Under normal circumstances, a hard-fought 2-1 shootout victory over a division leader this late in the season would be cause for celebration. After all, coming out on top against a team that is going to finish near the top of their conference usually means the Red Wings played a good game.
With all due respect to the Florida Panthers, being the Southeast Division leader is like being the tallest Munchkin. And the Wings need to worry less about who their opponent is and more about how they are playing down the stretch as they fight for home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
I feel like I could take the recap from any game the Wings have played in the last 2 weeks and paste it here. Both teams were content to sit back and not take too many chances in the first period, but once again the Wings found themselves trailing as Florida got on the board first. The Wings generated momentum throughout the second period and they were able to tie the game up on a Jiri Hudler shot that deflected in off John Madden, but a Kyle Quincey 5 minute major shortly put the Wings' oft-criticized penalty killing unit in the spotlight. In the shootout, Pavel Datsyuk did a thing and then Hudler did another thing and the Panthers' shooters couldn't do their things so the Wings won.
They say there's no such thing as style points, just winning points, and today proved that axiom to be true (yes, it's a new saying I made up. Learn it and embrace it). Bullets after the jump.
- Mike Babcock is obviously more technologically savvy than we give him credit for, because how else do you explain his listening to the entire internet when he reunited Gustav Nyquist and Datsyuk. Those two worked some more magic today, and Nyquist looked particularly energized throughout the game, and came close to scoring a couple of highlight-reel goals if not for a few bounces. Now it's time to get him on the power play where he can have even more room to move.
- You want to know who had a fantastic game today? Jonathan Ericsson. Perhaps it was because he was playing with Nicklas Lidstrom, but I noticed E more than I did Lids. His positioning along the boards was great, he cleared the front of the net, he joined the rush, and his breakout passes were crisp. I think he was the Wings' best defenseman today, even if he did miss the net on that one shot that made everyone mad.
- I miss Mikael Samuelsson.
- The Wings need to figure out how to beat these tight-checking teams. For the second game in a row, Detroit struggled to gain any space or create any passing and shooting lanes. Far too often a Wing player would float a wrist shot at Scott Clemmensen that he was able to handle with ease. The Wings are likely to draw a team in the first round that plays a very solid defensive game, and they will have to figure out how to break through that shell and create offense.
- At the other end, I'm not sure what the defensive scheme is supposed to be. It can't be keeping 3-4 guys back and allowing the other team to walk in with possession, because that's not a smart way of defending your own end. It also can't be having 4 players within 2 feet of the crease while the puck is at the blue line, because that's a recipe for disaster.
- Jimmy Howard very quietly had a good game. He had 27 saves on the night, and the Panthers were bound and determined to make life very difficult for him by crashing the net at any opportunity. There was one save in particular in the 2nd period where Florida had a 2-on-1 while it was still 1-0. We saw Ty Conklin give up a soft goal in a similar situation against Columbus, but Jimmy stood tall and made the save, keeping the Wings in it. His efforts tonight earned him Player of the Game honours. '
- Less than a week ago, the Wings scored 4 goals within the first 10 minutes of the first period. In the subsequent 11 and a half periods, they have scored 7 goals. That's not exactly the offensive outburst we were hoping to see with all of the injured players returning.
- My biggest regret from the game is that Datsyuk's move didn't result in a goal. You know which move I'm talking about.
- Kyle Quincey hasn't been tearing it up for the Wings since his arrival, but today he was a liability, taking 2 penalties including a deserved 5 minute major for elbowing Tomas Kopecky in the head. We're no fans of Kopecky around here, but Quincey's hit was just plain stupid. He left his feet to make the hit and the principal point of contact was the head. If he doesn't get suspended for a couple of games, I'll be shocked.
- Don't look now, but the Wings have now killed off 15 straight penalties, including the 5 minute major to Quincey midway through the 3rd. Florida came into the game with the NHL's 12th ranked power play, and to kill off all 5 of their power plays without allowing too many quality chances is a step in the right direction.