Detroit started their three-game West coast swing in San Jose taking on a Sharks team that was coming off a long rest following a bad game against Phoenix. Meanwhile, Detroit was trying to shake off the suck of a disappointing effort against the Blues on Tuesday. The Wings started the game well, but found themselves down as San Jose was able to stem the tide and capitalize on mistakes. They skated hard into the third down 4-1, but did not have enough to mount a comeback.
The refs for the most part let the two teams play and the fans were rewarded with a well-paced game. I feel that the non-calls were fairly even. Then again, the Wings only took one penalty, so complaining is pretty hard here. Detroit's lone bright spot on the night was going 2-for-3 on the power play and getting a 100% penalty kill effort (one that one penalty we talked about). The Wings outshot San Jose 42-28, but also saw 24 of their attempts blocked. The rubber was moving in the right direction, but the players weren't.
Scoring and plus/minus analysis after the jump
1st Period 17:23 - Detroit Goal (PP): Niklas Kronwall (slap shot) from Pavel Datsyuk and Nicklas Lidstrom
The Penalty - Jason Demers (holding): Zetterberg does a great job forechecking in the zone and outworking Demers to get body position. As a result, Demers holds him up and takes the penalty. Zetterberg gets a plus.
After an initial clear, Detroit gets it into the zone as Datsyuk cuts through all four defenders to get a chance on goal. He misses high, but gets the puck back and sets to the top for a Lidstrom slapper. This rebound is punched to the corner where Michal Handzus is first on it. Datsyuk chases him down and lifts his stick to take it away before going to Kronwall at the top of the umbrella. Kronwall plays catch with Lidstrom while Datsyuk skates to the blue line and then takes a run designed to force Joe Pavelski to prevent him from stepping into the middle of the low slot. Pavelski does just this, which gives Kronwall an open lane to shoot through into the screen of players out front drawn there by Holmstrom. The puck goes off Boyle in front, off Niemi, and then back off Boyle and in. Holmstrom will pick up a screener's assist. Datsyuk will pick up a bonus assist for all of his work as well as a bonus plus for gaining the zone and then stealing it from Handzus.
Penalty Adjustment: Late in the first, the Wings are putting on great pressure again with Darren Helm out front battling for positioning. He gets the better of Demers a couple of times and the big guy takes him down twice, eventually earning the call. This penalty is more on Demers than credited to Helm, but his work fighting in the dirty areas of the ice is worth a half-plus for Helm.
1st Period 19:48 - San Jose Goal (SH): Joe Pavelski (snap shot) from Joe Thornton and Marc-Edouard Vlasic
Datsyuk loses the power play faceoff and Vlasic clears the puck. On its way out of the zone, the puck takes a bit of a weird bounce and it ends up going cross-ice. Howard goes out to play it, but it slows up and never enters the trapezoid. This forces Howard to back off and lets Thornton come in and pick it up to carry around behind the net. While everybody keys on Thornton, he passes to Pavelski in the low slot for a one-time snap shot past Howard. This is a blown coverage by Datsyuk on Pavelski. Adding the lost faceoff will earn Datsyuk an extra 1.5 minuses (1 coverage, 0.5 turnover). Lidstrom will also get an extra half-minus for allowing the Thornton pass through him. I'm going to let Kronwall keep only a half-minus on this play, as he's doing his part for positioning when Howard bails at the last second and he's left to chase Thornton. I don't expect him to be able to take the puck from Thornton without body position, but this might have been a good time to take a penalty. Franzen and Holmstrom were never involved in this play and will not keep their minuses.
