For the Wings, there typically aren't "statement" games in November. This is usually the time of year that Detroit is building a big lead in the division in anticipation of their February/March "coast to the playoffs" slump.
Unfortunately for us, the Wings have had a very troubling start to the season, particularly on offense. After Thursday's 5-2 loss to the Sharks, coach Mike Babcock openly questioned his team to the media, asking whether they wanted to be a good team or not. Today was the first game after the team meeting that followed, and the Wings, at least for one night, answered Babcock's question with a convincing win over the Los Angeles Kings.
It was a slightly uneven first period, as the Wings came out with strong skating, but passes weren't connecting and shots were still being taken from the outside. With Justin Williams in the box for tripping, the Wings were looking to strike first, but Mike Richards beat Jiri Hudler to a loose puck in the neutral zone and slipped it past Jimmy Howard, marking the second straight game the Wings gave up a shorthanded goal. However, unlike Thursday, the Wings came right back and tied the game. Pavel Datsyuk banged home a rebound to get his first goal in 12 games.
After the jump, highlights from the rest of the game, bullets and video.
In the second period, the Wings took over in a way that we've been waiting for. Outshooting the Kings 17-7 in the second, they got another power play goal, this time from Niklas Kronwall, and followed that up with a goal from Justin Abdelkader after killing a penalty to Brendan Smith (who picked up his first NHL point on the play). The highlight of the second was a penalty shot taken by Anze Kopitar, who was stopped by Jimmy Howard as he tried to go backhand but was unable to out-wait Howard.
In the third, the Wings maintained their forecheck and played a sound defensive game. Datsyuk scored his second goal of the game with about 5 minutes remaining, and then Jimmy shut the door on a Kings' 5-on-3 power play very late to preserve the 4-1 victory.
- I can't have been the only one wondering how the Wings were going to come out after Babcock's comments and team meeting, and I was pleasantly surprised by the start of the first. I actually thought they played a better first period against the Sharks, but it was not a bad period by any stretch by the Wings. There was definitely a lot of jump in their skating, but they had a little trouble with the forecheck of the Kings.
- When the Kings scored their goal, my first thought was "this is where we see whether the Wings want to be a good team." Giving up a shorthanded goal like that and then coming back to score immediately was the kind of mental strength we want to see from this team. That's reminiscent of the Wings of old, who wouldn't flinch when a goal was scored against them and would just use their superior talent to get it right back. That they would use that goal as the springboard to a dominating performance the rest of the way is a big step in the right direction.
- Welcome back to the scoresheet, Pavel Datsyuk. Dats had an ugly first goal, but after not scoring in 12 games, I don't think he would have cared if he scored it off his face; a goal is a goal. This is the kind of stat line we like to see from #13: 2 goals, +2, 5 SOG.
- We wanted the top players to step up, and Datsyuk definitely did with his performance. But Henrik Zetterberg, while not getting any points, was more of a force tonight than he has been for most of this season. 55% in the faceoff circle was nice, even if one of those faceoff wins led to the Kings' goal. He also had 7 SOG, some of them from in tight. If he keeps shooting like that, the puck's going to start going in and the team is going to get more wins.
- How about that penalty shot save by Jimmy Howard? That little move with the glove hand and drop of the puck was a giant "fuck you" to anyone who has doubted him this season. For the record, that's yet another .950 SV% game for Tiberius while only giving up 1 goal, keeping his GAA comfortably under 2.00 for the season. Most importantly, he was great on the PK, stopping all 9 shots he faced while the Wings were down a man. Forget getting Jimmy into the All-Star Game; it's time to start the "Jimmy for Vezina" campaign.
- A huge congratulations to Brendan Smith on his first NHL point, an assist on Abdelkader's goal after Smith's hooking penalty was killed off. It wasn't the prettiest assist, but it counts, and I'm sure that no one is happier in the world that Brendan that he's gotten on an NHL scoresheet. Except Jeff, who I have no doubt is trying to buy the puck to add to his shrine.
That's a very nice win by the Wings, but it's just one game, and we don't have to wait long to see if the Wings are going to build off it, as they travel a little further south to take on the Ducks in Anaheim tomorrow night. I don't think anyone is about to state definitively that the troubles of the Wings are behind them after one game, but everyone should be encouraged at their response after being called out by their coach. This was a total team effort, with no passengers at all. If they continue to get performances like that from everyone going forward, the team will be fine.