Monday night was an absolute playoff mentality game as much as November 26th against Boston or January 8th against Chicago. Once again, the Wings showed the kind of determination and composure it takes to win games like that as they drowned the Blues and won a 3-1 game that maybe wasn't even that close.
St. Louis earned one power play on the night and the Wings' PK stopped them handily. On the other side of the ledger, Detroit went 2-for-5 with the man advantage. It should be considered 2/4 though, as the fifth power play was 1.5 seconds long to end the game. The two teams tied the first period with 8 shots apiece, but Detroit pulled away to a 28-22 advantage by the end.
Scoring and plus/minus analysis after the jump
1st Period 09:12 - St. Louis Goal: Scott Nichol (wrist shot) from BJ Crombeen and Chris Porter
The Blues get on the board first off a bad line change. The Blues dump it in to the corner away from the benches and move in to forecheck. Ericsson is first on it and he passes it short to Cleary, who goes up the boards to Miller. Miller gets pressured by Roman Polak and is forced to dump the puck out of the zone in a hail Mary attempt to Abdelkader at the opposite blue line. As this happens, Ericsson, Miller, and Stuart change behind the play. Kris Russell intercepts the dump and turns it back up ice where it gets past Cleary skating up ice to help. This sends Chris Porter into the zone on a 3-on-1 as only Niklas Kronwall has gotten onto the ice behind the play. Porter crosses the line, drops it to Crombeen, and heads to the front. Kronwall releases Porter behind him as he tries to react to the rush, but he can't prevent the cross-ice pass to Nichol, who has the wide-open net to shoot at and doesn't fail. I feel so badly for Kronwall here that I'm going to halve his minus. I'm not sure I can really blame a guy for not stopping this play as it developed, but he can't get completely cleared. Emmerton will have his minus cleared for having just stepped on the ice and Drew Miller will get his minus back and will earn another for a bad decision to change.
Lidstrom will actually keep his minus here. I feel he's pretty slow to get off the bench and into the play. Ericsson will earn his minus back as he's the far-side defenseman whose job it is to make sure he's not stepping off the ice without the puck getting all the way down. Cleary and Abdelkader both keep their minuses. [Update: Based on the comments below and another look at this situation, this is a time when I honestly have no idea which guy messed up here. I'd have to hear from Babcock himself or one of the players before I could adequately assign blame on this line change. Neither Lidstrom nor Ericsson will keep a minus]
2nd Period 00:51 - Detroit Goal (PP): Pavel Datsyuk (backhand) from Nicklas Lidstrom and Henrik Zetterberg
The Penalty - Christ Stewart (instigator): Brad Stuart nails Alex Pietrangelo and Stewart the meathead decides he has to answer for a clean hit. Both players get fighting majors, but Stewart gets the instigator. I love the hit by our defenseman, bu tit's up to the idiot in the Blues jersey not to instigate. No adjustment.
Detroit ties it up on a great individual effort. The period almost starts out disastrous as the patented neutral zone drop-pass from Lidstrom to Datsyuk doesn't connect and nearly leads to a David Perron breakaway were it not for Henrik Zetterberg skating back hard to neutralize the chance. Detroit gets their collective shit together from there and enters the zone. Detroit sets up in their typical umbrella formation and gets a good look on the near-side as Lidstrom puts a slap-pass on Pavel Datsyuk's stick for a redirect attempt that goes just wide. Zetterberg picks it up on the other side and skates up the boards to overload the left. He gets to the half-boards before going back to Datsyuk in the corner. Pavs is chased out by Pietrangelo, so he passes to Lidstrom at the point. Nick draws in Perron before going back to Datsyuk now at the half-boards. Datsyuk turns at the top of the circle to face the net while Zetterberg hangs out in the high slot and Holmstrom stays net-front. Pietrangelo is a little low in the zone, which gives Datsyuk room to turn and face him. Pavel fakes to the forehand, causing Pietrangelo to bite and take a knee for the supposed shot block. This gives Datsyuk the space he needs to bring it into the slot and fire a backhand pass top shelf on Halak before Backes can slide off the coverage of Zetterberg to stop him. I'm going to give Zetterberg a plus for getting back on Perron to prevent the shorthanded goal and also give both Datsyuk and Lidstrom a half-minus for that turnover. On the good side of things, I feel Lidstrom and Datsyuk both deserve half-assists for quarterbacking this power play all the way after it gets set up. Holmstrom will absolutely get the screener's assist, as he forces Halak to lean the entire way to give Datsyuk room.
Penalty Adjustment: 2:54 into the 2nd, Detroit gets whistled for a penalty, as the Blues' forecheck creates turnover in the Wings' end. Backes gets his stick on a Mike Commodore clear, which leaves the puck in the zone. Pietrangelo steps up to poke it back to Backes, who finds Perron cutting back through the middle. Perron makes a move on Lidstrom 1-on-1 and Lidstrom gets his stick into the midsection to take a hooking penalty. Lidstrom will get a minus for taking the penalty, but Commodore will also get one for his failure to clear the zone. I think Commodore made a high-risk play while his team was setting up for the safer play. However, Drew Miller is part of what lets Perron come in on Lidstrom 1-on-1. Miller will also get a half-minus.