2nd Period 09:54 - San Jose Goal: Joe Thornton (wrist shot) from Logan Couture and Mark-Edouard Vlasic
Brad Stuart ends a San Jose cycle in Detroit's end by blocking a shot in the high slot which Filppula picks up and dishes to Cleary streaking up the far wing. Stuart wisely joins the rush here to put pressure on the Sharks and takes the middle lane. As Detroit enters the zone, Cleary pulls up on the right wing to allow the defense to collapse on Stuart rushing the net; he then hits Zetterberg coming in as the late man through the middle while Filppula provides him the option on the wing. Zetterberg gets a great chance to one-time a shot from the slot but instead clutches to prepare a slapper. This gives Thornton all the time he needs to strip Z of the puck and send the Sharks the other way on a 3-on-1. Vlasic picks it up in the faceoff circle and takes the center lane with Thornton on his right wing and Couture on the left. Vlasic goes to Couture crossing center ice to enter the zone and then slows up to play the option as the third man high. Couture changes his angle to get to a very good shooting spot to freeze Howard. Lidstrom tries to turn to both prevent the pass and take a good angle on Couture, but the horse-faced forward passes it through Lidstrom to Thornton on the other side. Howard can't square to Thornton before he gets off the shot and it goes in. I'm absolving Howard of blame on this one. It would be nice if he stopped it, but he was frozen by a strong angle taken by Couture and needed a lot of luck to have the shot from Thornton hit him. Lidstrom is going to keep his minus for not preventing the cross-ice pass, but this is mostly on Zetterberg, who will get an extra 1.5 minuses on the play (1 turnover, 0.5 coverage). He's essentially the defenseman when Stuart joins the rush. His pinch in the zone is a good one if he actually shoots it, but his hesitation was killer and got the Wings caught up ice. I'm clearing the minuses for Stuart and Filppula, who were both in offensive position. Cleary will earn an extra half-minus (coverage). After the pass to Zetterberg, he goes to the net in an area where Stuart is already standing. I would have liked to have seen him recognize the potential for this turnover and back off. Until this play cycles around fully, the Wings forwards need to recognize that Stuart is the front man and they need to be covering.
2nd Period 12:48 - San Jose Goal: Marc-Edouard Vlasic (wrap-around) from Andrew Desjardins and Brad Winchester
The Sharks pressure in the Wings zone after a dump-in. Helm and Ericsson get into a board battle with Desjardins and Winchester in the corner to Howard's left. Helm knocks Winchester down, but he's able to get up and get it to Desjardins to step into the top of the circle and fire an unscreened low wrister. The rebound goes to Brendan Smith out front and he tries to clear it to the boards, but it hits Vlasic, who gathers it and uses his momentum to beat Howard to the far post. This is a weak goal for Howard, who challenged outside of his own post on a severe angle and couldn't push off to cover the far side. The weak goal will clear the minuses for Helm, Ericsson, Hudler, Smith, and Brunnstrom. I'm only going to give Ericsson back a coverage minus. He let Desjardins off the boards for a very good scoring chance by a split-second bad decision to get involved with Winchester, who Helm was already covering.
Penalty Adjustment: just under 15 minutes into the 2nd, the Wings get a faceoff in the Sharks zone and cycle to the points. Holmstrom tries to get to his office for a screen, but Colin White establishes the ice first and Homer runs him over to take an interference penalty. Both players were moving at the time of contact, but this is definitely White's ice and Homer should know better than to just plow the guy. Holmstrom will get a minus.
2nd Period 18:18 - San Jose Goal: Torrey Mitchell (snap shot) from Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Jamie McGinn
The Wings lose a battle on the half-boards in the Sharks' zone. McGinn recognizes this very early and jumps aggressively to challenge the defense. When McGinn gets the pass, Brad Stuart is forced to back off and let him take the puck to the top of the circle for a shot. Howard stops it, but it trickles through him and just wide. Here, Vlasic (who still apparently wants to be called a defenseman) outmuscles Kindl in the corner. After the ugly save, Howard jumps back to cover the near corner and prevent an attempt to bank it off him. Vlasic instead finds Torrey Mitchell right out front for an easy goal. This is another weak goal by Howard. The rebound control here, what it forces the defense to do, and what it forces Howard to do all lead directly to this one. The official minuses for Kindl, Stuart, Filppula, Zetterberg, and Cleary will be erased. However, Kindl, Filppula, and Zetterberg will each earn their minuses back on the coverage failures which let Mitchell get the puck in this situation.
