One more victory.
I'll be 100% honest with you: I did not expect this at all. I did not think the Wings would score early and often and coast to a relatively easy victory in a game that the Coyotes just had to have. Yet, despite my huge ego and arrogance, I don't mind being dead wrong.
The Red Wings wasted no time getting on the board. Ruslan Salei's point shot made it through a crowd and over Ilya Bryzgalov's shoulder to break the ice and quiet some of the sell-out crowd. Less than a minute later, Niklas Kronwall's point shot was tipped in by Drew Miller, and less than 3 minutes into the game the Wings were up 2-0. The Coyotes probably remembered that the game started at that point, and they started to press the issue for the rest of the period.
The Coyotes came out with the same intensity in the second period that they showed at the end of the first, but the Wings were able to increase their lead. Jiri Hudler dipsy-doodled off an offensive zone faceoff and was able to get a pass over to Valtteri Filppula. Flip out-waited Bryzgalov and made it 3-0 for the Wings. The Coyotes got on the board later in the period. David Schlemko took a pass from Mikael Boedker and roofed a wicked shot over Jimmy Howard's shoulder to give the Yotes life. The Wings held on for the rest of the period and were able to go into the third maintaining their 2-goal lead.
Follow the jump for the third period recap, video highlights, and analysis.
When the third period started, I know I was concerned about how the Wings were going to weather the play that I was sure the Coyotes were going to take to them. However, Johan Franzen took a great pass from Jonathan Ericsson, went in all alone on Bryzgalov, and put a dagger in the heart of Coyote fans everywhere when his shot was so quick that Bryzgalov barely even moved. The Coyotes got the game back to within 2 goals when a Ray Whitney shot was saved by Howard, but the rebound bounced off of Ruslan Salei's behind and in the net for yet another Coyotes power play goal. However, for the third straight game, the Coyotes were unable to muster and sustained offense at even strength, and the Wings now have a stranglehold on this series.
- Talk about the ideal start to the game. We all expected the Coyotes to come out and play like their season was on the line (which it was), and it's the Wings who score twice in 3 minutes to suck the life right out of the building. The Coyotes came at the Wings in spurts, but overall the Wings controlled play and did not allow Phoenix to generate many quality scoring chances. This was just about the perfect road game for the Wings. What's that saying? You're not in trouble until you lose on home ice? Phoenix, consider yourself in trouble.
- I can't say enough good things about the defense tonight. Niklas Kronwall has elevated his game to another level so far, and he's become the Kronwall we've wanted all season: effective defensively, hitting anything that moves, and chipping in offensively. He led the Wings in ice time, playing over 23 minutes. Ruslan Salei also had a great game (minus knocking in the Yotes' second goal off his butt), as did Brad Stuart. Hell, even Ericsson was pretty good, showing great vision with his pass to Franzen on the fourth goal and throwing his body around and actually using his size. Mostly I loved the way the Wings were collapsing in front of their own net. They did not allow any shots or passes to get through and really made the Coyotes fight for every inch of ice below the faceoff dot. That's the kind of team defense that is going to help this team advance in the playoffs.
- Hey, remember when we were concerned about Jimmy Howard going into the playoffs? How does a 2.33 GAA and .923 SV% grab you? No? How about the fact he's faced the 4th most shots so far in the playoffs (91)? How about the fact he's only given up 2 even strength goals so far? Still not impressed. Whatever. You're probably just a bitter Avs fan then. Howard has been nothing short of fantastic in this series so far, completely out-playing "best player in the series" Bryzgalov over the first 3 games. Still think you're the 1st, 2nd and 3rd best Russian player in the NHL there, Breezy? Didn't think so.
- We're all on a high after this win, and with good reason, but I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the Wings special teams. They went 0-4 on the power play, and if the game were at the Joe, the "SHOOT!" would have been so loud that you would have heard them wherever you were watching the game. That's partially a credit to the Coyotes for taking away shooting lanes, but the Wings need to get more pucks on the net when they have the man advantage. The 2 power play goals against are weird, because the first one was a wicked shot from Schlemko that no goalie would have stopped and the second one was an unfortunate bounce off a Wing player in front. If you had told me that the Coyotes would be clicking at a 31% success rate on the power play through the first 3 games and the Wings were at 25%, I would have guessed the Wings were at best leading the series 2-1.
- I'd complain about the referees and some of the ridiculous calls they made against the Wings (and a couple against the Coyotes), but I wouldn't want people to think I'm an arrogant, bitter Wing fan who wears a tinfoil hat as part of his formal wear. Let's just say that I was happy they let the teams play in the first period, and disappointed to see some of the things they called after that. Oh, and Shane Doan: a leader doesn't take 2 stupid penalties like that when your team is trying to come back.
- New Twitter hashtag: #throwinthewhitetowel. Did a single snake hit the ice in Glendale? Did an octopus? I did notice an awful lot of red in the white-out tonight. Like when you're playing street hockey and you take a shot to the mouth and bleed all over the snow. Except the snow is cheering for the guy that cut you.
- Pertinent stats for the night (I swear I'll make a chart or something so this is easier to read going forward): Wings outshot the Yotes 34-30, including 13-9 in the third period when the Coyotes were trying to mount their comeback; Wings were outhit 36-27, but they really held their own physically; Wings won 55% of the faceoffs; Filppula led all Wing shooters with 4 shots; Wings had 15 more blocked shots.