2nd Period 08:52 - Detroit Goal: Johan Franzen (backhand) from Jonathan Ericsson and Todd Bertuzzi
Detroit gets the eventual game-winner off an offensive zone faceoff win. Datsyuk sweeps the faceoff back to Ericsson, who backs to the point and throws it up the boards. Datsyuk tips it on its way to the corner and Bertuzzi is first on it with Colaiacovo in tow. An amazing thing happens here after the dump-in by Ericcson, he actually jumps up in a play. Bertuzzi throws him a backhanded pass from the corner and he one-times a wrister from just above the faceoff circles in the middle. The puck hits the Franzen/Pietrangelo traffic in front and sits there. From that point, it's on Johan Franzen to outmuscle Alex Pietrangelo for the rebound and make a wide turn to backhand it around Halak's skate. Datsyuk will earn the third assist on this play.
Penalty Adjustment: Midway through the third period, Detroit almost gets their insurance goal early on a great in-zone steal by Valtteri Filppula. Flip intercepts an outlet pass from Colaiacovo and gets hooked on his way to dishing it off to Hudler. Filppula will earn a plus.
3rd Period 16:57 - Detroit Goal (PP): Niklas Kronwall (slap shot) from Nicklas Lidstrom and Pavel Datsyuk
The Penalty - Carlo Colaiacovo (roughing): Colaiacovo completely loses his marbles when Darren Helm forechecks aggressively and knocks Alex Pietrangelo on his ass while they race for a loose puck behind the net. This is excellent poise and patience by Helm to not only lay a clean hit, but also to keep his cool in avoiding taking what would have been a very easy even-up call for the refs. Helm will get a plus.
Niklas Kronwall throws a dagger straight into the heart of the Blues with the Wings' second power play goal of the night. The Blues get a clear on the 4-on-3 power play and force Detroit to regroup and re-enter the zone. Datsyuk accomplishes this with ease as the Wings establish their presence and spread out. Pavel takes the low corner with Lidstrom above him at the point, Holmstrom in front of the net, and Kronwall at the other point (which is in the middle of the ice with their setup). Pavs and Lids play catch on the boards before Lidstrom brings it out over to Kronwall and the movement they force has the points collapsed to the top of the circle. Kronwall goes back to Lidstrom for a fake one-timer that he passes right back. By now, the Blues have collapses into a one-low, two-high formation, but that doesn't help them when Kronwall gets his slapshot through the legs of Jackman, past the screen of Holmstrom, and into the net past Halak. This is good movement on the play, but the only adjustment will be to add another screener's assist to Holmstrom.
2nd Period 11:07 - Jamie Langenbrunner (slashing): This is actually the second time a Wings player gets his stick slashed out of his hands, but the first one that's called. It's not a drawn penalty though.
3rd Period 14:54 - Todd Bertuzzi & David Backes (roughing): Backes is acting like a dick here, but apparently the refs can't just put him in a timeout without also taking that mean old Todd Bertuzzi. Whatever. No adjustment.
3rd Period 19:56 - David Backes, Alex Pietrangelo, & Jimmy Howard (roughing, misconduct, roughing, misconduct, roughing): HAHAHA JIMMY HOWARD OWNS YOU. No seriously though, the Blues got cheap. Howard's a damn hero for protecting his own crease, but it's kind of pointless to give him a plus here, even if I totally want to.
+1 to Brad Stuart & Niklas Kronwall: The Wings' second pair played as well as you'd want out of a first-pairing group. Stuart's hit on Pietrangelo and his follow-up physical engagement was a key part in the Blues eventually losing their collective shit. Kronwall was a bit unsure at times in his own zone, but he stayed solid and was a big part in driving transition.
+1.5 to Nicklas Lidstrom: Lidstrom had his game working on all cylinders. He kept second-chance attempts from getting on net and prevented three clearing attempts at even strength. He was a huge reason the Blues' most dangerous forwards were kept off the scoresheet.
+2 to Darren Helm, Danny Cleary, & Drew Miller: I thought this line was the most-consistent line of the night at putting good pressure on the Blues in their own zone and keeping the puck out of Detroit's end. The shooting stats bear this out, as combining the shots for/against for these three was 27-5. I can't state how important I felt this line was to earning and maintaining the momentum in this game.
+1 to Henrik Zetterberg and Valtteri Filppula: These two did most of the heavy lifting against the Blues' top line (nothing against Hudler, who also played well, but he just wasn't as involved & didn't need to be). I love the defensive coverage these two provide together.
+0.5 to Pavel Datsyuk, Todd Bertuzzi, & Johan Franzen: I really liked how physically engaged this entire line was. They were only credited for six hits between them, but I felt that they consistently chose to play bodies instead of pucks and that slowed the Blues down a lot.
+1 to Justin Abdelkader: Abby dished out five hits, recorded two takeaways, won 4 of 6 faceoffs and otherwise left his mark on a game in which he played fewer than eight minutes. That's not easy to do.
Both Ian White and Jonathan Ericsson had a couple of turnovers which turned what would have been pluses into mere honorable mentions. I liked how quietly solid Commodore was as well. Emmerton and Holmstrom played well in their limited minutes, and Hudler was good. Ultimately, aside from the one bad change, I thought the Wings played well even when the Blues were controlling momentum.
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