Fresh off a hard-fought comeback victory to end the Predators' chances of winning the Central Division, the Red Wings welcomed Minnesota into the Joe with a chance to end the Blackhawks' run at repeating their fluke division title. At the end of the day, the Wings found themselves the winner of the game by a 4-2 score and back atop their division for the 9th time in 10 seasons.
Detroit gave the Wild five power play opportunities in this game, but did a good job on the kill, preventing any goals with the man advantage while holding their opponents to only four shots on goal. On the other side of the ledger, Detroit scored one goal on seven shots during their three power play opportunities. I'd like to see them draw more calls (legally) as the playoffs start, but I can't argue with results here. Despite trailing throughout most of the game, Minnesota couldn't even manage 30 shots on net, as the Wings led that category as well 34-29.
Scoring and plus/minus analysis after the jumpThe Goals
1st Period 2:46 - Detroit Goal: Darren Helm (wrist shot) from Patrick Eaves and Brian Rafalski
Drew Miller carries a puck out of the Detroit zone and dumps the puck to the far corner after gaining the Minnesota blue line. The puck rings up the boards past Eaves where Helm lets it go past him while taking his coverage away from the play. Rafalski gets the biscuit at the top of the zone and dumps it back deep to start the cycle. While Eaves and Falk fight for position, the puck bounces off Falk's back and to Eaves with a step on the young defenseman. Eaves brings it around the back of the net on the forehand and throws a pass intended for Miller on the back door that instead deflects off Maxim Noreau's skate and to Helm in the low slot. With Theodore already down, Helm drags the puck to change the angle and fires a wrist shot top shelf. Helm makes a very smart play in letting the puck go past him while decoying to take it in order to make take the pressure off the point. Helm will get a half-plus for this. Miller does a good job in the zone with the safe dump-in and by creating traffic, leading to the confusion. Miller will get a half-assist.
Penalty Adjustment (x2): The Wings get the first power play of the game as Holmstrom fights off Kyle Brodziak and moves his feet to force the big guy to take him down. Homer will get a plus on this play, but I'm not wholly convinced it's not a dive. On the power play, Brian Rafalski returns the favor and trips up Mikko Koivu to even things up. Rafalski will get a minus for this. However, I'm also going to give Nicklas Lidstrom a half-minus on this play. He holds the puck way too long and has a pass blocked by Koivu which leads to the Rafalski trip.
Penalty Adjustment: Later in the period, Jakub Kindl goes off for a high-sticking penalty behind his own net which will earn Kindl a minus. On that power play, Matt Cullen is called for interference when he accidentally goes skate-to-skate with Patrick Eaves at the Red Wings' blue line and Eaves goes down. No adjustment on that penalty because I think it's chintzy.
1st Period 19:40 - Detroit Goal: Nicklas Lidstrom (slap shot) from Henrik Zetterberg
On the faceoff directly after the Cullen penalty, Datsyuk can't get the puck on the drop, but he does some good work tying up Brodziak's stick to force him to kick it to Clutterbuck. Rafalski pressures the Wild winger into trying to poke it around him, but Lidstrom is there to intercept the clearing attempt for the keep-in. Lidstrom delivers a slap-pass to Zetterberg standing in the opposite faceoff circle from where the draw took place as the Wings set up in a diamond formation. Zetterberg skates the puck from the circle to the blue line, dragging Maxim Noreau with him before going off the boards back to Lidstrom, who has traded spots with him and is now open because Clutterbuck didn't follow. Lidstrom gets it and turns to continue the same cycle while Zetterberg sets his stick up to be ready for a one-timer as they switch off again. This forces Norreau to chase Zetterberg while Koivu stops at the top of the circles to make sure he doesn't lose a man. While this is happening, Datsyuk moves from his position at the far side half-boards to a net-front position while Rafalski slides into the faceoff circle on the weak side to remind Clutterbuck that he has a man to cover. All of this movement gives Lidstrom an open lane to shoot through with a Pavel Datsyuk screen in front of Theodore. Lidstrom blasts it through the traffic and past Theodore for a Budd Lynch special. It's almost unfair to have Lidstrom, Rafalski, Datsyuk, and Zetterberg on the ice together for a 4-on-4. Lidstrom is going to get an assist on his own goal for his part of the cycle while Zetterberg will pick up a bonus half-assist. Datsyuk will get the screener's assist (and very nearly got the goal), and Rafalski will get a half-assist for the pressure on Clutterbuck. I'm also going to award Lidstrom and Zetterberg each half-pluses for their work confusing the defense.
