For all the questions about whether the Red Wings' locker room had stopped listening to Mike Babcock, it sure seemed like they were paying attention when he said a few days ago that there's no such thing as a moral victory right now. I'm not sure what it says that they seemed to play this game with proving him wrong in mind, but hey, it was a hell of an entertaining game.
The first period was an intense feeling-out type of back-and-forth game where both teams worked mostly on staying within their systems and establishing what worked for them. Henrik Zetterberg got Detroit on the boards first on a very good cycle in the Rangers' zone which culminated in him firing a screened shot through Lundqvist from the top of the right faceoff circle. The Rangers pulled back even about 11 minutes later when Brad Richards takes a pass from his goalie on the power play and goes coast-to-coast before sliding it through Ty Conklin's five hole
The 2nd period was more of the same high-intensity hockey between the clubs. Each team had six shots on goal and saw one power play opportunity fail to convert.
The third period might have been one of the most exciting I've seen this season. Both teams used the lessons they had learned fighting through the previous 40 minutes to exploit the small cracks left in each defense. Goalies matched save-for-save on a 20-shot period. The Rangers got the only power play on a holding call to Kyle Quincey, but the Wings were able to kill that off. Finally, while both teams had chances in the overtime period, the Rangers generally carried play and were able to finish the game off before the shootout on a rush that led Ryan Callahan to get a clean shooting lane from the high slot to end it 2-1.
Time for bullets
- The Rangers play very aggressive forecheck and shoot from absolutely anywhere. They're usually not trying to pick corners, but instead attempt to create rebounds for their big forwards to attack. Transition against them is tough, but the Wings mostly stayed patient and found ways to counterattack when they could.
- The Hudler-Datsyuk-Bertuzzi line struggled through much of the game with stringing passes together and getting to pucks. There were plenty of times when you could blame the linemates for dragging down the star, but the reality is that Pavel Datsyuk did not look like he had his legs under him in this game. Datsyuk looked sluggish and struggled to find and create space or challenge defenders. Pavel got caught chasing around on the game-winning goal and let his man get the puck in an area of the ice that you cannot give to a shooter. I don't begrudge the guy one bad game, considering how many he's carried the Wings through, but it's just tough to see the guy act human.
Gustav Nyquist had another solid game. He made a mistake in what I think was the Wings' only 2-on-1 opportunity this season, but he picked up an assist on the Wings' only goal and logged 16:31 of solid ice time. He was a bit sheltered by his linemates, but a good portion of those minutes were against Gaborik and Richards, where I thought the youngster more than held his own.
- Doug Janik had enough chances that you could actually say there was a decent (read: HAHAHAHAHAAAAA...no) chance that he could have gotten a hat trick. Pucks fluttering over his stick and a defender tipping a puck off the crossbar made the difference between him being Doug Janik and him being a guy that doesn't make us say things like "I miss Ericsson." Defensively he was solid, but it's awful seeing a pass get to a wide-open Red Wings' defenseman and realizing that guy's wearing #37.
- Jeff will be more than tickled to find out that he has so much in common with Pierre McGuire. I mean, the guy spent most of the contest practically gushing over the young Detroit defender Brendan Smith. I thought Smith had a good game. He cut down on the rookie mistakes very well and played a bit simpler than he had been in the previous two games. He didn't end up with any shots on goal as a result, but he also didn't end up with any turnovers which ended up in the back of his net.
- After calming down and letting my posterior muscles relax back to normal, I'm very relieved that Ty Conklin had a strong game, but that guy scares the crap out of me. His puck-handling actually did do more good than harm, but tell that to my blood pressure the next time he makes a slow decision behind his own net and essentially has to hit a forechecker to keep him away from the puck. Still, a combination of blocking the low shots, aggression and the Rangers not being able to capitalize on that aggression got the job done very well for a guy who found himself as the Wings' third-string option.
- Speaking of which, Conklin and his "I don't care how pretty it looks, just do your damn job" performance is one of your two POTG nominees. Henrik Zetterberg and his "battle of the pretty Swedes" game is the other. Cast your vote, or don't. What do I care?