We all have that one girlfriend that we're no longer with, but we didn't break up with them because they cheated on us or because they turned out to be a raging psycho. It was just one of those things where it wasn't meant to be and both people recognized it and moved on. You still think about her from time to time, not in a longing sort of way, but just hoping that she's happy in whatever she's doing.
This is how Red Wing fans think about Steve Yzerman. That he's the Lightning GM somewhat rankles us, but only because he's not still with the only team he ever called his for over 30 years. We watched him take a game and determined Lightning team to the Eastern Conference Finals last year, and we hoped against hope that they could somehow get into the Finals and win a Cup for our beloved Stevie Y.
However, tonight he came in to the Joe with his new team as the enemy, and while we will always love Stevie and cherish every single memory we have of him in the Winged Wheel, there's business to take care of, and the Wings did that as well as they have throughout their 18th winning streak of the season.
Despite the score, this was an extremely close game with either side having a chance to win in the third. Follow the jump for video, bullets and random thoughts.
First, since we all had Versus, we didn't get to see the video tribute to Yzerman that the Wings put on. So, here you go. I dare you to watch this and not get goosebumps.
Not bad, eh?
On to the game.
- Like the previous 5 games during this current winning streak, there weren't really any passengers on the Wings tonight. Every line was contributing, except the 4th which didn't see a lot of ice time as the refs got whistle-happy. Each of the first 3 lines scored a goal, and that's the kind of balanced scoring that is going to the make the Wings very hard to beat within the Western Conference.
- Remember that time when a lead felt safe? It's been a couple of years since that's been the case, but despite the Lightning coming back to tie the game at 2, once the Wings got the go-ahead goal it just felt like they were going to shut it down and hold on for the win. Sure, the Wings tried to make it interesting by playing Jiri Hudler on the point during a power play that would essentially kill the clock. However, the Wings got their insurance goal and locked it down after that. And when there was a chance for the Lightning, Jimmy Howard (he of the All-Star ballot snub) was right there to make a big save, just as he's done all season. It's a testament to the season he's hand so far that in a game where he stops 21 of 23 shots and only allows 2 goals, his season stats will actually get worse. #VoteJimmah.
- I guess I should say something about the 1-3-1: I don't care. It's a defensive system that seems to work for the Lightning, and bless them for using it, but I don't get the big deal about it. If it was such a suffocating defense, the Lightning would allow 1 goal a game and be on top of the league. Like any defensive system, it can be beaten, and the Wings did not seem to have much trouble with it. I did enjoy how the Lightning opened things up after they fell behind, because there's a lot of talent on that team and they can be very scary. If you weren't clenching different orifices when Martin St. Louis was on the ice tonight, you weren't paying attention, because he was everywhere.
- Jonathan Ericsson scored a goal. This deserves its own bullet point. I don't have anything to add to it, other than to repeat: JONATHAN ERICSSON SCORED A GOAL! The Wings should trade him for Bobby Ryan straight up while his trade value is still high.
- With their win tonight, the Wings become the second team in the NHL to reach 15 wins (Boston being the other). That 6-game losing streak is long gone in the rear-view mirror, and this team is playing as well now as they played poorly during their losing streak. During their current streak, they have out-scored their opponents 24-11, increasing their goal differential to a Western Conference-best +18.
As I write this, the Wild are tied 2-2 with the Oilers after 2 periods, and a regulation loss by Minnesota would mean the Wings are your first place team in the West entering December. I'm choosing to remain cautiously optimistic about this team, but wins against quality teams like Boston and Tampa have me feeling better. However, there's always room for improvement, and the Wings can't let up. Next is a trip to Buffalo for a Friday night date with the Sabres and their new-look roster. We'll be saying hello to the namesake of the pressbox, Ville Leino, he of the only contract more ridiculous than Ericsson. Stevie, we still love you, but 2 points are 2 points.