Fresh off a poor finish to their latest road trip, the Wings went home, had some turkey, and all got the gift of remembering that they are indeed a great team regardless of the venue for Christmas. Tonight, they showed off their new gift to the Nashville Predators, putting forth a solid effort and beating the Preds 4-1.
In the spirit of the season, Henrik Zetterberg gave his present to Valtteri Filppula tonight when he showed great vision and patience and threaded a nice pass to Flip in the slot, who one-timed the puck past Pekka Rinne to give the Wings a 1-0 lead. The Wings maintained that score through the end of the first despite being only getting 7 shots on net and taking 2 penalties.
In the second period, the Wings killed off Johan Franzen's carry-over holding penalty, then proceeded to take over the game by scoring twice in 13 seconds. First, Pavel Datsyuk's wrap-around was deemed to be a goal on the ice, a call that stood a review by Toronto. On the following shift, the Wings took advantage of a Preds' turnover, and Drew Miller fed a pass to Dan Cleary who buried it to make it 3-0 and effectively put the game out of reach.
In the third, both teams looked like their walking in Memphis, not skating in Nashville, as the pace slowed with the Wings protecting their big lead. Filppula scored his second of the nice to ice the game, and Jonathon Blum ruined my Boxing Day by throwing a seeing-eye shot past Jimmy Howard to ruin the shutout. The Predators held a considerable advantage in shots, but Howard was there to make the saves and preserve the win.
Like most of the presents I wrapped this holiday season, this one wasn't pretty, but it was effective. Follow the jump for the bullets.
- When it was announced that Darren Helm took a puck in the face in warmups, I think we all collectively wished it was December 23rd and we could ask Santa for something else besides tube socks. Thankfully, he's a tough SOB and he came back with a nasty bruise and a new scar. He had 14 minutes in ice time and went 7/15 in the faceoff dot, and had an overall effective game.
- Welcome back Filppula. After being noticeably absent for the last 7 games, Filppula scored his first goal on the road since December 2nd against Buffalo. For those keeping score at home, Flip has 4 goals in 3 games against the Predators this year, and is now only 12 points away from his career-high in points with over half a season to play.
- It certainly doesn't hurt when the opposing team is not at full strength, but no Shea Weber weakens the Predators considerably and takes away a huge advantage they have at home with matchups. Ryan Ellis made his NHL debut tonight, but the Wings were able to get scoring from all 4 lines (Flip's second goal came with Abdelkader and Emmerton on the ice), so matchups weren't really an issue for the Wings.
- Well hello penalty kill. The only major weakness on the Wings was anything but as they killed off all 5 penalties while only allowing 5 shots total while shorthanded. Nashville's power play has been scorching hot as of late, and while Weber not being there limits their effectiveness, that's still a nice showing by a unit that has been much maligned all season.
- A hearty congratulations to Johan Franzen on his 250th point tonight.
- The news wasn't all good for the Wings tonight. Tomas Holmstrom suffered what was initially called a "lower body" injury by the team, but Khan(!) confirmed via Twitter that it was a groin injury and he's unlikely to play tomorrow against the Blues. Someone will be called up from Grand Rapids to take his place while Jan Mursak and Patrick Eaves continue to heal.
- The Wings definitely had a little bit of "let up" in the third as they nursed their big lead, but it's not nice seeing that "15" in the shot column for the Predators in the third period. I'd like to see the Wings buckle down a little more and not allow so many shots, but it's a minor quibble for me and nothing that's majorly concerning going forward.