Just getting caught up now after a long and fun weeekend. Sorry to go out of order, but sometimes these things happen. Game 4 was the Wings' best game of the series (even looking two days into the future from there at game 5). The Wings jumped out early and controlled play. Unfortunately, they let the Sharks back into it and put themselves into very real danger of being swept but not for some late heroics by a young fan favorite.
Detroit went 1-for-4 with the man advantage and got two huge kills of their own with their struggling PK unit. I don't like to admit this, but I felt the refs gave Detroit more breaks than they gave the Sharks in this one. Still, special teams had a chance to be the difference and the Wings made it work in their favor, ultimately outshooting the Sharks 40-28.
Scoring and plus/minus analysis after the jumpThe Goals
1st Period 6:22 - Detroit Goal: Todd Bertuzzi (backhand) from Henrik Zetterberg and Danny Cleary
The play starts with a bad turnover in the zone by Brad Stuart that Zetterberg erases with some good in-zone play. Z gets the puck from Cleary and feeds it forward to Bertuzzi coming out of the zone on the rush with Cleary joining. As Bertuzzi gains the blue line on Murray, Cleary takes the defenders deeper in to the zone by charging the net. Heatley angles over to take Bertuzzi, but the big guy pulls the old spin-o-rama out of his ass pocket and leaves Heatley in his tracks. Not finished with driving people insane, Bert then skates backwards into the top of the circle and just throws a backhand shot on net that goes off Murray's stick and over Niemi's glove to open the scoring. First, I'm going to erase Stuart's plus on this play. He went farther than not having a direct positive influence on the play all the way to a bad mistake. Zetterberg will get a bonus plus for breaking up a pass in the zone and the Sharks' chance. Cleary driving the front of the net to take the defenders with him and help screen Niemi is a crucial part of this play. Cleary will get an extra half-assist.
1st Period 11:09 - Detroit Goal: Nicklas Lidstrom (slap shot) from Danny Cleary and Todd Bertuzzi
Off a defensive zone faceoff loss, Bertuzzi jumps the puck and carries out of the zone. Once at center ice, Bert goes to Cleary on the wing to carry in while he drives the net. Cleary takes Murray wide with him and throws a low backhand on net from the outside hash marks in the circle. Niemi kicks the rebound straight out in front into a hole between Marleau covering the center of the ice and Setoguchi backchecking. Lidstrom gets on the puck first and blasts a slap shot home before Niemi can react. Bertuzzi will get a bonus half-plus for jumping the faceoff loss and starting the rush with speed. Zetterberg will have his plus halved. He lost a defensive zone faceoff to get this play started.
1st Period 18:01 - Detroit Goal (PP): Nicklas Lidstrom (slap shot) from Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk
Detroit gets this power play opportunity thanks to some good work in front of their own net. Ericsson picks a loose puck out of traffic and calmly takes it to a quiet corner away from the scrum to set the play. By the time anybody gets pressure on him, he dumps it high over the coverage trying to hit Abdelkader streaking behind Ian White. The Sharks' d-man recognizes this and steps into Abdelkader's way to take an interference call. The smart work by both players will earn both Abdelkader and Ericsson a plus. San Jose is able to kill off most of the penatly, but the Wings build the lead to 3-0, as Z centers for Kronwall with 13 seconds left in the man advantage. Kronner has the puck roll off his stick, but Franzen is right there to put a chance on net. Niemi stops this shot, but Demers weakly tries to poke it out of danger and instead ends up poking it to Datsyuk at the point. Pavel threatens the middle and immediately goes to Zetterberg in the left faceoff dot. Z carries to the corner and throws a pass intended to hit Lidstrom making a run down through the slot. The puck goes off Demers' stick and gets to its target about a foot-and-a-half off the ice. This turns out to be no problem for Lidstrom, who takes it off his shinpad before batting it out of midair, off the ice, and over Niemi's pad for the goal. Franzen will pick up the screener's assist while Kronwall will get a half-assist for his work changing up angles on the play. Lidstrom will pick up a half-assist on his own goal. The coordination it takes to bump this puck off his own shinpad to set it up for a midair slapper is absolutely beautiful.
1st Period 18:16 - San Jose Goal: Logan Couture (tip in) from Ryane Clowe
Off the ensuing faceoff, the Sharks get it into the Detroit zone and take a shot that's knocked to the corner. Helm carries up ice with Eaves as an option up the boards and instead tries to go to Draper up the middle. This pass is intercepted inside the blue line by Clowe, who carries back down to the same corner Helm came from with the speedy young center in tow. Helm can't prevent a shot thrown on net from a sharp angle that Couture gets a stick on enough to bank it into the net off Howard. This is a weak goal for Howard to give up, despite the tip. It's still from a sharp angle and he has to have this one covered. Kronwall, Salei, Draper, and Eaves will each have their minuses erased. Helm will not only keep his minus, but pick up an extra one.
2nd Period 13:44 - San Jose Goal: Dan Boyle (wrist shot) from Kyle Wellwood and Ryane Clowe
Filppula loses a faceoff that gets scrambled and ends with Clowe getting a pass to Wellwood standing behind Brad Stuart with room to challenge the corner of the net. Stuart recovers enough to poke it off Wellwood's stick before he can bring it across the front for the scoring chance, but Stu and Filppula are slow to decide who should go behind the net and pick up the puck. This hesitation is all the time Wellwood needs to come back across from behind the net and pick it up thanks to a Clowe screen. Wellwood carries to the faceoff dot and threads a cross-ice pass to Dan Boyle on the back door for a near carbon-copy of Boyle's game-tying goal from Game 3. Stuart and Filppula will each get extra minuses for not being prepared to hustle here. Hudler will also get an extra minus for losing his coverage in Boyle. Abdelkader has a chance to recognize the need to step up on Wellwood, but it's not completely his coverage here. Abby will keep a half-minus on the play. Jonathan Ericsson will not get a minus. He spends this play tied up with Marleau in front to keep him from getting a scoring chance. In fact Marleau pulls a nice and subtle maneuver here to get his stick behind Ericsson's legs and lift it as the Wellwood pass goes across to bring the Big Rig down.
