The calendar may say "February 26th", but the season is still 2013-14.
The Olympics are rapidly disappearing in our rearview mirror, and for the Red Wings that means time to focus on the final 24 games and the push for a 23rd straight season in the playoffs. They come out of the break facing their new division rival and team they are chasing, the Canadiens, in a pivotal game for both teams. Entering play tonight the Wings were 6 points behind the Habs but with a game in hand, so tonight became one of those silly "4 point games".
There's an analogy I like to make regarding shoes. It goes a little something like this: when things change for a little while and then go back to what you consider normal, it's like going to the store, trying on a new pair of shoes, realizing they're not what you want, and then slipping back into your old shoes that contain a thousand memories of days gone by. It's supposed to represent good feelings associated with things that are comfortable and familiar and good.
The problem is this: there's a reason why you went to get new shoes in the first place. They're old, they smell, they've got who-knows-what all over the bottom of them. In short, those shoes suck so you are getting rid of them in order to get something new and better.
The Red Wings played 59 minutes and 33 seconds of absolutely perfect defensive hockey. Then......the Red Wings happened. They gave up a goal with 27 seconds left to give the Canadiens an extra point they didn't deserve, and there's not a single Wing fan alive who didn't see it coming.
However, the Red Wings pre-break are different from the Red Wings post-break because now they have Gustav Nyquist, The Greatest 4th Liner Whoever Lived. His goal with 30 seconds left in OT broke a 1-1 tie and gave the Wings a very valuable extra point and hopefully some momentum to their playoff push.
- Pavel Datsyuk gets Todd Bertuzzi (1st game in 8) and Johan Franzen (2nd game in 23) as his linemates in his first game back since the Olympics, and reports are that he was happy to have quality linemates for the first time in 2 weeks.
- You would think that Todd Bertuzzi grew out his beard during the Olympic break but he actually stopped shaving the second he found out he was going to play tonight.
- At one point early in the 2nd period Tomas Tatar got control of a loose puck, deked one Canadien, then ran into Lars Eller, who ended up on the ice while Tatar maintained possession of the puck. It was at this point that I realized I was happy that men can't get pregnant.
- I'd like to say that this was the best defensive performance I've seen recently, but I'm Canadian, so we'll go with tonight's effort by the Wings was damn impressive and leave it at that.
- Darren Eliot gave a frightening stat in the 2nd intermission: of the 22 times the Wings were leading after two periods, they allowed their opponent to earn at least a point in 7 of those games. I wrote this in the 2nd intermission, and wondered how I'd end my thought should Montreal get the game to OT.
- For a guy who hadn't played in around a month, Franzen looked good tonight. Eliot mentioned that his skating was noticeably quick for a guy who missed so much time, and he had an assist on Bert's goal along with a number of quality scoring chances. At the risk of being the pessimist, I'll feel better about this knowing that he didn't have any setbacks from playing and will be in the lineup again tomorrow night against Ottawa. I also loved his drive to the net on the winning goal, because I think that might have caused Budaj to not be able to play the shot as clean as he would have liked, leading to the rebound and the goal.
- Huh, so that's what it feels like to cheer for a team wearing red and white that gets scored on in the final minute of a game where they led 1-0. Weird.
- This is a safe place, so I'm going to voice this opinion and then wait to be yelled at by all of you: I don't think it would be the absolute worst thing in the world if Kyle Quincey was re-signed at a reasonable cap hit for a couple of years this summer. Part of that is because I think he's been better than his (very vocal) critics think he is, but most of it is because I want to see people lose their fucking minds.
- By the way, for all the talk about Gustav Nyquist being a "4th liner" tonight, the boxscore shows that Babcock was trying to keep the ice time relatively even among the forwards. Besides Datsyuk, Tatar, Helm and Franzen, no forward had more than a minute of ice time over Goose. If anything, I think this was a good move by Babs because it gives you the potential for scoring from more than 2 lines, something the Wings need a lot of if they are going to make the playoffs.
- Early prediction for tomorrow: Alfie scores 3 against the Sens in Ottawa.