3rd Period 09:32 - San Jose Goal: Brad Winchester (wrist shot) from Andy Murray
Halfway through the third, the Wings are pressing down 4-1. They run an attempt to use a power play zone entry with Brendan Smith crossing center in the middle of the ice. When Smith crosses the center red line, he is also the farthest Red Wings player back on the play. Smith goes to Helm cutting in across the blue line. Helm is met by Mitchell and turns to protect the puck. Unfortunately, he protects it pretty well from himself in the process and the loose puck trickles to Andy Murray, who's able to get it past Hudler and as far as Kindl collapsing to the red line before he sweeps it into the Wings zone. Meanwhile, when Helm turned the puck over, Winchester recognized it from the weak side and immediately turned up ice behind both Smith and Brunnstrom. Winchester gets to it first in the faceoff dot and has a one-on-one with Conklin. Winchester wins the battle by putting an excellently-placed shot through the five-hole. I know that in the era of butterfly goalies, it's common practice to say that every five-hole goal is weak, but Winchester has the room to make any move he wants and picks this shot perfectly. The extra minus here is going to go to Helm on the turnover.
3rd Period 13:38 - Detroit Goal (PP): Danny Cleary (wrist shot) from Valtteri Filppula and Henrik Zetterberg
The Penalty - Douglas Murray (holding):Murray, who looks like the second-biggest tool on the Sharks blue line behind Brent Burns just sometimes likes to go after people's heads. Here, he tries to give Abdelkader a noogie and the refs don't appreciate it. No adjustment.
The Sharks kill off the first half of the power play before Detroit gets a good zone entry. Filppula carries in on the wing with speed and lets the players get set. He goes to Kronwall at the point, who transitions to his umbrella-point position. In a play nearly exactly like the first power play goal, Filppula skates to the top of the zone and then cuts in on a line which bisects the faceoff dot to Niemi's left (Datsyuk came in on the right on the previous goal). This time, while the PKers react to the player cutting in by bunching up toward the middle, Filppula goes to Zetterberg in the low corner to his side and then continues on to the net. Without a man to prevent it, Zetterberg tries to just throw it at Cleary's stick for a tip-in out front. Niemi kicks it past him, but the puck hits Demers' skate and goes to Filppula. With Niemi down, Flip has a wide-open net to shoot at. Unfortunately, he shoots it right into the pad. From here, Cleary picks up the rebound and slams it in. Kronwall is going to get the third assist for the setup on the play.
-1 to Jakub Kindl: For possibly the first time this season, Kindl was the Wings' worst defenseman. He ended up with three fewer minutes played than Brendan Smith and I'm glad about that for tonight.
-1 to Henrik Zetterberg: Zero shots on goal for a guy who is supposed to be playing more as a sniper than a playmaker. His hesitancy to throw the puck on net cost the Wings and I caught him a couple times trying to make stick checks which left him flat-footed where moving his feet would have been the better option.
+1 to Jonathan Ericsson: Aside from a very strong backcheck to prevent a Logan Couture goal on a Nick Lidstrom mistake, I thought Ericsson played well enough in his 20 minutes to earn his way back to even on the night after the coverage minus on the Vlasic goal.
-0.5 Darren Helm: This is the first time I can remember seeing a player not move his feet for the 2nd time on a shift and then seeing the #43 on his jersey. I had to rewind it just to make sure. Helm played poorly
+1 to Niklas Kronwall: He turned the puck over 14 seconds into the game and then spent the rest of the contest making up for it. He took seven shots on goal and quarterbacked the power play on both of their markers. He played very well.
+0.5 to Danny Cleary: speaking of SOG, he had 9. I almost don't want to give him this because I actually felt that he was held back slightly by Helm's inability to finish and that kind of pisses me off after he spent a few games dragging his own linemates down. Still, He played a good game.
+1 to Valtteri Filppula: Comparing him to his teammates, I feel he doesn't deserve to be an adjusted minus for this game. He was good in his 18 minutes of ice time.
Honorable Mentions: Brendan Smith played well in his first game, but he also made a few rookie mistakes. I felt he was close to a plus, but there were too many turnovers (2) and lost zones (1) for him to overcome. My new man-crush Drew Miller played just five seconds more in this game than Corey Emmerton and showed very good effort in his limited time, but even I can't say that he deserved a plus for anything. Hudler and Franzen neared pluses, but didn't quite get there either.
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