Detroit traveled into Columbus on Thursday night to face off against a hungry Blue Jackets team fighting for their lives. The Red Wings, winners of their last three, were coming off a very well-played game where they defeated the Washington Capitals 3-2 and were looking to continue building on their winning ways of late. Detroit didn't disappoint in this one, as they built a 2-0 lead in the first period and then rode the stellar play of Joey MacDonald for the remainder of the game.
The referees made themselves busy in this one, handing out a total of 12 minor penalties in this contest. The Wings' power play was able to turn one of their four opportunities into a goal while the penalty kill did yeoman's work in stopping all six of Columbus' tries, which included a 43-second 5-on-3 chance that saw two Wings d-men in the box and Brian Rafalski in the dressing room with what looked like a knee injury. The standard was pretty good for the first two periods, but I feel the refs fell into the old trap of giving the trailing team the benefit of the doubt too often. Regardless, the Wings held the Jackets off, despite giving up a 37-27 advantage in shots.
Joey MacDonald was absolutely the player of the game in this one. He was tested often in the first period and made every big save. After the four big saves he made in the first, including two off of 2-on-1 opportunities and two point-blank chances, the Wings' defense calmed down a bit, but not before making sure he had to be tested again in the third off another great Rick Nash scoring opportunity. If I had precedence for it, I might give him a +6 for this performance, but as it stands, his rating on the night is a spectacular +5.
Scoring and plus/minus analysis after the jump.The Goals
1st Period 00:33 - Detroit Goal: Drew Miller (wrist shot) from Darren Helm
Off the opening faceoff with Detroit's fourth line on the ice against Columbus' top unit, Rick Nash brings into the Wings' zone and fires a high wrist shot that McDonald pops into the air. Stuart gets under it first and wisely makes the safe play off the boards and out of the zone. As Eaves pressures Clitsome at center ice, he forces him to try a pass across the ice to Russell which misses him and bounces off the boards to Helm approaching with momentum. Helm brings it in on the wing and rags it enough to give Eaves time to drive the net before throws a low wrist shot at the front which Mason kicks directly to Miller joining late for the easy tap-in. Brad Stuart will get an assist on this play as his safe clear starts the rush. Patrick Eaves will also get an assist for the combined plays of pressuring the puck carrier at center and driving the net to create the traffic which gave Mason trouble on the shot.
1st Period 11:23 - Detroit Goal (PP): Valtteri Filppula (wrist shot) from Johan Franzen and Mike Modano
Detroit is gifted this power play thanks to a phantom Rick Nash high sticking call, so no penalty adjustment. - Late in the power play, the Blue Jackets manage to clear it high, but Modano leaps to at least keep it on the right side of center. A pass to Filppula and a pass right back is all it takes for Detroit to reset and get into the zone. Modano cuts in and tries to hit Frazen on the wing, but the pass is through his skates and to the boards. Here, Franzen wins an important board battle with Sammy Pahlsson to keep it in. He goes from the half boards across to the opposite point where Fippula is covering Modano's point. Flip tries to pass to Modano as the two of them move to trade places, but the puck glances off his stick and goes behind the net. Here, Cleary does an excellent job getting position on Jan Hejda's stick to prevent him from being able to poke the puck around Franzen heading to the boards on the opposite side of the net to get the puck. Franzen brings it to the front and threads a cross-crease pass to Filppula as he's stepped into the quiet area behind the play. Mason moves quick, but Flip doesn't waste time roofing it in past him. The work by Franzen and Cleary are what make this goal. Modano will lose his assist on this play, as he touched the puck, but not in a meaningful way to have helped the play along. I would let him keep a half for the zone entry he made, but he needed bailing out on that as well as he laid a bad pass to Franzen and forced the Mule to retrieve it on the boards. Cleary's positioning to prevent Hejda from clearing was a crucial part of this play. Cleary will get an assist for this. Franzen will get a second assist for the work he does on this play to retrieve the puck high and for the great vision in finding Flip on the back door. Filppula does not get an assist on his own goal this time because of the disjointed pass that has to be recovered.
This is another game where the parade to the box would drown out the narrative of the game if mixed with the goals, so they get their own section (except for the one that led to a power play goal)
1st Period 11:29 - Dan Cleary - Roughing: Cleary drives the net with Lepisto covering him as Bertuzzi shoots on goal. The whole time they're engaged, the hands are up in a bit of a pushing match. Finally, Cleary lands a soft punch on Lepisto's chin and thanks to the fact that they've now backed into Mason's crease and Lepisto trips over the goalie's leg while going backward at just the right time, Lepisto goes down and Cleary takes a roughing call. It's a bit unfortunate, but it's not a bad call. Cleary gets a minus. He has to be in better control here.
1st Period 13:42 - Mark Methot - Roughing: As the Cleary penalty winds into its final seconds, Abdelkader skates into the Columbus zone and dumps it in. He makes a head fake on Method right as the Columbus defenseman is moving to engage him and the guy lands pretty much the same accidental punch that Cleary landed just a couple minutes prior. No adjustment. It's the guy landing the punch's responsibility not to do this. Abdelkader didn't goad him or anything, Methot's just a meathead.
