Ok. The Detroit Red Wings played a game for the first time in what seems like 3 weeks, and predictably struggled out of the gate. After a sloppy first period highlighted by a beautiful tic-tac-toe passing sequence between the top line sandwiched between two preventable Calgary Flames goals, the Wings settled down and got to business, tying the game on a goal by Dr Rahmani-patient Nicklas Lidstrom and getting two goals in the third from the second line.
I always dread games against the Flames, because the Wings always struggle against them, Mikka Kiprusoff typically stands on his head in the Joe, and I'm afraid the Flames will bust out those red monstrosities they call retro jerseys. For as much as I love Jarome Iginla when he plays for Team Canada, he tends to have some I'm-Going-To-Murder-Everyone moments where he goes completely ape-poop. However, tonight's game was extremely tame, with no scrums or any other really tense moments between the two teams. In the end, Jimmy Howard out-dueled Kipper, and the Wings start off their homestand with a neat 4-2 win over the Flames. Follow me after the jump where I fire up the bullet points.
- There is no goaltending controversy. Jimmy Howard is your starting goalie, and I will fight anyone to the death who disagrees. He was sensational tonight, stopping 34 of 36 Calgary shots, and neither goal was his fault. After a strong game the other night in Phoenix, there's no question that he belongs in the Red Wing net until his arms fall off or he sucks (whichever comes first). Let me make this clear: this is not an anti-Chris Osgood thing. I said in the game thread that I have no allegiance to either goalie. But if Jimmy is going to keep this up, then he's the starter, and Ozzie can drink his Pepsi, chart the faceoffs, and chat up good-looking women in the first row all while keeping his mouth shut about getting playing time. You hear me, Ozzie? Not. One. Word.
- The Flying Circus lived up to their name tonight. Besides Howard, Pavel Datsyuk was awesome tonight. His "here you go, no you don't, here you go, nope, nevermind, I'll pass it to Nick" moment right before Lidstrom's goal was a thing of beauty. He also had a brilliant set up to Henrik Zetterberg to set up the first goal, and he finished with 2 assists and +1 in 22 minutes of ice time. He also went 17 for 24 in the faceoff circle, an area the Red Wings really did well in during the game. The top line was the Wings' best line tonight, and this made me feel really warm and fuzzy. Now if we can get just Tomas Holmstrom a goal.....
- The second and third lines were ok tonight. Neither really dominated at any point during the game, but the second line did score the third and fourth goals of the night. I thought Johan Franzen was just kind of "there" all night, and we did not get Angry Mule like we thought we would. Instead, I think we got "I Just Want to Get The Hell Out of October With My Genitals Intact" Mule, until he decided to score a goal off of Kiprusoff's head. I'm going to chalk his game up tonight to his first game back after a concussion, and since he actually made it through a game in October without requiring surgery after it, he gets a pass. Oh, and Todd Bertuzzi? I guess drinking puppy blood and sacrificing lambs really does pay off. That was a brilliant shot to the top corner, and he's now got 8 points in 6 games to start the season. He's on pace for 110 points, and I'll go on record as saying....there's no chance in hell he gets there. But he's off to a nice start.
- The defense, minus the 2 brain farts on the Flame goals, was pretty good. Jimmy did a great job of controlling rebounds, and their positioning was better. Nicklas Lidstrom ripped a laser from the blueline on the Wings' PP, proving that Dr Rahmani knows how to repair cyborg eyes. However, Niklas Kronwall is quickly becoming the new Jonathan Ericsson for me: all over the ice, making inopportune pinches, and just not doing anything in his own zone to give me any confidence. And for you Doug Janik-haters who ripped him on the second goal tonight, consider that at least he was in position while Kronwall was in the middle of the faceoff dot. Yes, I saw Janik flail around like the awkward kid at a makeout party. But he would have at least hit the girl's face with his lips (if I'm sticking with the metaphor). Still, I'm not here to rain on anyone's parade.
- One thing that does need to be mentioned is the slow start. Look, I get that the they were off for 4 days. So I don't think it's unrealistic for me to expect them to start the game with some zip and drive in their skates. They had a nice first couple of shifts, but then Kindl took a.....questionable.....penalty, and after that, the Wings looked like they were skating in quicksand. They managed to escape the first period only down one goal, but this is a disturbing trend that needs to be reversed. On the upside, no first or last-minute goals tonight. And for the first time this season, I was really disappointed in the refs. There was a lot not called, but we won, so I'm not going to dwell on them too much (but they sucked).
- Finally, we all know the Red Wings are an awesome team. But tonight they proved why they are the best. As most of you know, Kenneth Rucker, aka Orange Hat Guy, passed away earlier this week. He had been a season-ticket holder since 1972, and the Wings honoured him tonight by placing an orange hat on his orange seat, and the hat will remain there for the entire season. From reading articles about him, it was obvious the team meant a lot to him; this tribute showed that the fans also mean a lot to the Wings. There could have been a small video montage or something like that done for him, but instead the Wings have decided to honour his memory for the entire season. Name another organization that would do that for a fan. That's just reason number 2,847 why the Wings are the greatest franchise in sports.
The Wings get tomorrow off before they host the Ducks in a rematch of opening night. I'm really looking forward to seeing Pavel Datsyuk drop the gloves since I missed it the first time, and games against the Fowl are always entertaining, only because I like to compare my hairline to Ryan Getzlaf to see who's losing the race against premature baldness (author note: it's neck and neck at the moment). Stop on by Saturday because we've got a special treat in the preview that we think you will like.