Penalty Adjustment: After nearly scoring another 4-on-4 goal, Valtteri Filppula goes to the box on a tripping call while fighting for a loose puck in front of the Minnesota net. I like the hustle and fire from Filppula, but he's got to be in better control here. He definitely reaches in and gets his stick between Noreau's legs to take him down. Flip will get a minus.
2nd Period 4:32 - Minnesota Goal: Brad Staubitz (wrist shot) from Justin Falk
Brad Staubitz brings the puck into the Wings' zone as Detroit gets numbers back. He fires a weak wrister on goalwhich Howard redirects behind the net for Rafalski to pick up. Raffi tries to go around the boards in front of the pressure to Helm, but the pass is too quick and instead rings past Helm and onto the stick of Justin Falk. From here, Falk brings it down into the corner where he throws the puck into the scrum in front between Staubitz, Howard, and Ericsson. The puck deflects off Rafalski's stick and rolls across the crease where a hustling Falk gets to it on the far side and tries to jam it home. Howard manages to stop this attempt as well with his pad spread low, but in the ensuing scrum, the best way I can describe what happened was that apparently, the puck lay uncovered underneath Howard's elbow until the netminder moves his arm. Staubitz is fighting for crease positioning here and gives the puck the tiniest of nudges with his skate before Howard retracts and pushes the puck into his own net with the elbow. I thought the whistle should have blown here, but to the referee's credit, he was in excellent position to see the play. It's a lot easier to deal with these calls when we see in-game consistency and, on a later goal scored by Detroit, we get that satisfaction. However, there are some minuses to give out here. First off, the Rafalski pass up the boards to Helm is not a good one, nor is Helm's attempt to pick up the puck or the fact that Falk beat him to the far post on the rebound of his own shot. Rafalski and Helm will each get an extra minus. Miller and Eaves will be cleared of their minuses, as the scoring play happens below the points which they're covering. I'm not going to clear Ericsson's minus because he's right there when the goal is scored, but he was battling hard to clear the crease and although this puck goes off Brodziak's skate, he prevents him from scoring the easy goal. Still, this was an opportunity for Ericsson to take a "good" penalty by doing a better job clearing traffic.
Penatly Adjustment: Less than two minutes after the Staubitz goal, Johan Franzen skates into the Detroit zone with Andrew Brunette going to the front of the net. The two are jostling for position the entire way and the play terminates in the two of them knocking the net off its moorings behind Howard. It looked like Brunette was interfering with Franzen as much as Franzen was interfering back, but Mule initiates contact. I'd like to see this call go both ways, so I'm going to give Franzen a half-minus.
2nd Period 12:38 - Detroit Goal (PP): Tomas Holmstrom (wrist shot) from Brian Rafalski and Pavel Datsyuk
Detroit earns this power play as on a half-line change, Eaves makes a good play to keep a puck in the zone and prevent a Minnesota rush and then goes to the net with a step on Brad Staubitz, forcing him to take Eaves down and earning Eaves a plus. The faceoff gets scrambled and leads to a clear, but the Wings turn it around and get it right back in with Homer setting up a tippable shot by Rafalski that goes wide of the net and bounces to Lidstrom pinching at the opposite-side half-boards. Under pressure from Clutterbuck, Lidstrom goes low to Datsyuk, who draws in Burns before throwing a pass from the low corner to Brian Rafalski at the top of the zone that Holmstrom skating through the middle almost tips. Instead, while Clutterbuck pressures the far point, Cullen moves to pressure Rafalski, and Burns looks for a man to cover, Rafalski threads a pass through Cullen to Holmstrom all alone in the center of the zone. Homer gets the pass in the slot with his momentum taking him from left to right in the zone. He gets to the top of the right faceoff circle and reverses direction, dangles beautifully around a scrambling Brett Burns, and fires a wrister that goes off Theodore and in. I'm going to add a half-assist to Lidstrom here on the pinch and pass. I'm also going to give Homer a plus on this play. He makes a very good play to help the Wings gain the zone after the clear and the way the net-front presence on the line disappears into the middle of the ice is beautiful.
Penalty Adjustment: 13:43 into the 2nd, Danny Cleary goes for hooking. He initially ties up with Colton Gillies off an offside faceoff and then does it again as Gillies circles the Wings' net. Cleary will get a minus. Either one of these two hooks is perhaps weak, but he did it twice on the same play. It was a good call.
