Back when I was a young lad in grade school, there was this kid in my class. We'll call him "John". John and I weren't exactly friends, but we weren't exactly enemies either. We ran in some of the same circles, saw each other on the playground, but generally avoided each other because we didn't have to interact all the time. Sure, there was that one time in gym when I beat him in the handball championship, but by the time we hit high school, no one cared.
Tonight's game was the latest chapter in the fierce, intense rivalry between the Philadelphia Flyers and Detroit Red Wings. Normally when these two meet, fireworks are shot out of cannons to the music of AC/DC, and tonight promised to be more of the same. The game started innocently enough, but then someone told the Flyers that the Red Wings were without Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Todd Bertuzzi, Danny DeKeyser, Steve Yzerman, in-his-prime Sergei Fedorov, and Jesus. That was all they needed to hear, and they scored 5 unanswered goals en route to a 6-3 victory over the undermanned Wings.
Those of you that know me know that I'm Team Jimmy Howard 4 Life. It actually hurts me to see him struggle, and I'm not so blind that I don't see that he is not playing very well at the moment. But I can not take another person tell me what the records are of the 2 goaltenders on the Wings and say that Jonas Gustavsson should be the new starting goalie. While I'm certainly happy with Gus' play so far as the back up, his track record doesn't inspire me with a ton of confidence that he could handle being the number one guy.
That's not to say that he shouldn't get some more starts and give Howard a break. But I'm not about to say that Jonas Gustavsson is the goaltender that is going to lead the Wings to more success than Jimmy Howard. I'll have to see that to believe it.
The other major issue that came out of tonight seemed to be the idea that the Wings wilt in the face of "tough" opponents like the Flyers. I guess the Flyers did play a little physical tonight, especially in the second period when Luke Schenn and Scott Hartnell did their best to play the body against Justin Abdelkader and Gustav Nyquist, respectively.
Now, if Jordin Tootoo were still on the team, he would have taken both of those guys to task and reminded them that their behavior was unacceptable and then everyone would have a laugh. However, Tootoo is in Grand Rapids because he makes too much money, so the Wings were left without the requisite "tough guy" to strike fear into the hearts of the Flyers, basically giving them the freedom to take as many liberties as they wanted.
You know what really would have been a great enforcer? The power play. 1-7 is not good enough, especially in the second period when they could have added on to their 3-1 lead. To make matters worse, the Flyers (the 18th ranked PP unit in the NHL) were a perfect 3/3 with the man advantage. So, I guess if we're going to look at reasons why the Wings lost, that's going to be a pretty big one.
Losses like the one tonight are harder to deal with because they feel like games that got away. Yes, the Wings were missing a number of important players, but a 3-1 lead against a team that averages less than 2.5 goals per game should be relatively safe. The Wings took their foot off the gas, made some critical mistakes, and it cost them. There's no one player to blame for the loss.
- Hey guess what: Kyle Quincey had the highest Corsi rating of any Wing skater at 5-on-5. True story.
- Mike Babcock mentioned that it's not about the guys that are injured, it's about the guys that are playing, and someone is going to get more opportunities because of increased ice time. Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar both played over 16 minutes, had great possession stats, and had 3 points between the 2 of them.
- Being a man, I'm not exactly what one would call "good" at picking up subtle signs, but I have to think that Dan Cleary and Mikael Samuelsson starting on a line with Cory Emmerton while Datsyuk, Zetterberg and Bertuzzi are all out of the lineup speaks volumes about where they stand on this team. Sammy's 7 minutes of EV TOI was lowest on the team, and Cleary played a shade over 10 minutes at EV.
- At one point, Darren Helm-Tatar-Nyquist was the 2nd PP unit. I wish I could go back to September and tell back-then me that it's all going to be ok.
- A lot of eyes were on Stephen Weiss, who was bumped up to 1C duties in Zetterberg's absence, and he performed pretty well. He had a nice assist on Johan Franzen's goal, was 50/50 on the 4 faceoffs he took, and generally looked ok. He didn't wow anyone, but I'm sure it was nice for him to have real linemates for a change.