The more experienced and better-rested Red Wings showed the upstart Avalanche how it's done with a 3-1 victory in Detroit Saturday night. Detroit gave up a 5-on-3 goal thanks to some goalie interference by Chris Stewart and Colorado put some pressure on late, but this game was hardly worrisome.
In the pregame, I wondered whether Detroit could handle the young scoring leaders on the Avalanche, mentioning Stewart, Hejduk, Stastny, and Duchene. Well, Duchene was the only of those four who wasn't a minus-2 rating on the night, earning an even rating and an Emmy nomination for embellishing horribly what really was a Franzen hold on the back of his jersey. Colorado poured it on late, outshooting Detroit 9-2 in the final frame, but ended up being outshot 25-22 by the superior team tonight. Let's get to it.
Jimmy Howard played strong again, especially in the third period. The goal he allowed was on a 5-on-3 where he was blocked from being able to move on the shooter and stop the puck. Other than that, he was excellent at getting rebounds to his teammates and holding onto the puck when the pressure threatened to get dangerous. He had another night with three big saves for a rating of +3.The Goals
1st Period 12:58 - Detroit Goal (PP): Todd Bertuzzi (snap shot) from Johan Franzen and Niklas Kronwall
While on a power play caused by Daniel Winnik's questionable decision to hit Justin Abdelkader with his stick, the Wings are forced to regroup after an early Colorado clear. Kronwall collects the puck in the WIngs' end and dishes up to Franzen through center ice. Franzen drives the middle lane, drawing the PKers to him and hands off to Bertuzzi at the side boards entering the zone with Bertuzzi-esque speed (yeah, not that fast). Bert skates to the outside bottom of the faceoff circle and releases a perfectly placed shot top corner on the near side on Budaj. This is a fantastic shot, but no player on the ice did anything to earn any bonus ratings. No scoring adjustment on this play.
2nd Period 0:30 - Detroit Goal: Jiri Hudler (wrist shot) from Nicklas Lidstrom and Darren Helm
This play starts with Hudler in the penalty box on a pretty weak call, considering everything else up to that point which had been ignored. Darren Helm deflects a cross-ice pass attempt that ends up on Lidstrom's stick. Lidstrom with his Dr. Rahmani-enhanced eyes, flies a pass down ice to Hudler. Jiri has trouble handling the pass, but gets control in time to put a shot on net which is stopped by Budaj. Hudler gets the puck back behind the net with Budaj sprawled out in front of him and banks a shot from behind into the net off Budaj's skate for his first goal of the season. Lidstrom's vision is legendary here and he deserves a bonus half-plus for reacting so quickly to hit Hudler in stride.
2nd Period 5:52 - Detroit Goal: Dan Cleary (backhand) from Todd Bertuzzi
The Avalanche are putting good pressure on Detroit in their zone when a pass from J.M. Liles to Paul Stastny into the slot fails to connect. Dan Cleary slaps at the errant puck to clear the zone up the boards to Todd Bertuzzi. Bert carries in and takes up body position on the boards to shield the puck waiting for his teammates to join the play. Right on time, Cleary comes streaking into the zone (fully clothed) and collects a spinning backhanded pass from Bertuzzi (see? they do work sometimes!), goes skate-to-stick with it and forces a backhand past a stunned Peter Budaj. Both Cleary and Bertuzzi will earn half-pluses for making this play happen. Also, Datsyuk and Lidstrom were both part of the defense that kept Colorado to the outside leading to this play, but changed as the goal was scored. Both Datsyuk and Lidstrom will earn pluses instead of Filppula and Ericsson, the men who came on the ice for them.
3rd Period 5:28 - Colorado Goal (PP): John-Michael Liles (snap shot) from Paul Stastny and Matt Duchene
Detroit is down two men for this goal thanks to a pity phantom call on Patrick Eaves and a much more pitiful play at the Red Wings' bench creating a too-many-men on the ice situation. Duchene breaks his stick trying to shoot at Howard (serves him right), which makes Brad Stuart's eyes widen a bit much and causes him to chase the puck to the boards to try to get a clear. Utilizing the brain in that tiny melon of his, Duchene kicks the puck to Stastny, who finds Liles in the slot. Liles head fakes, which causes Zetterberg to drop in anticipation of blocking the shot. Instead of putting it on net, Liles carries around to Howard's right until Howard can't move any farther thanks to a pick being run by Chris Stewart. Liles shoots the puck into the open net for Colorado's only goal. While both Z and Stu made mistakes on this, I'm not giving out minuses for a 5-on-3 goal against. However, Datsyuk played the puck during a line change to put the Wings down by two men and will take a half-minus for it. I'm only giving him half for a couple reasons, one of them being that the Wings shouldn't have been shorthanded in the first place and the other being that his momentary lapse of awareness is mitigated by the mistakes of the entire bench for a bad line change.
+1 to Nicklas Lidstrom: Another fantastic showing from the league's best defenseman. It can't be overstated how good his defensive play is night in and night out.
+1 to Jonathan Ericsson: Again he had a night where he was more than surprisingly good, he was downright excellent breaking up plays and even using his body on the boards.
+1 to Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg: Despite the Wings getting badly outshot 9-2 in the third period, these two ran the clock and set the tempo. They deserve more credit than the even rating they each got on the official scoreboard.
+0.5 to Valtteri Filppula and Jiri Hudler: As good as Datsyuk and Zetterberg were at setting the pace, these guys were good at keeping things going. I thought they both had several very good defensive plays on the night and did their jobs superbly.
-0.5 to Johan Franzen: Mule played pretty well, but he took the dumbest penalty on the night when he pulled Matt Duchene down by his jersey in the 2nd period. Duchene jumped backwards like a cowboy being punched through a plate-glass window, but again, Mule shouldn't be tugging on Superman's cape here. He only gets a half minus though because he avoided spitting into the wind and pulling the mask off the old Lone Ranger. He definitely didn't mess around with Jim either, so that's good.
I'd like to give honorable mentions to Ruslan Salei and Dan Cleary. Both of these guys did exactly what was asked of them, I just didn't think either of them went above and beyond enough to earn bonus ratings.
Up next, a big test for Detroit, as they face their most dangerous division foe to date with St. Louis visiting town. Jaroslav Halak makes it ok that the Blues don't have anybody healthy who can score goals because the damn high-Scrabble score himself makes it hard as hell to score.