Fresh off wins against two of their rivals, the Wings entered a weekend in which they were going to take on the two biggest surprises in the NHL. Tonight, they faced an Edmonton Oilers
team that has used youth and a spectacular start from Nikolai Khabibulin
to dart to the top of the Northwest Division.
The Oilers were coming off a game in which they were beaten by the Bruins
6-3 the night before, so it was important for the Wings to get off to a good start and then wear down the younger legs of Edmonton.
The Wings scored a goal in each period and received solid goaltending from Jimmy Howard to defeat the Oilers 3-0 and hand the Northwest Division leaders only their 5th regulation loss of the season.
After the jump, the game highlights and the bullets.
Drew Miller sprinkled a little pixie dust in his Just for Men when he took advantage of a fortuitous bounce off an Oiler defenseman's skate to bury a shot past Nikolai Khabibulin to score just the 6th first period goal against the Oilers this season. Niklas Kronwall
took a page out of the Lidstrom book of how to play offense by ripping a slap shot over Khabibulin's glove to give the Wings a very important 2-0 lead heading into the third period.
After a spirited third period where the Oilers threw a lot of pucks towards Jimmy Howard, an odd-man rush with Henrik Zetterberg
and Valtteri Filppula
could only mean one thing: two good-looking guys making a good-looking play. Z's saucer pass landed right on the stick of Flip who tipped it past Khabibulin to salt the game away. It marked the first time all season that Khabibulin allowed 3 goals in a single game. Jimmy Howard made 24 saves to earn his third shutout of the season, 2nd in his last 3 games.
- The Wings' defense was outstanding for the most part tonight, minus a few individual lapses. Jakub Kindl
and Jonathan Ericsson
were the only 2 d-men who didn't end the game as plus players, but overall they played well. On one shift, Ericsson and Ian White
were on the ice against the Oilers' young line of Taylor Hall
, Jordan Eberle
and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
, and White in particular had at least 2 blocked shots while holding them at bay. It was the type of defensive game we'd expect to see in 2008, but to see it in 2011 is very promising for the team moving forward.
- That wasn't the toughest shutout of Jimmy Howard's
career, but there were stretches where the Wings were holding the puck for so long that one couldn't help but wonder whether he'd fall asleep (he is a new father after all). In the second, there was a point late in the period where it seemed like there had not been a shot by the Oilers in some time, but they got a quality chance and Jimmy was ready. For those keeping track at home, Tiberius currently sits 4th in the NHL in GAA (1.79), T-2nd in SV% (among goalies who have played at least 10 games - .934) and T-1st in shutouts (3). I guess when the rest he'll get during the All-Star break after being snubbed will just allow him to rest up so he can win the Vezina.
- You know, I wrote earlier this week that the Oilers were a team not as talented as the Wings, and Detroit needed to exploit that, but I was impressed with Edmonton. Coming off a game the night before in a different city against the defending champs, the Oilers looked dangerous at times tonight. While Rick Nash
is my ultimate man-crush in the NHL, Jordan Eberle is on my "list" of players I secretly covet without having to turn in my Red Wing fan card. I think Edmonton tired in the third from playing their 3rd game in 4 nights and were taken advantage of by a hungry Wings team.
- Speaking of hungry, tonight the Wings not only used their talent, they also worked very hard to win loose battles and races for pucks. Against a team like Edmonton, who doesn't have a ton of talent but is young and looking to prove themselves against the top teams in the NHL, effort will go a long way to ensuring that the Wings get 2 points against teams that they should be beating.
- That makes 3 wins in a row after 6 straight losses, and all of this is after the Wings opened the season with 5 wins. I was going to make a joke about their streakiness being somehow related to the Wings as a college student trolling bars, but couldn't come up with anything. I'll probably hit "publish" and then think of something.
Heading into the game tomorrow night, tonight's game was interesting from the standpoint of watching a younger, less talented Oilers team (in comparison to the Stars
) and see how the Wings would respond to the speed and aggressiveness of the Oilers, particularly on the forecheck. The Wings did very well and were able to make some first passes out of the zone and negate the strong offensive zone presence of the Oilers and get the forwards up on Edmonton's defense. I haven't watched Dallas all that much, but my understanding is that they play a similar style, so if the Wings can bring that type of effort tomorrow night against the NHL's best team, they will increase their chances of being successful and ending the homestand with 9 out of a possible 12 points.