2nd Period 14:10 - Rick Nash - Goaltender Interference: Off a faceoff win by Columbus, Rick Nash makes a bee-line straight to Joey MacDonald's solar plexus and takes an interference penalty for his troubles. Jakub Kindl actually had a little to do with this, but his other option is to move and let Nash have whatever ice he wants, and that's a very good way to give up goals. No adjustment.
2nd Period 18:52 - Red Wings Bench Minor - Too Many Men: Detroit gets a half-change, but the communication isn't good and Filppula jumps on the ice to play center on Datsyuk's line after Datsyuk had already come on for Zetterberg. Filppula will get the minus here.
3rd Period 1:05 - Antoine Vermette - Hi-Sticking: Vermette and Bertuzzi fight for the same puck and the Columbus center tries to lift Bert's stick only to miss and catch his face. No adjustment.
3rd Period 4:36 - Danny Cleary & Kris Russel - (Offsetting) Roughing: Russell starts shit here and they both get sent for matching roughing calls after they decide they're not going to drop the gloves. No adjustment.
3rd Period 9:51 - Danny Cleary - Hooking: Cleary fights Russell for the puck on the boards and gets his arms extended to prevent Russell from getting to the puck. Considering the hook that the Jackets put on Helm on the ensuing power play, this is a double-standard call. Still, I'm going to give Cleary a half-minus.
3rd Period 13:22 - Nicklas Lidstrom - Hooking: As Derek MacKenzie rushes into the Detroit zone with speed, he pushes the puck behind Lidstrom and goes to retrieve in the corner. Lidstrom, using one hand on his stick, gives MacKenzie's stick a little tug. Feeling the pressure, the Columbus forward immediately puts on his best mime-skating-into-a-tornado routine and goes down. I really think the refs missed an opportunity to call a pretty obvious dive on this play. LIdstrom's stick blade never comes into contact with any part of MacKenzie's body. This is simply not a hook, but an effective stick-check for which Lidstrom gets punished. No adjustment.
3rd Period 14:49 - Jonathan Ericsson - Slashing: Reacting to Antoine Vermette losing an edge and sliding into Brian Rafalski's knee in the corner, which sends Rafalksi down in a heap onto the ice, Jonathan Ericsson slashes Vermette to let him know that it was not appreciated. I still haven't actually seen a replay of this, but the default would be to give the guy a minus for slashing. It was an unfortunate happenstance in the corner and not a result of any cheap play by Vermette. I know Ericsson is trying to stick up for his teammate, but you're not helping by getting yourself sent to the box. Ericsson will get a minus.
3rd Period 19:54 - Johan Franzen - Hi-Sticking: Mule's got to keep better control of his stick. In context, there are fewer than seven seconds to go in this game. This is a meaningless penalty and, as a result, Franzen will not get a minus.
+2 to Henrik Zetterberg: One of thse pluses comes directly from saving a surefire goal by lifting Antoine Vermette's stick behind the play on a Joey MacDonald rebound. The other comes from him being the best skater on the ice for Detroit and the center of the line that looked the most consistently dangerous.
+1 to Darren Helm and Justin Abdelkader: Exactly like the previous night, these two were absolutely phenomenal chasing down pucks and pressuring Columbus' power play units.
+1 to Patrick Eaves: Like the two above, Eaves played a big part of the Wings' penalty kill which held Columbus scoreless. I also loved his even strength forechecking and willingness to work in the corners.
+2 to Brad Stuart: Just like Zetterberg, Stuart gets a plus all by himself for preventing a sure goal, as he lifted Rick Nash's stick just enough to prevent a 2nd period goal. He also led the Wings in total ice time and penalty kill time, helping kill of 6:29 of Columbus' 9:23 time on the power play.
+1.5 to Niklas Kronwall: 2nd only to Stuart for ice time and penalty kill time, Kronwall wasn't as noticeable as his bigger counterpart, but he got the job done very well.
+1 to Nicklas Lidstrom: I still marvel at the ho-hum way he breaks up 2-on-1 rushes. Another better-than-solid performance shutting down the opposition's top offensive scoring threat for the league's best defenseman.
-1 to Jonathan Ericsson: There's not a nice way to say this, but I'd rather see smoke pouring out of my car's engine than Ericsson take a shift against any team's top six forwards. His defensive zone turnovers are becoming the stuff that ulcers are made of.
+0.5 to Drew Miller: He got himself 2/3rds of the way to a Gordie Howe Hat Trick before the midway point of the first period. He didn't get much ice time, but I think he made the most of his chances. Aside from the opportunistic goal, he was part of a line trio that consistently put the pressure on in the Columbus zone.
Honorable Mentions:Bert and Franzen played decently, as did Filppula, but none of those three played well enough to warrant extra consideration. Kindl held his own again and, at this point, is higher than Ericsson for me on the Wings' defensive depth chart. Something seemed off about Datsyuk from the first part of the game in that he didn't look like he had his legs under him, but he still managed to elicit a giggle before I had to gasp at hearing he left the bench for the training room in the third period with a supposed "lower body" injury. Let's hope he's ok.
Nashville on Saturday in the house of sturm, drang, and twang. The Wings look to avenge a 3-0 shutout loss in February.