What a game, eh? The St. Louis Blues came into Joe Louis Arena determined to break their trend of giving up a lot of goals, and for the first two periods that strategy helped them out. Then in the span of under 4 minutes, the Detroit Red Wings decided to stop playing with their prey and just take care of business, popping in the remainder of the TD and the extra point, capping off a 7-3 win. This game was a real back-and-forth affair until midway through the third when the Wings broke it open. Dan Cleary led the way on the Wings with 2 goals, including the game winner, while Brian Rafalski had 3 assists.
The Wings opened the scoring on a gift from Jaroslav Halak when he batted the puck in his own net. Drew Miller was given credit, leaving Darren Helm as the only Wing forward without a goal. The Blues responded with 2 goals, one from Brad Boyes and a PP marker by Brad Winchester. The Wings got 2 goals in less than 3 minutes in the 2nd period, one from Justin Abdelkader on a nice tip in and Cleary's first. Unfortunately, the Blues took advantage of a Nicklas Lidstrom turnover and tied the game at 3. Then in the third, all hell broke loose, as the Wings got goals in succession from Cleary, Henrik Zetterberg, Brad Stuart and Tomas Holmstrom, sealing the Wings fourth win in a row. Follow me after the jump for the analysis.
- Let's get this out of the way early: the Wings were lucky to win this. They were outplayed for the most part over the course of the first two periods, and I felt the same way during both intermissions: we were very fortunate to be tied after both the first and second. They gave up far too many odd-man rushes, they were not generating anything offensively, and there was no jump in their game. The 4-spot they put up in the third was nice, but I refuse to ignore how they played for most of that game. I think we all need to remember this game when the Wings have a game where they outplay the opponent but end up on the wrong side of the result.
- Despite giving up 3 goals, Jimmy Howard really kept the Wings in the game with a number of big saves at key times. He made a brilliant save at the end of the first that could have devastated the Wings (the dreaded "last-minute" goal) and kept the game tied at 1. He also had a number of good glove saves. I love knowing that if the defense gives up an odd-man rush or a quality scoring chance and I don't immediately give up a goal mentally because of our goaltending. Even some of the Blues fans were commenting on how we've got ourselves a quality netminder right now.
- Speaking of the defense, I was not happy with them. Niklas Kronwall had 2 terrible giveaways in the first period that resulted in good chances against, Ruslan Salei got himself taken way out of position on the Blues' second goal, and even Nicklas Lidstrom had a less than stellar game. There were a number of odd-man rushes after inopportune pinches. You know who the Wings' best defenseman was tonight? Jonathan Ericsson. Stop laughing. He had a hell of a game, playing solid defensively, stepping up into the play when it was warranted, making great passes, and generally being a real asset out there rather than a liability. In the pre-game it was noted that Ericsson and Lidstrom sit beside each other in the dressing room, and one wonders if Nick looked at E and said "Hey, you're not me, so stop trying to be." Either way, I don't care: I like this new and improved Ericsson.
- A disturbing trend tonight was the way the Wings handled the pressure of the Blues, which was not good. The Blues really brought an aggressive forecheck and used their speed to create open space in the Wings' zone, resulting in a number of decent scoring chances. That's something to watch going foward.
- The first line did not look good tonight. At one point it was mentioned in the game thread that this was Pavel Datsyuk's worst game this season, and I would probably agree with that. Zetterberg wasn't much of a factor for most of the night (goal aside), and at one point Holmstrom was taken off the Circus and replaced with Johan Franzen. One thing I really noticed tonight is that they were not connecting with their passes, which almost never happens. This line has been trending downward the last few games, and I'm hoping that it's just a mini-slump that they are going through. As was noted in the broadcast, they had a ton of problems containing the MacDonald/Boyes/Backes line of the Blues, and that concerns me because we were at home and had the last change, and I was hoping that Mike Babcock would get the Circus away from that line.
- At one point early in the game, I wrote "the power play is awesome". Then I realized that this was not going to be a Bizarro World recap, and what I actually meant was "disgustingly awful". The puck movement that occurs is not what should be happening given the talent the Wings can put out there, and even their zone entries were stunted and ineffective. They got 2 goals late, but that's not enough to make up for yet another terrible performance.
- Johan Franzen. Paging Johan Franzen. Please report to the lineup immediately.
- We have a new All-Star Game write-in campaign to start: get Dan Cleary in that game by any means necessary. If he's not one of the NHL's 3 stars for the week, then there is something seriously wrong with the way they decide these things. The man is so hot right now that any hotter and he will literally burst into flames. "I am on fire, and I dance!" Todd Bertuzzi also had another strong game, and that line is so good it's disgusting. Scary.
- Nicklas Lidstrom failed to score on a wide-open 3-on-1 chance. My first thought was "Bobby Orr would have scored that."
- David Backes sure is a dirty little prick, eh? First he goes high on Zetterberg and then takes a nice hack at Jimmy Howard at the end of the game. Remember the last guy to tangle with these two Wing players? Yeah, I do too. That was a good night, just like this one.
- If there's anything this game showed me, it's that Detroit can turn it on when they have to, and that's something that should scare the rest of the NHL. The Wings were given a gift by Halak when he batted the puck in his own net (unfortunately, the Tigers just signed someone who is good, and may get Adam Dunn, so I'm not sure they can afford Halak), but the other 6 goals were scored in less than 10 minutes, a sign that the Red Wings still have that explosive offense that can completely take a team out of a game.
- The consensus in the game thread was that Dan Cleary was the Player of the Game. Unfortunately, no one had the score guessed correctly.
I don't think I've ever written so many negative things after a win, but it wasn't a well-played game. However, the most important thing is the 2 points they picked up, giving the Wings a 4 point lead in the Central with a game in hand. Like I said earlier, the Wings will likely have nights where they are the better team and don't get the W, so I'll take it. The Wings continue their homestand on Friday when the Minnesota Wild come into town, fresh off an OT win against the (Mighty) Ducks tonight. Get your pillows and night caps ready: the Wild aren't exactly known for playing an exciting brand of hockey.