Detroit played an excellent defensive game tonight, holding Calgary to 17 shots on goal. A big night out of Jimmy Howard helped seal the win and improve the Red Wings' record to 7-2-1 on the season, tying them with Chicago for Central Division lead in points--oh, with five less games played too.
The first period was very stop and start with whistles as the two teams totaled 16 minutes in penalties. With Detroit on the powerplay, Johan Franzen took a boarding call and a questionable hooking call on Nick Lidstrom gave the Flames the rare 4-on-3 powerplay. On the powerplay, Mark Gioradano worked the puck down low to Jarome Iginla to Jimmy Howard's right. Iginla put a pass back out to Giordano for a one-time shot that beat Howard to the gloveside for a 1-0 Calgary lead.
The penalty on Lidstrom was unfortunate and with so much open ice, you could sense that a Calgary player was going to be open long enough to get a clear shot on goal. Brad Stuart and Pavel Datsyuk were in the vicinity to possibly step in front of Giordano's shot. However, with a play like that, another Calgary player would uncover so you can kind of expect Stuart/Datsyuk to stay in the passing lanes but out of the shooting lane and hope that Howard is able to stop it.
The Wings got on the board in the second period as Mike Modano potted his second goal as a Red Wing. The play started with a defensive zone faceoff win by Modano back to Stuart. Stuart clears the puck up the boards to Dan Cleary and as Cleary takes possession of the puck, two Calgary players step up to him. Modano picks up a pass from Cleary while in full stride and rips a shot high to the glove-side past Miikka Kiprusoff.
Detroit gets the game winner off the tape of Justin Abdelkader in the second period. Nicklas Lidstrom sits back in the defensive zone as the Flames go off for a change. With two men pressuring him, Lidstrom fires the puck up along the boards to Datsyuk and the Wings have a three-on-two as Datsyuk enters the zone. Jay Bouwmeester steps up on Datsyuk (can you blame him?) who threads a pass to an uncovered Abdelkader. Abdelkader puts a shot on Kiprusoff that is to the same side that Modano shot and what do you know, he got the same result.
The third period was pretty tight and Howard had some big saves to keep the Wings ahead on the scoreboard. Ruslan Salei was penalized with a 4-minute double minor with under ten minutes to play but the Red Wings were able to successfully kill that off. The Wings outshot the Flames 12-4 in the final frame and 33-17 for the game.
Check after the jump for thoughts on the game.
- The third line played really well tonight, even when they weren't all together on the ice at the same time. Examples: Abdelkader's goal came as he was on the ice with Tomas Holmstrom/Pavel Datsyuk, not Cleary/Modano. Cleary had an exceptional game as a penalty killer, including a breakaway the Kiprusoff stopped. Modano had 4:11 of powerplay time and was moving the puck well and moved to open spots without the puck, something we hadn't seen much of until tonight.
- Continuing on that third line, Cleary-Modano-Abdelkader combined for 12 of the 33 shots on goal--that's 36%. Taking a closer look again at each player, Dan Cleary lead the team with five shots on net tonight and he looks like he's playing off of Abdelkader's style better than he is with Hudler. Abdelkader was his normal self, buzzing around the ice and making some hits. Modano went 4 of 13 on the draw tonight, which wasn't good at all but he did win the one that led to his goal so that's alright I suppose.
- Datsyuk had another good night. He tallied an assist on the Abdelkader goal and won 67% of the draws. He had some good plays that won't show up on the statsheet but the joy of watching Datsyuk sometimes is the stuff that doesn't show up.
- I think Flames and Wings fans both will agree that this game was very poorly officiated. Mickey Redmond was getting pretty upset up in the booth at the inconsistency of the calls and I don't blame him one bit.
- That's the second straight game in which Franzen has taken a boarding call. He better check himself, before he wrecks himself. In all honesty, I don't mind it. He's got a huge frame and he's starting to use it more and more. He just needs to be a bit smarter with when he uses it but I like that he's playing physically at least.
- Man, Jarome Iginla looked pretty pissed tonight. I guess that's what happens when you're the current face of the franchise (and team captain) and the constant word that surrounds you is about a trade. Iginla took particular exception to a hit from Stuart late in the 2nd period (possibly an elbow? I didn't get a second look) and crosschecked Stuart in retaliation. They both dropped the gloves but were stopped by officials before any punches were thrown. They each got 2 minutes for unsportsmanlike but Iginla got another two for the crosscheck. I guess I understand Iginla's frustration as the Wings hounded him all night and when he did get shots of, Howard stood tall and stopped them.
- Jonathan Ericsson didn't look too bad tonight and even though it's hard to look bad next to Nick Lidstrom, Ericsson did a good job of minimizing his mistakes.
- Jakub Kindl had a close call for his first NHL goal as he rang one off the crossbar. Soon Mr. Kindl, soon.
And now, for your Red Wing of the game...
Howard wasn't tested as often as he would be on most nights but the fact that he was ready when those tests came is what mattered. He had some incredible saves and looked very aware on the ice. I think that if he had a night that was even slightly off from normal, we're looking at a loss instead the win. Rarely do you see a 16 save performance that has so many big saves but that's exactly what Howard did tonight. He kept the Wings in the game and gave them the opportunity to win it since Kiprusoff was strong at the other end of the ice as well.