No team coasts through a season. Things may be great for a while, where everything goes right and points pile up. There may even be some lackluster play that gets covered up by lucky bounces or just being a little bit better than the opponent.
However, the true measure of a team is found when facing adversity, and that's what the Wings are going through right now. Losers of 3 straight, their genius of a GM was unable to get the depth forward he coveted and fans got angry. Add to that the team was without Pavel Datsyuk, Nicklas Lidstrom and Kyle Quincey due to injury and decided to give Jimmy Howard the night off, and it would have been easy for the team to mail it in as they've done so often against the 30th place Columbus Blue Jackets.
However, a funny thing happened in the third: the Wings reminded us that despite the doom and gloom that may be prevalent among the fanbase, the team still employs some pretty good hockey players. Henrik Zetterberg's absolutely-intentional shot from just above the goal line turned out to be the game winner, and Jan Mursak and Valtteri Filppula added insurance goals as the Wings turned it on in the third after getting out-played for the first two periods against the Blue Jackets.
The last time the Wings played without Nicklas Lidstrom, they were down 6-0 midway through the second period. There was nowhere to go but up. Follow the jump for the bullets.
- Yeah yeah yeah, I can hear the naysayers: "it was just the Blue Jackets". After watching this team play down to their competition all season, I was proud of the fact the Wings came out aggressively in the third period and took care of business. These are the points the Wings have been giving away all season, and it's nice to be on the right side for once.
- The theme of the game for the Wings was "Redemption Night" as player after player that we have criticized had a solid game. First up we look at Johan Franzen, who we're all hoping will turn into "Playoff Mule" in April. He scored a goal just as a power play expired and looked more engaged physically than we've seen in a long time. He was also moving his feet and skating harder. Maybe getting "demoted" to the 3's was the kick in the ass he needed.
- Next up, Dan Cleary, who has been everything from pretty good to downright terrible at times this season. Clearly had a few solid scoring chances, drew a penalty while the Wings were shorthanded and assisted on Franzen's goal in the first period. He also was skating better than he has since I can remember, and I didn't cringe every time he was on the ice wondering why he was taking up a roster spot.
- Welcome back to the lineup, Jakub Kindl. After Jonathan Ericsson was lost (due to a Brad Stuart wrist shot) for the next 4 weeks and Kyle Quincey sustained a groin injury, Kindl was given an opportunity to get back on the ice and show the team that his regression has stopped. He was one of the Wings' best defenders tonight, and I thought he looked solid on the power play in the first period. He and Brendan Smith formed an effective third pairing all night, even while the Wings were slogging through the second period.
- Everything wasn't peaches and cream tonight, however. The special teams continue to make us want to drink even more than we normally do. The PK doesn't need Wing defensemen pushing opponents into their own goalies. The PP doesn't need to keep giving up shorthanded goals, especially against the NHL's 30th ranked PK unit. The Wings were able to get that goal back when Niklas Kronwall scored, but it was another frustrating performance for the Wings' special teams.
- I know that morale is low in Columbus after Scott Howson's trade deadline performance, but 30-2 in hits? Really?
- It was a very uneven first 2 periods, and while there are people who are going to overreact to that type of play against a bad team, but let's remember that there were 2 new defensemen in the lineup, only one defensive pairing remained intact, every 2 of the forward lines were new combinations, and whether they were playing Columbus or Vancouver, the Wings were going to struggle to generate some consistency in their game. Couple all of that with the atrocious refereeing in the first 2 periods were both teams spent a lot of time on the power play and you've got a recipe for uneven play.
- That shot by Henrik Zetterberg was by design, and that's the kind of skill that will keep the Wings at or near the top of the conference the rest of the way. Zetterberg was one of the best Wings all game, but his play in the third period elevated him to Player of the Game for Detroit.