lidstrom earns a half-plus for his play to create space for Kronwall's shot.
+1 to Patrick Eaves: Aside from the assist on the game-tying goal, Eaves drew two penalties skating with speed and created his fair share of scoring chances in a game that didn't have many. He also helped kill off half of Phoenix's total power play time.
-0.5 to Tomas Holmstrom: The Wings had only 11 forwards playing and Holmstrom managed to get Babcock to play him for only 14:38. Despite his good work earning the penalty which led to the GWG, Holmstrom was too quiet out there.
-0.5 to Jiri Hudler: 2 penalty minutes, 0 shots on goal, several blown chances. He's dangerous when he's finding quiet areas in the ice. He did not do that in this game.
As a note on plus/minus: I'd like to give a minus to each of Zetterberg, Datsyuk, and Modano for their lackluster performance on the power play tonight, but I'm canceling out the minuses to Datsyuk and Zetterberg for overall good play and I'm halving Modano's minus. I thought the 2nd power play unit vastly outplayed the first and that's worrisome.
Games like this one are going to be especially tough to score. Overall, I think the Red Wings fought hard and played a good road game against a team well-known to love one-goal low scoring games. If you were following along with our game thread, you'd have seen me consistently complaining about the Wings' refusal to take the puck to the net. While I still think the Detroit skaters would have been well served to have simplified their game and have gotten more traffic on Bryzgalov, I also appreciate that they avoided getting too many guys caught up ice. Phoenix as a team is built around their goaltender and by creating chances off oppositions' mistakes. Detroit did not make many of these. Fortunately for the team, they have until Thursday night to practice on their shortcomings and get healthy.