Even though the season still has a ways to go, one thing has become extremely clear regarding the Detroit Red Wings: they need home ice advantage like we need air.
Even in a game like tonight, when they look like a typical "we just got back from being on the West Coast for a week" team, they still find a way to hit that extra gear and earn a very valuable 2 points.
They did it in what can only be described as an uneven performance. In a first period that was as plodding as it was tedious, neither team could generate any consistent offense, yet the Wings, despite only getting 5 SOG managed to take a lead into the dressing room when Johan Franzen parked himself in front of the net and tipped in an Ian White shot. The goal came on the power play, in what hopefully is a sign that it's ramping back up.
However, the Wings built off their lead, and they made it 2-0 early in the second to give them their first 2-goal lead since Calgary, and they appeared headed to an easy win. However, Sam Gagner happened, and a goal in each of the second and third periods later, we were tied.
This is where the depth of the Wings comes in to play. Gagner may be the hottest player on the planet, but with RNH out of the lineup, the Oilers have nothing behind their top line, while the Wings have two 10-goal scorers on their third line. One of those guys is Drew Miller, and he pounced on a loose puck behind Nikolai Khabibulin to give the Wings their lead back. Henrik Zetterberg, who realized he was actually two goals BEHIND Miller, found the back of the net for the first time since before Edmonton figured out they aren't very good to seal the win for the Wings.
This was a game the Wings absolutely had to have, because it's a team they should beat. Bullets after the jump.
- Justin Abdelkader had himself a game. Abby had 2 assists, laid out a huge hit on Taylor Hall, fought and survived Ryan Jones, and was just a general pain in the ass for the Oilers all night. His play tonight would be the perfect type of game for a playoff game, and he's got the intensity to keep up that style of play over a longer period of time.
- Suddenly the Wings are a fighting team. They don't have any heavyweights, but it's good to know that there will be someone to step up if liberties are taken. Tonight's fight was after a penalty by Abby, but at least he answered the bell when challenged. Hopefully this ends the narrative that to beat the Wings you have to try and intimidate them.
- Johan Franzen scores a PPG for the second straight game, and he was better tonight. He had some net front presence, used his hand-eye coordination, and seemed to want the puck more. You know how I know Franzen felt good tonight? He was trying stupid little cutesy moves that tend to indicate he's got some confidence with the puck.
- The refs were an absolute joke tonight. The Brad Stuart boarding call, Tomas Holmstrom goalie interference, and Too Many Men were all brutal calls. In a normal game, I'd probably rip the Wings' PK for allowing so many goals, but they were 1-7 tonight, a very good showing. Edmonton doesn't have a lot going for them this year, but they've got the 2nd ranked power play in the NHL, so stopping them 6 times is a feat.
- Speaking of the PK, Jonathan Ericsson was a boss on the 5-on-3, actually using his body, getting his stick in lanes, and winning board battles. He'll get noticed for the bad line change leading to the Oilers' first goal, and he's got plenty of blame for that, but I'm in a good mood and going to recognize the good he did.
- That first period is going to be one of the best periods you'll ever see where the Wings only have 5 SOG.
- If Sam Gagner played in the Central division, he would have a shot at breaking Gretzky's record. Whatever you think a team would trade to get him, add another roster player and draft pick.
- Congratulations to JJ-crush Drew Miller on reaching a new career high in goals and tying a career high in points (11 and 19, respectively).
- 18 straight wins at home. I can honestly say I'm in shock it's lasted this long.
- Bye bye, Ty Conklin. It was nice having you around. Hopefully no toilets get clogged when you're gone.