Penalty Adjustment: Datsyuk does some good work at the Shark's blue line to get a puck and turn it back toward the zone. As he tries to turn the corner, Heatley takes him down and goes to the box. Datsyuk will get a plus.
3rd Period 1:14 - San Jose Goal: Dany Heatley (wrist shot) from Ryane Clowe and Logan Couture
Early in the third, Clowe and Couture combine on the boards to block off Datsyuk skating back into his own zone with the puck. This forces Salei to try to ring the puck around the far side. Homer gets it and messes up his clearing attempt up the boards when Vlasic picks it off and dumps it back into the zone. This leads to a cycle all the way around the Detroit zone that ends up back on Vlasic's stick at the point. The Sharks' defenseman throws a puck off the end boards as an intentional pass to Couture skating to the corner. As Datsyuk and Salei chase on Couture, he dumps it behind the Wings net, where Clowe picks it up. Kronwall goes around the net to chase Clowe, leaving the both the front of the net and the passing lane for Clowe to get it there completely open. Heatley is standing there three feet above the crease to receive the Clowe pass. Before Salei can get back, Heatley collects the puck and puts it over Howard's blocker to tie it. Franzen is the only player in position the whole time and will not get a minus. Datsyuk and Holmstrom will each pick up an extra half-minus for their role in bringing the forecheck into the Detroit zone with them and turning it over. Kronwall will get a full extra minus for the angle he takes behind the net which leaves the passing lane wide open for Heatley. Although the mistake is more on Kronwall, I want Salei to get on Heatley quicker and also take a better angle on Couture in the corner with Datsyuk helping. This will get Salei an extra half-minus.
Penalty Adjustment: Todd Beruzzi loses his balance and then loses control of his stick as he tries to avoid falling down. The stick clips Dan Boyle high and Bertuzzi goes to the box. This will earn Bert a minus. It's even worse because this one happens mere moments after the Wings miss a great 3-on-1 rush.
Penalty Adjustment: 11:35 into the tied third period, Justin Abdelkader takes his trademark dumb penalty on a cross-check given to Joe Pavelski around the boards in his own zone. This was a horrible decision by Abdelkader and will earn him a minus.
3rd Period 18:33 - Detroit Goal: Darren Helm (wrist shot) from Patrick Eaves and Brian Rafalski
Pavelski and Helm scramble a faceoff in the Sharks' zone as the puck rolls toward the center of the ice. Abelkader steps in to fight off both Vlasic and MItchell to prevent the clear. The puck squirts out toward the blue line to Nichol's stick, but he's immediately set upon from behind by Helm and in front by Eaves. The puck rolls off Nichol's stick to the boards where Rafalski gets it and fires a slap shot on net that Niemi can't control off his chest. The puck bounces hard back up the zone past Demers, Vlasic, Mitchell, and Pavelski to Eaves at the top of the circle. While the entire Sharks' squad tries to scramble to adjust to the monstrous bounce, Eaves calmly finds Helm coming in on the back door completely uncovered. Helm collects it an snaps it into the wide-open net for the game-winner. Abdelkader will pick up a bonus plus and an assist here. Battling to keep the puck in was huge here and his net-front work screened Niemi well enough that he couldn't control his rebound. Helm's forechecking work will get him a half-assist on his own goal. Both Eaves and Helm will get bonus half-pluses for their positioning to force the puck off Nichol's stick at the top of the zone.
+1 to Todd Bertuzzi: Through the first two periods, I had it written that this might have been the best game I'd ever seen from Bertuzzi. Not only was he creating offense at will, but it seemed that every time I noticed a good backchecking job by a forward, the guy was wearing #44. This very well was on its way to being a +2 if he doesn't trail off in the third.
+1 to Darren Helm: All-in-all a pretty good performance, but this plus was solidified by some absolutely clutch work on the PK in the two third period penalty kills the Wings had to endure.
-1 to Brad Stuart: Despite how well the Wings played, I didn't think the defensive effort for most of the game was good enough. Stuart gave the puck away several times and just looked a step slow.
-0.5 to Niklas Kronwall and Ruslan Salei: Not as bad as Stuart, but Kronwall fought the puck throughout most of the game and struggled to keep control. Salei killed two in-zone chances by himself with failure to control the puck.
+0.5 to Valtteri Filppula: The Wings' versatile forward had a very good game shooting the puck on net, laying the body, and winning faceoffs. Easily one of the better games for him so far.
+0.5 to Henrik Zetterberg: 2 assists, officially a +2, 3 hits, 59% on faceoffs, and a big reason the Wings were able to come out on top in this game.
Honorable Mentions: The Thornton holding the stick was a stupid play, but not a drawn penalty. I honestly don't understand how Abdelkader picked up a matching double-minor with Clowe at the 20-minute mark of the third. Clow dropped his gloves and started throwing punches while Abdelkader was trying to defend himself. I'm a little disappointed the refs didn't see fit to give Clowe an instigator in the final two minutes. The Torrey Mitchell hold on Abdelkader wasn't much; definitely not enough to warrant adjustment.