The Red Wings entered their game against the Atlanta Thrashers on a high, having just amassed 11 out of a possible 12 points on their 6 game homestand. The Wings will be playing 5 of their next 6 games on the road, and they wanted to get this trip started on the right foot. Unfortunately, that foot stepped in a giant puddle of sewer water, and the Wings were beaten by the Thrashers 5-1.
The Thrashers got things going early when Chris Thorburn took a pass from behind the net and beat Jimmy Howard. Andrew Ladd increased their lead when he converted a 2-on-1 after a Pavel Datsyuk giveaway on the power play. The Wings responded 19 seconds later when Todd Bertuzzi scored what would prove to be the Wings only goal of the game. In the second period, Anthony Stewart (no relation to Brad) converted on the power play to give the Thrashers a 3-1 lead. After getting thoroughly outplayed for most of the period, Bryan Little ripped a wrist shot top corner to give the Thrashers the coveted "3-goal lead". Mike Babcock decided that Jimmy had been shelled enough and put Joey MacDonald in to start the third, and he made 7 saves on 8 shots, allowing a late power play goal to a guy on all three of my fantasy hockey teams, Dustin Byfuglien. That pretty much ended it, and the rest of the third was spent with the Wings trying not to get hurt.
This was a brutal game to watch, and the Wings were clearly outclassed by an Atlanta team that wanted to show that they could compete against the good teams in the NHL. Follow me after the jump for the bullet points.
Brutal game means brutal truth. Let's get to it.
- Ok, let's get this out of the way early: I did not "jinx" the Wings on TP:60. If you go back and listen, you will see that I said this game was "winnable" and did not actually predict a win for the Wings. So no angry emails or comments, ok? Thanks.
- Having said that, considering how much we talk trash about the JV, it's not going to help our stance that the East is Least if the Wings continue to perform like that in the actual games. Although, if the Wings were going to have a stinker of a game, I'd rather it be against a team like Atlanta than against Columbus this weekend when divisional points are up for grabs.
- No one on the team looked particularly good tonight. The first line was ok, although Datsyuk had an extremely uncharacteristic giveaway that led to the 2-on-1 shorthanded goal by Ladd. He had a nice dangle in the third, but that line was not great. The second line was meh, and the fourth line had some jump, but no real offense. The defense wasn't great either, as Ericsson forgot about his man on the 1st goal and they were consistently beaten to loose pucks by the Thrashers' forecheckers. It was a night to forget for most of the team. If I had to pick a "best line" tonight, I'd say it was the third line. They scored the only goal for the Wings on the power play, and I thought they had the most consistent offensive pressure on the night. But even they weren't good enough.
- At one point during the broadcast, it was mentioned that Thrashers rookie Alex Burmistov wants to be "better than Pavel Datsyuk". He's extremely dynamic and was out on the penalty kill, and I liked his game. I think he's going to be a player I will keep my eye on going forward. But better than Datsyuk? I like his attitude, but he's got a ways to go still.
- Speaking of the Thrashers, they are better than I thought they were. And it's amazing what being out of a Blackhawks sweater will do for my opinion of Byfuglien and Ladd. I thought that Ladd was as good a choice as anyone for captain on that team, and he seems to have given them a spark. He's been a part of two Cup winners, and if you ask me, that's no fluke. He's a great second line-third line player who can score goals, and he works hard all the time. A lot of people scoffed at Byfuglien being moved to defense, but he's among the NHL leaders in scoring from the blueline, and leads the Thrashers in shots. And I don't hate either one of them anymore.
- The numbers won't show it (26 saves on 30 shots), but without Jimmy Howard, this game is even uglier. He made a few big stops in the first when it was only a one-goal lead for the Thrashers, and tried his best to keep the Wings within 2 for most of the second period when they were outshot 19-11. I can't really fault him for any of the goals tonight. He deserved a better fate.
- Good thing we sat Hudler, eh?
- It was nice to see all those Red Wing fans in the seats to cheer the boys on. I imagine the Thrashers were a little thrown off by having people in the stands, but they were able to overcome that, a true sign of their mental toughness (come on, it wouldn't be a Graham recap without a dig at the other team's attendance issues).
- I didn't realize that Jacques Lemaire coached the Thrashers. It sure looked like it in the third when no one on Atlanta crossed the Wings blueline.
- Long story short: the Wings looked as if they had already enjoyed their Thanksgiving dinner and the effects of the turkey had already taken hold. It wasn't a great performance by anyone, and this is one that they need to put behind them quickly so they can be ready for the Blue Jackets on Friday.
Not a whole lot else to say about that game. The Wings will head to Columbus on Friday for a date with the Blue Jackets and (gasp!) first place in the Central on the line. As it stands now, the Wings and BJs are tied atop the Central at 28 points, although the Wings do have a game in hand. A split won't be bad, but I want a sweep to show the Jackets they are still a second-class citizen in the division. Everyone have a happy and safe holiday, and we'll see you back here Friday with full bellies ready for another winning streak to begin. Oh, and go Lions.