I spent the last few days at home in Canada because they believe that if you want a passport quickly, you have to return to the Fatherland. It was nice being back in a land where the media is hockey-crazy. Seriously, every talk radio station and TV station was dedicated to the Leafs and hockey in general. I'm not saying that any of the talking being done was intelligent, but hockey talk was all I listened to, and it was nice.
Beating the 2nd best team in the West in two straight games in their arena is even better. After dominating the Ducks on Friday night, the Wings faced an angry team bent on exacting a small measure of revenge after being embarrassed a few nights ago. Unfortunately, Jimmy Howard considers the Honda Center his Happiest Place on Earth, and he continued his domination of the Ducks by stopping 33 of the 34 shots he faced, some of them very good quality, leading the Red Wings to a 2-1 victory and a weekend sweep.
This wasn't the performance we saw on Friday night, but it was enough to get 2 very necessary points.
So how did they do it? Glad you asked:
- Jimmy Howard. Have we mentioned that he's been brilliant lately? 66 saves on 68 shots against the Ducks, and tonight the only reason the Wings got the win was because of Howard. Despite a slow start, Jimmy is now 13th in the NHL in SV% at .919 among goalies how have played over 10 games, but more importantly (and more impressive) is his .937 SV% at even strength, which is 3rd among all goalies who have played more than 10 games. I'm just about ready to proclaim him Detroit's MVP for this year, but he's got some stiff competition in Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg.
- A key reason why the Wings won 2 straight over the Ducks: 5 of their last 7 goals were scored by Justin Abdelkader, Dan Cleary and Drew Miller. Miller got the start on the Wings' top line with Damien Brunner getting a night off, and he did his job by playing a grinding game and going to the front of the net. Brunner's been pressing lately, and a night in the pressbox could be good for him to just relax.
- Speaking of Cleary, here's some food for thought: he has more goals than Valtteri Filppula and Johan Franzen, and is 1 behind Zetterberg.
- There's something great about Brendan Smith getting over 20 minutes a night and yet I have little to say about him. He's shown a physical side the last few games that has been refreshing, and while he still struggles to contribute offensively, he's playing big minutes and not making rookie mistakes, which is exactly what he is supposed to do. Could we be seeing a new Brad Stuart?
- Man, how hilarious was that final minute? I can admit that the refereeing was ridiculous, and the tripping penalty on Ryan Getzlaf was questionable at best. But watching him, Corey Perry and Teemu Selanne throw their little temper tantrums reminded me of being out with my daughters and watching other kids misbehave. I know that I have done a good job raising them because they would never act like that in public, and barely do things like that in private. So when I see other kids being assholes and throwing their toys and sitting on the ground crying while their parents yell at them to just fucking get up and get in the goddamn car I smile to myself because my children would never in a million years think it was ok to behave like that, even if they weren't getting their way. So to see the 3 leaders of the Ducks all get penalties that effectively ended their games despite the Ducks only being down by a goal and with a chance to tie it and sent the game to OT made me laugh. A lot.
- Seriously, I'm still chuckling over it. Perry swinging his stick at the glass; Getzlaf kicking his stick towards the ref; Selanne, who is supposed to be so classy and cool, running down a ref to scream at him (a game after kicking a Red Wing player's glove away from him after the play was over); all of these images make me adore the fact that not a single important Red Wing in the last 20 years would ever behave in such a fashion during a game where the outcome was still in doubt. I'm not saying the Wings have been or will ever be perfect, but if I'm a Ducks fan today I'm embarrassed at how the 3 leaders reacted to a poorly officiated game in the middle of March. Because whether you agree with the calls or not, throwing a tantrum that even my 5-year old thought was too much is stupid.
- That's a 2-1-0 record against the Ducks, a team that hadn't lost 2 games in a row in regulation all season, and the Wings have now won 4 in a row on the road and are scoring road power play goals and I can't believe it but this season may actually turn out to be something positive after all.