The Wings and Coyotes started their first round playoff series on Wednesday night at the Joe Louis Arena, a rink in which Detroit has not played well in recently. Despite this, the Wings were able to overcome an early deficit and a glut of penalty calls to come away with the 4-2 victory to take a 1-0 series lead. The Red Wings will now have two days off to convince Henrik Zetterberg's knee to stop hurting before game 2 on Saturday afternoon.
The reffing standard in this game was certainly... interesting. It's going to be difficult giving out pluses and minuses because there was absolutely zero consistency. Both teams came out playing NHL Playoff Hockey™ early before the refs completely changed their standard. They later changed back to the third, but I'll leave it at that I thought the game as called by the refs was one-sided. Fortunately, Detroit's penalty killers were able to defeat all six Phoenix power play opportunities, to include a 90-second 5-on-3 chance. Detroit was given three power play chances and capitalized on the only two-minute long one. By the end of the game, the Wings had kept their opponents to under 30 shots, out-chancing the Coyotes 36-28.
Scoring and plus/minus analysis after the jumpThe Goals
1st Period 2:16 - Phoenix Goal: Kyle Turris (snap shot) from Ray Whitney and Shane Doan
Off a chance that hits the outside of the Phoenix net, Phoenix starts up ice with Doan and Whitney on a 2-on-2 against Lidstrom and Stuart. The 'Yotes cross over coming into the zone and Doan fires a shot that deflects off Stuart's foot to the corner. Here, Doan pushes it farther on to Whitney behind the net before running between Stuart and the puck-carrier to give Whitney space. From here, Whitney carries to the corner with Lidstrom in tow and pushes a backhand out to Turris in front and to the side of Howard. With Franzen behind him and unable to get his stick lifted, Turris snaps it over Howard's glove for the first goal of the playoffs. Franzen will get an extra minus for the failed coverage on Turris. Helm and Holmstrom will not receive minuses for this play, as they are in position. Lidstrom keeps his minus for not preventing the pass. Stuart will pick up an extra half-minus. He's slow coming out from behind the net and taking up position near the post. If he gets there a step faster, Turris may not have this shot available, regardless of Franzen's coverage.
2nd Period 7:38 - Detroit Goal: Pavel Datsyuk (wrap-around) from Johan Franzen and Tomas Holmstrom
Eight seconds after the end of a Detroit power play, the Wings are able to tie it up. Detroit carries it in with time winding down, as Holmstrom picks a ring-around off the boards and goes to Raffi for a shot through traffic as the time expires. Holmstrom gets it behind the net and pushes it back around the zone to Datsyuk at the half-boards. From here, Pavel goes to the corner, drawing both Doan and Aucoin to him before finding Franzen behind the net. Mule tries to hit Rafalski sneaking through the middle of the zone uncovered, but the puck is blocked back. Datsyuk is already sweeping in before he picks it up and puts it in the back door deftly while Bryzgalov wonders where the puck went. Rafalski will pick up an assist on this play for the keep in and for taking the run into the zone that likely would have made him the goal-scorer if the pass connects. Datsyuk will get an assist on his own goal for drawing the two defenders before finding Fraznen and then rushing in to pick up the loose puck before anybody knew where it was. Homer gets an extra half-assist for his work on getting the puck around and playing his Demolition Man role very well to make the defenders go the long way around him in trying to prevent the Datsyuk wrap-around.
