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Let's hand it to the Red Wings for their effort in this game, nobody can say they're not scientifically thorough. After conducting more than enough experiments over the past two seasons, they continue to strive to prove that a hockey team will more often than not lose to inferior teams when they don't play a full sixty minutes. This time, the Wings were done in by a four-goal first period for the Avalanche that saw Jimmy Howard get pulled in favor of Joey MacDonald. The Wings fought hard late, but ultimately came up short in the face of perhaps the best .867 save percentage performance by a goalie I've ever seen.
Detroit outshot Colorado 30-26 on the night, but gave up 14 shots to 9 in the first when they found themselves down by three. The lone bright spot of this game was special teams, which was a big part of the reason the game was so close. The Wings power play scored 2 goals on the three chances they were given while their penalty kill went a perfect 5-for-5. I don't want to harp on reffing too much because the Wings certainly deserved to lose this game, but they were... inconsistent.
Jimmy Howard made one good save to even his rating for the one bad goal out of four he gave up.
Joey MacDonald was unfortunate enough to get the loss for the one goal he allowed, even though it was a 2-on-1 where the defender didn't stop the pass. Of the 15 saves he made, I counted three of them as big, giving him a rating of +3.
Scoring and plus/minus analysis after the jumpThe Goals
1st Period 5:58 - Colorado Goal: Paul Stastny (wrist shot) from Milan Hejduk and Kevin Porter
On what should have been a routine breakout of the Wings' zone, Kronwall skates the puck in front of his own net and tries a drop pass to Lidstrom which is blocked by Hejduk and comes to lay in front of the crease out of Howard's reach. While Kronwall plays grab-ass with Hejduk, Stastny swoops through and picks up the puck where he puts it behind Howard. Kronwall will get a minus-1.5 for his combined errors on this play. Zetterberg will be the only other Wing to keep his minus on the play, as he didn't pick up Stastny. Lidstrom, Holmstrom, and Bertuzzi will not get minuses.
1st Period 6:52 - Detroit Goal: Jan Mursak (wrist shot) from Drew Miller and Justin Abdelkader
Mursak chases in a dump-in down low and holds off the Colorado defender long enough for Abdelkader to come in and take it. Abby goes back to Miller, who gets challenged near the boards. Jonathan Ericsson gets the puck and goes back to Abdelkader, who passes again to Miller high in the zone. Miller releases a one-timer that goes through a two-man screen in front of Budaj. The rebound sits in the crease where Mursak gets his stick on it and slides it in around Budaj for his first ever NHL goal. Mursak will get a plus and half-assist for the forechecking work. Ericsson will get an assist as well.
1st Period 8:32 - Colorado Goal: Matt Duchene (wrist shot) from Tomas Fleischmann
Holmstrom fires a puck wide of the net that rings around the zone and gets past Zetterberg. Kronwall steps up on Fleischmann in the neutral zone, but not before he gets it to Duchene streaking through center ice. Duchene carries wide on Lidstrom and fires it through Howard's five-hole. I know Duchene's speed is a factor here, but this is a five-hole goal from where he shouldn't be allowing those. This goal is primarily on Howard. I'm going to clear the minuses for Kronwall and Franzen only here though. Lidstrom's minus will be halved, but he did allow Duchene to take the shot. Holmstrom and Zetterberg each keep their full minuses. Z needs to stop the puck on the boards and Homer both needs to hit the net and needs to keep up with his backcheck (which he does not). I actually like Kronwall stepping up at the blue line, as plays like that which work will severely sap the speed of a team known for blowing the doors off.
Penalty Adjustment: 10:13 into the period, as the Wings are trying to break out of their own zone, Ericsson stupidly takes an interference penalty with a super-obvious pick. This will earn Ericsson a minus.
1st Period 12:28 - Colorado Goal: Kevin Porter (wrist shot) from David Jones and Brandon Yip
This play happens after the Ericsson penalty expires, as the Wings have three defensemen on the ice. On this play, the Avalanche cycle through three people on the boards to get it from the point to David Jones down low. Ericsson is half a step slow and doesn't tie Jones to the boards, allowing him to move with the puck toward the back of the net. E does cut off the angle where Jones is trying to curl it out front, but the puck rolls to Kevin Porter's stick as he steps out from behind the net. Both Lidstrom and Helm fail to strip Porter of the puck and he throws it at the net where it bounces off Ericsson and in. Eaves and Kronwall are cleared of their minuses. Ericsson, Lidstrom, and Helm will each pick up additional half-minuses for their failure to stop this play from developing, despite numerous chances.
1st Period 14:15 - Colorado Goal: Matt Duchene (wrist shot) from Tomas Fleischmann and David Jones
Detroit puts on pretty good pressure here with a cycle on the first line that ends when Ericsson flubs on a slap shot which turns the puck the other way. Big E steps up on Jones as he exits the zone, eliminating them both from the play and leaving the puck for Duchene and Zetterberg to fight over. Z completely fails on this puck battle while Salei is moving in to help. Now with a clear 2-on-1 and Salei caught out of position, Duchene and Fleischmann do a give-and-go inside the zone to completely undress Howard for goal number 4. Again, the wingers Franzen and Holmstrom are cleared of minuses. Zetterberg gets the extra minus on this play, as he loses the puck battle. Ericsson and Salei keep their minuses, but are not punished extra.
