There's a phrase or idea that small victories should be something that a hockey team looks for regardless of the result. That there are things that could be used as building blocks going forward when the team is going through some tough times.
The Wings are facing the most adversity they've encountered all season. Since their record-setting 23rd straight win, Detroit has been besieged with injuries en route to a 2-3-1 record in their last 6 games, falling out of first place in the Western Conference.
Today they welcomed the Blackhawks to the Joe, a team also going through some injury problems and who is in an unexpected fight for a playoff spot. With both teams missing key players, the game lacked the type of intensity we're used to seeing in Chicago-Detroit matchups, but for the 5th consecutive game between these two teams it came down to one mistake that led to victory.
The Wings, already without Pavel Datsyuk, Nicklas Lidstrom and Jonathan Ericsson (not to mention Patrick Eaves who has missed most of this year), lost Jakub Kindl and Jimmy Howard in the first period, yet still put up a good effort. A Brad Stuart turnover was the difference between victory and defeat, and the Wings were handed their 3rd loss in their last 4 home games.
This was a game that could have and should have been won by the Wings, but they just couldn't get the job done. Follow the jump for bullets.
- Darren Helm is very good. The move he put on Patrick Kane just prior to Niklas Kronwall's goal would have shattered a lesser man's groin, and it was nice of Helm to perform a nice service to all the women of Detroit by putting Kane "out of commission" for the night. He was easily the hardest working Wing on the ice, and his line buzzed around the Hawks' zone on just about every shift. He'll get Player of the Game for his efforts.
- I have a feeling that Quincey is going to be very risk/reward, something we were warned about by both Avalanche fans. He's taken a number of penalties in his first 4 games as a Wing (although his penalty last night was weak), but he's also shown a propensity for jumping up in the offensive zone and being a threat to score. Once Lidstrom comes back and the defensive pairs get back to normal, I'm really looking forward to a Quincey-Smith pairing.
- Speaking of Smith, the kid looked good again. I hate to praise him too much for fear of inflating Jeff's already-oversized ego, but Smith has been very dependable in his 2 games back from Grand Rapids. He's playing sheltered minutes as a rookie, but he's making intelligent plays and not trying to do too much, especially with the puck in his own zone. He also kicked the ever-loving crap out of Andrew Shaw who felt the need to "step up" for the big hit that Smith put on Kane (a hit that Kane himself admitted was a good, clean check in the 2nd intermission of the WGN broadcast).
- The injuries are starting to get a little ridiculous. Jakub Kindl left the game with an "upper-body injury" which was apparently an aggravation of a pre-existing injury that Babcock later said should have kept him out of the lineup. I am hoping and praying that it's not a concussion because the league is already dealing with too many guys who rushed back when showing symptoms. Then Howard goes out with "lower body injury" which is being described as a potential tweaked groin, and he will have an MRI. He was walking around during the game so there's hope the injury isn't that serious. The irony in all of this is that the Wings played this game without 3 of their regular defenseman and their starting goalie and it was their inability to score that cost them the game.
- We mention this on every single recap, but the PP has got to be better. The Hawks decided that they wanted to go stupid by taking penalty after penalty, many of them in response to a clean hit. WGN made a point of praising the Hawks for "sticking up" for teammates after these clean hits, which is dumb, but with the Wings employing such a limp-dick power play yet again, Chicago was free to take liberties with Wing players all day. JJ and I share the same thought that the best enforcer a team can employ is a lethal power play, but once again the Wings were not good with the man advantage.
- Can we move on past the "why did Ken trade Commodore?" meme? I would have liked for the Wings to have Commodore given the rash of injuries, but there's three main problems with this. First, there's no way that KH could reasonably foresee Shitbox being struck by a puck from his own teammate, Lids blocking a pass with his ankle or Kindl having whatever's wrong with him. When he made the trade, he had 7 healthy defensemen and Brendan Smith ready in Grand Rapids. Second, I still believe that moving Commodore was a prelude to another deal that he just wasn't able to get done. The Wings were at the max with 50 contracts on the books, and in order to bring in the depth forward that every Wing fan coveted, someone had to go, and the prices were too high to ship out some crappy ECHL prospect. Third, is Mike Commodore really that much better than Doug Janik? Really? I'd argue the difference between the two is negligible, so good on KH to give Commie the chance to play in Tampa.
I can't say I was too discouraged watching the game yesterday. The Wings played a very solid game, and I don't think anyone who watched would say the Hawks were that much better (if at all) than the Wings. The only difference in this game was that the Hawks could score on the power play and they capitalized on one mistake. It's disappointing the Wings weren't able to pull out a victory, but despite missing more than the Hawks they still went toe-to-toe with them over the course of 60 minutes. Right now the focus of the Wings should be getting healthy, because a depleted Detroit team will not advance far in the playoffs.