2 down, 1 to go. The Red Wings faced off against the Edmonton Oilers tonight, a team that has given the Wings a lot of problems despite their overall lack of success against the rest of the NHL. The Wings got off to a hot start when Justin Abdelkader potted his second goal off a Mike Modano rebound. The Oilers responded with a power play goal by Taylor Hall after Jonathan Ericsson received an instigator penalty for fighting Gilbert Brule. The Wings re-took the lead approximately 3 minutes later on a power play goal of their own, this one scored by Valtteri Filppula off a beautiful tip-pass in front of the net by Dan Cleary. There was no more scoring for the rest of the game until Dan Cleary capped off a 3 point night with an empty netter, sealing the Wings' third victory in a row. The Wings and Oilers both ended with 30 shots, but I don't think there's any question that were it not for Nikolai Khabibulin in the Oiler net, this game would have gotten out of hand very quickly. The Bulin Wall made some great saves, and had the stop of the night in the second with a swat of the glove hand on Filppula (I think - if I'm wrong let me know). Jimmy Howard made 29 stops as he finished his 22nd straight game without a regulation loss. Follow me after the jump for the bullet points.
Let's get to the analysis:
- I turned the game on just as the Wings scored their first goal. After rubbing my eyes in cartoon disbelief for a few moments, I confirmed that Justin Abdelkader and Mike Modano were both involved in another Red Wing goal. Dan Cleary had 3 points tonight, and maybe this is the start of something for this new third line. Either way, Modano has looked great the last 2 games, and Abdelkader has infused a spark to that unit. I think it's safe to say that Abby has solidified his spot in the lineup, and if I'm Jiri Hudler and Drew Miller, I'm thinking about what I can do to step up my game to earn my spot.
- I am running out of words to describe Pavel Datsyuk, so I made up a new one: unfreakbelievedanglecrediblelsnipealicious.
- The defense played really well tonight. I did not notice Jakub Kindl at all except for the penalty he took, and as a 6th defenseman, that's good. Brad Stuart and Niklas Kronwall both had solid games. And Jonathan Ericsson really played well. He stood up for Datsyuk after he was hit by Brule (more on that in a moment), looked good on the PK when he was out there, had a couple of nice rushes, and did not do anything stupid. Maybe losing the job to Kindl connected a couple of wires; maybe playing with Lidstrom has taught him something. Either way, I'm liking what I'm seeing from the "new" Ericsson. Let's hope he can keep it up.
- When was the last time you saw 2 fights in a Red Wing game? Crazy. Ericsson goes after Brule after he hits Datsyuk, and then Ryan Whitney goes after Brad Stuart after a hit on Alex Hemsky. Both of the initial hits were good, clean hits, and then the retaliation came immediately after that. Mickey Redmond mentioned on the broadcast that these are happening with more frequency, and I personally believe that I think fighting after a clean hit is unnecessary. I do not want the NHL to turn into a vigilante league where every single big bodycheck is met with some sort of retaliation. If a guy gets caught with his head down or coming across the middle and gets crushed legally, then he should only blame himself. I completely understand the idea of sticking up for a teammate, and as a Red Wing fan, I was applauding Ericsson for coming to Datsyuk's defense. I just think that as a trend, it's something I'd like to see go away.
- Also on the subject of the fights: what the hell were the linesmen doing? Either both of you get in there and stop it, or let them go until they fall to the ice or the fight is over. Ericsson really could have gotten hurt when the linesman pinned his arms down but allowed Brule to get some free punches in. That was very disappointing and dangerous. Overall, though, I thought the refs had no impact on the game.
- Speaking of the broadcast, at one point Mickey said that Nicklas Lidstrom won his Norris Trophies based on his overall defensive play, not because of his offense. Somewhere Mike Green shed a tear while telling himself that what Mickey said was a lie.
- What was up with the intermission reports today? First they have Mike Babcock jogging after practice, which seems like it should have been run last weekend on Halloween; I mean come on, Babcock as the icy-stared psycho chasing young people down on the riverwalk? You've got yourself a movie there. Then they had the Original 6 trivia in the 2nd intermission, and I'm convinced that Mickey York dipped in to Murph's stash in order to get through that.
- A curious note about the game: midway through the second period, Jiri Hudler was bumped up to the second line while Johan Franzen was dropped down to the fourth. I'm not sure who the message was sent to on that, but it's clear that Mike Babcock was not happy with something on the second line to cause that change. I think that's something to keep an eye on going forward.
- This is the second straight game where the Wings looked good but not great. Some people will point to these games as lost opportunities because we didn't dominate the opposition; I say that I'm glad they are winning ugly, because these are the types of games that they blew last year. When we get to the playoffs, the likelihood of dominating the other team is very slim. I want the Wings to scratch and claw for victories, because it will keep them sharp, focused and hungry. Last year they blew far too many leads and lacked a real killer instinct; they seem to have regained that so far this year, and I don't have that feeling that they are going to blow it like I did through most of last season. I'm perfectly content with the win, regardless of how it happens.
The Wings are now 8-2-1 and currently have a 1 point lead on St Louis and Columbus in the Central. There's no rest for the wicked as they get right back at it tomorrow against the Vancouver Canucks. The Wings will be trying to sweep Western Canada for only the second time in their history. Just a quick note as well: J.J. will be a little behind on the CSSI as he was not watching the game at home this evening, but he'll have both games updated at some point on Sunday, so just keep those threatening emails to yourself, ok? Thanks.