1st Period 18:00 - Detroit Goal: Brian Rafalski (wrist shot) from Darren Helm
Carrying the puck from behind his own net, Salei dumps the puck into the zone as Helm enters. Darren gets his stick on the dump in and uses his speed to chase it around behind the net while Eaves sets up shop around the other side of the net to act as a road block for Helm to carry behind with some space. He finds Rafalski streaking in low through the slot with a great pass. Rafalski releases a wrister past Budaj while Eaves screens in front. Salei will get an assist for the dump in to Helm while Eaves will get a both a half-plus and a full assist for the screen and the pick.
2nd Period 6:51 - Colorado Goal: David Jones (backhand) from Matt Duchene
The Wings come down ice on a rush. Helm leaves for Draper while he goes to the net. Using all the shot selection prowess and aim of Jason Williams, Draper fires a slapshot wide that catches the Wings up ice. Duchene and Jones enter the Wings zone 2-on-Ericsson, so you know how this ends. Joey Mac had no chance by the time Duchene saucer-passes it over Big Rig's stick for the backhand over the sprawling netminder. Draper will get an extra minus for causing the turnover that goes the other way.
2nd Period 15:29 - Detroit Goal (PP): Henrik Zetterberg (wrist shot) from Tomas Holmstrom and Nicklas Lidstrom
The Avalanche's Greg Mauldin is in the box here for tripping Franzen away from the play. I don't have a replay of this penalty, so I can't judge if Franzen deserves a plus for drawing it. Since it was away from the play, my instinct is no. On the power play, after an early clear, the Wings first unit gets the puck in and cycles to everybody in the zone. A Zetterberg shot goes wide, but Holmstrom fights to retrieve behind the net and gets it to Rafalski, who cycles with Lidstrom just enough to get the umbrella setup. Rafalski gets it to Franzen high to Budaj's right. Franzen finds the seam across to Lidstrom, who fires a one-timer as his stick breaks through a Holmstrom screen which Budaj stops. Fortunately, good Homer is playing this PP and he pokes it out from under Budaj straight to Zetterberg in the crease for the tap-in. Homer gets an extra half-assist and a half-plus for his play retrieving pucks and screening Budaj. Franzen gets an assist and Rafalski gets a half-assist.
3rd Period 9:45 - Detroit Goal (PP): Tomas Holmstrom (tip in) from Henrik Zetterberg and Nicklas Lidstrom
Colorado is serving a too-many-men on the ice penalty when Detroit scores here. The Wings maintain the puck in the zone for the entire power play starting with their faceoff win and culminating 55 seconds later with the goal. At one point, a slight error in a pass from Rafalski to Zetterberg causes Colorado to amp up the pressure on the kill to try to get a clear, but they're unable to do so thanks to some great hustle by the whole squad. Even better, Colorado loses a stick in the process. Eventually, Franzen passes off the boards to himself to settle the puck down and get some room to move. He passes to Zetterberg as they switch spots on the ice with Franzen going low and Z coming high. Zetterberg passes to Rafalski at the top of the play, who gets it to Lidstrom low on the far side. Lidstrom passes back across as Zetterberg moves toward the goal. Z fires a one-timer that's deflected in past Budaj by the stick of Tomas Holmstrom. Lidstrom and Zetterberg each deserve pluses for helping keep the puck in the zone while the PK was pressing. Rafalski will get an assist and Franzen a half-assist.
-2 to Brian Rafalski: I didn't include them as penalty adjustments above because they didn't seem to directly influence the play, but Raffi took two first-period penalties which were easily avoidable.
+0.5 to Drew Miller, Justin Abdelkader, and Jan Mursak: The Wings' fourth line was just about the team's best line of the night and was the only group that didn't screw up royally at some point. Every time they were on the ice, they forced the play well.
+1 to Ruslan Salei: Making up for a bad outing against Vancouver, I thought Salei was the Wings' most solid defenseman. He even successfully joined a couple of offensive rushes.
-1 to Jonathan Ericsson: Maybe it's fatigue, maybe it's being expected to play out of his level, but he's starting to look lost more than confident most often again.
Honorable Mentions: Bertuzzi and Helm didn't get minuses for the penalties they took under the previously-used argument that I'm not going to give a guy a minus if the refs aren't going to call the exact same thing every time. Helm's running of Peter Budaj was only the second-worst running of the goalie in that game and Bertuzzi's third period trip happened exactly the same way in the first with Darren Helm getting tripped up with no call.
The Wings get some time to rest and recover after this, with three days off before facing Columbus on Friday in their barn. They should use all of the intervening time watching game tape to remind themselves what they're supposed to look like playing Red Wings Hockey.