3rd Period 6:11 - Detroit Goal: Johan Franzen (wrist shot) from Henrik Zetterberg and Todd Bertuzzi
Some good (and aggressive) work on the Wings' boards in the corner by Franzen, Lidstrom, and Kindl help spring Franzen past Gillies out of the zone and through center ice. Franzen dishes to Bertuzzi on the wing entering the Wild zone where Clayton Stoner misreads the pass and turns to retrieve a puck that Bertuzzi got a stick on to tip to himself off the boards. Gillies follows Franzen deep to make sure he passes the coverage off to Spurgeon, giving Bertuzzi enough room to bring it off the boards and threaten going to the middle of the ice. Here, he draws Stoner and Gillies to him before dishing off a clever little pass to Zetterberg streaking to the outside. Hank goes behind the net with it and, just before he's eclipsed by the back of the cage, he feeds it back in front to Franzen tied up at the edge of the crease. Franzen gets his stick on the puck and jams it into Theodore. The Wild's goalie stops the puck, but doesn't cover it and Franzen jams the puck over the line. First off, I'm going to give the pluses earned here by Salei and Ericsson back to their rightful owners, Kindl and Lidstrom. Those two were the D-men who made this play happen before changing. I'm also going to give Kindl an extra half-plus for a great play up the boards in his own zone to spring Franzen. Mule has a little to do with this play happening the way it does coming out of Detroit's zone as well, so Franzen will also get a bonus half-plus and a half-assist. This is perhaps the only time in my entire life I'll give Bertuzzi a bonus half-plus for moving toward the middle before passing to the wing, but it worked to perfection with the way he drew two players in.
3rd Period 16:54 - Minnesota Goal: Carson McMillan (wrist shot) from Brad Staubitz and Eric Nystrom
A blocked shot attempt from Salei puts the puck on Nystrom's stick before he passes over to Staubitz and the two of them head back into the Wings' zone with McMillan joining as the late man. Detroit has numbers back here, but don't stand the Wild rush up at the blue line, instead yielding the zone a bit easily. Staubitz skates wide on Kindl and gets a great centering pass in which misses Nystrom going to the net with Salei, but which Howard kicks McMillan joining, who puts it home for his first career goal. It's a good goal off the rush, but I don't like a few of the things about this play. First off, Salei turns this puck over near the opponent's blue line, which is one of the more dangerous areas on the ice to give the puck away. This will earn Salei an extra minus. Next, I don't like that Kindl give Staubitz so much room. He had both Filppula and Hudler coming back and needs to make Staubitz make a move or at least block his centering feed. Kindl will also earn an extra minus. I actually do like Hudler's hustle back for 90 percent of this play, but then he overskates McMillan and lets him get his stick on the puck. If Happy stays with his man, he might earn a plus. As it stands, Hudler will get an extra half-minus. Cleary will not get a minus for being understandably behind the play the entire time. Filppula will have his minus halved. He recognizes that Hudler is basically taking over the center's defensive responsibilities because he's the closest to the play and instead takes up the wingers' position, but as the center on that line, the communication between Flip and Huds is not good. Filppula is technically in the position he needs to be in, but I don't think he communicates that properly with Hudler.
+1 to Darren Helm: I'm almost out of superlatives to use for him this season, but he's just so very good at forechecking and playing the PK. The great thing about his speed is that he also has great control. He'll skate full-blast to retrieve a puck deep and stop on a dime to drag the puck back past the guy chasing him.
+1 to Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg: These two really made the Wings go. When they were on the ice, there was absolutely nothing going for Minnesota through the neutral zone and their clearing attempts were that much more likely to be picked off.
-1 to Jiri Hudler: His habit of getting the puck in good scoring position and then making nonsensical passes is getting infuriating. Something has got to snap him out of this.
+1 to Jonathan Ericsson: Big E led all Wings skaters in ice time and played solidly. If he can play like this in the playoffs, I may actually be able to go two minutes without screaming expletives at him.
+1 to Jakub Kindl: During a first and second period where I felt the Detroit defense was holding onto the puck for too long looking to make cute plays out of their own zone, Jakub Kindl was the only one consistently trying to move the puck up ice to get on the Minnesota trap before it could set up.
Honorable Mentions: The Brent Burns stick slash in the third period is a call I hate and he wasn't drawn into doing it, therefore, I don't have to make an adjustment. So there. I thought the Wings played this game pretty well with guys like Stuart and Filppula playing decently, but not making big waves. They didn't play this one with the same intensity as Saturday against the Preds, but they didn't have to. Finally, I want to make sure to give kudos to the way the Wild played this game. It's sad that it needs to be mentioned, but I've seen far too many teams knocked out of playoff contention just trying to play tough-guy hockey to hurt the playoff-bound guys for no good reason. The Wild stayed away from these bush-league antics and played the game the way it was meant to be played. I'm very thankful for that.