The beaten-up Red Wings welcomed a suddenly resurgent New Jersey Devils club playing like they were expected to perform all season and snuck into the All-Star break on a high note after beating the Lemaire-led
Traps Devils at their own defensive game. The Wings looked much better on these three days of rest than they had in some time. While the Devils had 24 SOG, the Wings' defense did a much better job of aggressively going after the puck and limiting chances.
Special teams largely wasn't a story in this game as none of the four total goals were scored on a man advantage, which is more unfortunate for the Wings, who squandered more than a minute and a half of 5-on-3 time. Fortunately, on the other side of the ledger, Darren Helm created the best scoring chance by either team during one of New Jersey's three man advantage opportunities. As for the reffing standard, it was fairly decent, as the biggest questions of the game centered around the speed of the whistles around the nets and why New Jersey was able to come in on a 3-on-1 rush after Brian Rolston high-sticked Patrick Eaves in the third.
Jimmy Howard had a good game, but cost himself an opportunity at a great game. He made four big saves, including a couple on Ilya Kovalchuk, but his rebound control cost him what might have turned out to be a shutout in the first period. After that, he really settled in and played well. He kept giving the defense reasons to continue to play well in front of him. Overall, his rating on the night is +3.5.
Scoring and plus/minus analysis after the jumpThe Goals
1st Period 1:43 - Detroit Goal: Darren Helm (wrist shot) unassisted
Draper loses a defensive zone faceoff, but gets enough of it to chase the Devils out of the zone with Fraser going back to get it. From the wing, Helm chases up ice and gets in the way of the D-to-D pass from Fraser, knocking it down to come in on a break where he capitalizes by firing it over Brodeur's shoulder. Helm gets an extra plus.
1st Period 6:35 - New Jersey Goal: Brian Rolston (wrist shot) from Anton Volchenkov and Patrik Elias
The Devils carry through center and are forced to the outside as Elias passes off to Volchenkov. The shot-blocking D-man fires a slap shot that Howard thinks he has as he stays in his position on the ice, but it squeaks out to the side of the net. Volchenkov follows his own shot and throws it back into the crease, where Lidstrom does his best butterfly trying to keep it out, but the ref gives the Devils plenty of time to finish and Rolston pokes it in. The rebound control by Howard makes this partially soft, but all five Wings skaters were unable to either clear the puck or prevent Rolston from getting it, so I'm only giving Howard a half-bad goal and I'm not clearing any minuses.
Penalty Adjustment: Two minutes later, on a forecheck 200 feet from Howard, Jiri Hudler is racing Andy Greene to a puck when he gets the stick in the midsection, somehow causing Greene's feet to fail. Whether or not this is an embellishment, Hudler clearly has his stick parallel and is hooking the guy. This will earn Huds a minus.
Penalty Adjustment: Late in the first, Zetterberg jams his stick in front of one of Elias' legs and behind the other to bring the guy down. This was a good call and Z will get a minus. (Note: Zetterberg took the only other Wings penalty in the 2nd on a trip of Greene, but replay shows the defenseman losing an edge while taking a turn, so I'm not awarding a minus on that play.)
3rd Period 5:32 - Detroit Goal: Valtteri Filppula (wrist shot) from Jiri Hudler and Ruslan Salei
Kindl starts this play in the Wings' defensive zone by cleverly separating Kovalchuk from the puck and starting the rush back the other way. The rush is almost killed as Hudler tries to dump it over Fayne's head, but the Jersey defenseman grabs it out of mid-air and tries to clear. This time, Kindl comes to the rescue again, as he keeps it in the zone and gets it low in the zone to Hudler. Huds tries feeding Flip sneaking in the back door, but the pass is slightly behind Val, so he kicks it backwards to Kindl trailing him. Kindl can't get this pass cleanly enough to create a shot, but he controls and plays a mini give-and-go with Flip before passing back to the point. The pass comes to Salei at the top of the zone, who immediately goes to Hudler in the corner. Without skipping a beat, Hudler finds Filppula on the other side of the ice all alone. Flip lets Brodeur go down and out before firing it through him for the game-winner. There is a lot of good play here by the Wings on a beautiful tic-tac-toe setup. First off, Kindl will get a bonus plus-and-a-half for the play in the defensive zone and the keep-in. Kindl also gets an assist on this play. Filppula will get an assist on his own play as well for his quick thinking to kick it back when he couldn't create a chance off his stick. Bertuzzi's screen doesn't do anything, but his presence draws two defenders and gives Filppula enough room to receive the puck on the back end. For this, Bert will get a half-assist. Finally, Hudler will get a bonus half-plus for the way he positioned himself and found Filppula with that pass.
3rd Period 19:16 - Detroit Goal: Johan Franzen (snap shot) from Henrik Zetterberg and Niklas Kronwall
Just inside a minute to go, the Devils try to clear up ice to get Brodeur off, but a well-timed step up on Rolston by Kronwall sends Zetterberg back into the New Jersey zone with a bit of room while the Devils change. as the defense sets, Zetterberg passes from the high boards to Franzen coming down the middle. he makes a move to get a bit of room and fires it on the ice past Brodeur for the insurance tally. On the official scoresheet, Kronwall is robbed of his plus by a defensive change while the forwards are off creating this goal. I'm going to give Kronwall back his plus along with an extra half for the step up. Meanwhile, I'm taking away the pluses for Rafalski and Ericsson, who had stepped on.
+1 for Johan Franzen and Henrik Zetterberg: Between the two of them, they recorded 10 of Detroit's 29 shots on goal, 2 takeaways, 13 of 19 faceoff victories, and plenty of scoring chances against the top defenders on a defensively-minded squad. I know we've been giving mule a lot of crap lately, but I liked his work ethic in this game.
-0.5 to Jonathan Ericsson and Ruslan Salei: Each of these defenseman were responsible for a turnover which became a very high-quality scoring chance and didn't adequately make up for it with his play later in the game. Ultimately, I thought the way the Wings played defensively the whole game was fairly good, which is why these minuses are halved.
+1 to Darren Helm: What more can be said about the way this kid hustles and kills penalties? He nearly created a shorthanded goal, going just wide, and then managed to kill off another 15 seconds ragging it in the zone.
+1 to Nicklas Lidstrom: How many times did he shut Kovalchuk down on the outside? How about EVERY time? The man is flawless.
+0.5 to Jan Mursak, Cory Emmerton, & Justin Abdelkader: As an energy line, they provided exactly what they needed to, which is part of the reason Abdelkader was rewarded with ice time paired alongside Franzen and Zetterberg late. The three of them kept New Jersey pinned very well in their own zone. As a line together, they did not face a shot on goal. That's fantastic for a fourth line.
Honorable Mentions: Jakub Kindl had a solid game, but saw more shots against than any other defenseman. His positioning is getting very good and I have very high hopes for him. Eaves played solid, but just couldn't get into high gear in this one. Also, on the rush that led to Filppula's goal, Salei makes a good ass-check to help spring Kindl. I'm not giving him bonus pluses for this because it could have easily been called interference on him.
Up next: the Wings head to the All-Star break atop their division and looking forward to getting both Pavel Datsyuk and Dan Cleary back in time to meet the Senators on February 2nd.