2nd Period 12:02 - Detroit Goal: Johan Franzen (snap shot) unassisted
Plays like this are why the CSSI was born. This play starts at the 11:27 mark as Bryzgalov hands a puck off to his own defender to start a Phoenix rush up ice. Unfortunately for Phoenix, Datsyuk, Franzen, Holmstrom, and Rafalski all combine to make sure that Phoenix never gets the puck over the center stripe. Every time they somebody tries a lane, a forechecker is all over it and forcing them back. Eventually, Pavel nearly sends himself in on a breakaway as Holmstrom steps in to break up a 15-foot pass attempt from Yandle to Korpikoski that Datsyuk gets his stick on as it sits loose, but can't bring back to his forehand to snap Yandle's ankle. Instead, Datsyuk chases Yandle while Homer covers Korpikoski. This forces Yandle to try a cross-ice outlet across his own blue line. Franzen steps up to pick this pass off before it gets to Vrbata. He realizes quickly that he has to rag the puck just a little to let Datsyuk get back onside, so he carries parallel to the blue line before the zone clears and he can head back in. This pause isn't long enough to allow Phoenix off their heels though, and Mule gains the zone with Turris still moving backwards. Franzen snaps it through Turris to the stick side and in from 45 feet to take the lead. Each of the four earlier mentioned players did their part on this play to make it happen. This is a 35-second span where Phoenix is in control of the puck for most of the play, but can't even gain the center line. Datsyuk had two really good challenges, including the original on Yandle to stop the rush cold and then the second to force the bad pass. Holmstrom's step up on Korpikoski was equally as important, as was Franzen chasing the puck and picking off the pass. Datsyuk, Holmstrom, and Franzen will each get a bonus plus on this play. Datsyuk and Holmstrom will also pick up assists. Rafalski was the other player who took a turn forechecking to drive the Phoenix rush back and for this, he'll earn a bonus half-plus. Truly a remarkable play by the Wings..
2nd Period 18:16 - Detroit Goal (PP): Brian Rafalski (slap shot) from Valtteri Filppula
Detroit finds themselves on a late 2nd period power play as Ed Jovanovski hooks Tomas Holmstrom and gets sent to the box. Homer will not get a plus because it pretty clearly shows that he grabbed Jovo's stick and likely should have been sent to the box as well. Phoenix gets an early clear, but Detroit gets the puck back in with 1:39 left on the man advantage and doesn't relinquish it until they score 1:01 later. The Wings find a lot of success moving the puck around the perimeter to set up point shots into screens out front, nearly capitalizing several times (including twice on one play as the puck gets put off the post two times on the back door). Eventually, Detroit gets it in as, off a rebound, Klesla gets the puck in the corner and under pressure by Cleary, tries a weak backhanded dump up the boards. The puck bounces over Lidstrom's stick, but Rafalski picks it up at the blue line, gets it under control, and sends it cross-ice to Filppula. Flip carries to the top of the faceoff circle before turning back and setting Rafalski up at the top of the umbrella. Raffi unleashes the one-timer from the middle and it finds its way through a Danny Cleary screen and in on the low side against Bryzgalov. Cleary will pick up an assist-and-a-half on this play for pressuring Klesla and for screening Bryzgalov. There's a lot of good work to create different looks on this power play. I like the way the players made this one work.
3rd Period 3:16 - Detroit Goal: Jiri Hudler (snap shot) from Drew Miller
Early in the third, with both teams making line changes, Yandle brings the puck out from behind his own net under no pressure. He makes a pass to Rozsival coming up the wing through center ice that turns out to be a bad one. Jonathan Ericsson knows he has backup and is immediately on Roszival in the neutral zone, forcing him to turn the puck over at the blue line. Miller recognizes the opportunity and throws it off the boards out of the zone to a streaking Jiri Hudler. Happy Huds picks it up and carries into the zone being forced as far to the outside as Radim Vrbata could force him. Hudler gets to the left faceoff dot and snaps it far side over the glove for the Wings' fourth goal. The step-up in the zone by Ericsson will earn the Big Rig a bonus plus and a half-assist. #20's vision on recognizing the chance to spring Hudler will also get Miller a bonus half-assist.
3rd Period 7:38 - Phoenix Goal: Radim Vrbata (slap shot) from Martin Hanzal and Lauri Korpikoski
Under pressure by the 'Yotes, Detroit clears to the neutral zone where Yandle picks up the puck and feeds it back up ice to catch the Wings moving the wrong way. Lauri Korpikoski tips the puck over an on-rushing Ericsson and into the zone. Hanzal gets to the puck first near the top of the right faceoff circle and, as he cuts across, leaves a drop pass on a tee. Vrbata gets to the puck and slaps it around Brad Stuart's blocking attempt and off of Drew Miller's outreached stick. The slight direction change trips up Howard and beats him to the blocker side. This play is a collection of two good breaks for the Coyotes on the puck getting over Ericsson and then tipping off Miller's stick, but the only minuses I'm going to clear are Filppula's and Hudler's. They had just stepped onto the ice for Helm and Draper respectively right before the goal went in. Don't get me wrong on letting Stuart, Miller, and Ericsson keep their minuses though, I want them trying to play this the same way every time it happens. I just want Stuart to prevent the pass, Miller to tip the shot better, and Ericsson to prevent the puck from going over his head.
