15. It's one of those numbers that is popular without being one of the really cool numbers.
Per Wikipedia, there are a lot of interesting facts about the number 15. It's the atomic number of phosphorus. It's the number of days in each of the 24 cycles of the Chinese Calendar. It's the number of guns in a gun salute to Army, Marine Corps, and Air Force Lieutenant Generals, and Navy and Coast Guard Vice Admirals. It's a Taylor Swift song. It's the number of our new deity, Tim Tebow.
It's also now the number of consecutive wins at home for the Red Wings, setting a franchise record. The Wings jumped all over the Buffalo Sabres in the first period and never looked back, en route to a fairly easy 5-0 win.
Henrik Zetterberg built off a strong third period against Chicago by opening the scoring for the Wings. After drawing a penalty earlier in the period, he pounced on a Sabres turnover in the offensive zone. His wrist shot tipped of a Sabre defenseman's stick and over Ryan Miller's glove to give the Wings an early lead. The last few minutes of the first became the Pavel Datsyuk show. First he sprung Johan Franzen with another backhand pass, and Mule made no mistake by going top corner on Miller. Then with 17 seconds left in the period, his saucer pass landed on the stick of Todd Bertuzzi, who put a shot on net. Miller made the save, but Nicklas Lidstrom buried the rebound in a play that was eerily similar to something I've seen before, although I can't place the memory. For the second straight meeting, the Wings had a 3-goal lead on the Sabres and appeared to be off to the races.
The Wings wasted no time in increasing their lead. First it was Bertuzzi with a spin-o-rama that actually worked, then Drew Miller perpetrated some brother-on-brother emotional violence by feeding Darren Helm with a beautiful pass that Helm actually finished, leading to Ryan getting the hook. As you can imagine, the rest of the game was spent just trying not to get hurt or fall into any bad habits. With the Wings heading out to Dallas tonight for a game tomorrow against the Stars, the Wings didn't want to expend any unnecessary energy.
- It's too bad that Ville Leino didn't dress for the Sabres tonight, because they really could have used that immense talent and experience. If Tomas Kopecky can score multiple goals against his former team, imagine what a stud like Leino would do. What a shame that we were deprived of seeing one of the true stars of the game. (Ed note: I wrote this joke before I realized that Leino was indeed dressed for the game. However, after watching his play tonight, I figured it was appropriate to keep it).
- I'm guessing that if we were to look back at a calendar to see what dates coincided with missed games for Nicklas Lidstrom over the course of his career, we would find that at least 20 of those dates also included weird software upgrades for cyborgs.
- So, anyone still want to trade for Ryan Miller? That's not meant as a slight against the Sabres goaltender, but merely an observation on how good Jimmy Howard has been this season. The shutout tonight puts him tied for second, and he dropped his GAA below 2 once again. He's doing all this while playing more games than all but 5 goalies in the NHL. It wasn't the toughest of nights for him, but he didn't allow a goal.
- Pavel Datsyuk is good at hockey. With 3 assists tonight, Pavel has reached the 700 point plateau in only 706 games. The FSD broadcast began with a little montage of everything that Datsyuk does, showing his ability to steal pucks, his lack of fear of throwing his body around, and his offensive talents which are better than almost anyone in the league. With his 3 points tonight, Pavel is now only 3 points behind Henrik Sedin for first overall, and is 3rd in assists with 36. I'm going on record as saying he is without a doubt the best all-around player in the NHL today.
- You know why games like this are awesome? Check out the TOI for the Wing players, specifically the 3rd and 4th lines: every single player spent at least 10 minutes on the ice, and only Niklas Kronwall and Brad Stuart played over 20 minutes. When you're playing the first half of a back-to-back, the ability to spread out ice time keeps everyone fresh for tomorrow night's game, which is far more important.