First game of the playoffs and we're already getting a post where I have to separate the penalties into their own section. Here we go:
1st Period 7:53 - Valtteri Filppula (tripping): The first call is a good one, as Filppula battles Vernon Fiddler behind the Detroit net and gets his stick caught up in the skates to bring his man down. Filppula will get a minus for the lack of stick control.
1st Period 8:22 - Nicklas Lidstrom (hooking): 29 seconds later, the refs outdo themselves with the first bad call. Lidstrom goes stick-on-stick with Hanzal to prevent a 2nd-chance scoring opportunity, Hanzal trips over his own stick, and the refs send Lidstrom to the box to put the Wings down two men. No adjustment.
1st Period 11:32 - Justin Abdelkader (hi-sticking): Yes, the good ol' "intent to high-stick". I hated this call when it was made, but the more I watched it, the more I wondered what the hell Abby was doing with his stick in the first place. Intent or not, he has to have control. Abdelkader will get a minus.
1st Period 12:54 - David Schlemko (slashing): Darren Helm picks a rebound up on a PK in front of his own net and takes it 200 feet to get not one, but two scoring chances. When picking up his own rebound, Schlemko wheels around and gives him a chop on the leg. Helm will earn a plus for the good PK work in drawing the penalty.
1st Period 18:49 - Darren Helm (hooking): Six minutes later, Helm gives his plus right back, as he loses body position and puts a hook in on the hands of Lee Stempniak. This is one of the wiggling-standard calls, as similar hooks had been let go by both sides earlier, but Helm makes this one almost too obvious not to call. Minus for Helm.
2nd Period 4:12 - Patrick Eaves (hooking): After killing off the remainder of the Helm penalty and trying to build off momentum, Eaves earns a minus for hooking Andrew Ebbett in front of his own net. Again, even though it's functionally stupid that the refs didn't call any of the dirty shit that went on from Phoenix, it's easy to make a hooking call like this.
2nd Period 5:30 - Martin Hanzal (holding the stick): Stuart and Hanzal get tied up behind the Wings' net and, as Stuart tries to get up, Hanzal grabs his stick to prevent him from getting to a puck. No adjustment.
3rd Period 8:16 - Justin Abdelkader (interference): Abdelkader and Doan get into an impromptu wrestling match behind the Detroit goal with Doan at one point trying to put Abby in a fireman's carry. Somehow, Abdelkader ends up with the only penalty. Bullshit: no adjustment.
+1.5 to Pavel Datsyuk: Once again, the Red Wings' best all-around player controlled the play in all three zones. Datsyuk's even-strength ice time saw the Wings outshoot the Coyotes 13-4 as Dave Tippett struggled to find an answer for him. Datsyuk took an incredible 8 shots on goal to go along with his three takeaways.
+0.5 to Todd Bertuzzi: I felt Bert had an outstanding second half to this game, starting right about the time that Rusty Klesla took a run at him and he dropped the gloves. He was very strong on the puck and did a great job of just feeding pucks towards the net mouth. He didn't get one to bounce in on this night, but if he keeps this up, he will.
+1 to Nik Kronwall and Brad Stuart: Stuie ended up an unfortunate -2 officially on the night, but the two of these players deserve a huge portion of the credit for the Wings' 6-for-6 penalty killing performance. The Wings' two leaders in ice time combined for over 12:30 worth of PK time.
+0.5 to Nicklas Lidstrom: Lidstrom played fewer minutes than every D-man except Salei for the Red Wings, but when he was on the ice, the flow of the puck bowed to his will.
+0.5 to Darren Helm: Yes, he already got a plus for drawing a penalty while shorthanded, but that was only one outstanding play among a field of great individual plays, especially shorthanded. Helm played just under four minutes on the PK and excelled in each of them.
Honorable Mentions: There were long stretches when the entire team played very well together as a unit. Salei blocked four shots and played quietly well, but not the same kind of quietly well that Kronwall did. Miller and Eaves did a good job on the PK, but didn't excel at that as much as Helm did. I also liked the hustle out of Filppula and Hudler, so much so that I want to see them build off of that on Saturday.