With their magic number sitting at three points (earned or lose by their chasers), the Wings took on a very injured Buffalo Sabres team looking to build a bit of pride going into next season. The game was closer than it should have been, but ended in the good guys' favor by a score of 4-2.
The refs let a bunch of stuff go. I thought for sure that a few Red Wings' hooks were going to draw penalties, but they didn't. I also thought that two plays which very well could have earned misconducts for the Sabres were called too leniently (one was only called a minor and the other wasn't called at all). Neither team scored on their power play (5 for Detroit, 3 for Buffalo, including a lengthy 5-on-3), and Detroit outshot the Sabres 37-27.
Jimmy Howard made a couple of big saves and was beaten by a net-front tip and a supremely skillful move around one of his defensemen to get on him quickly, but overall he had a pretty good game.
2nd Period 01:31 - Buffalo Goal: Zemgus Girgensons (tip in) from Cody Hodgson and Mike Weber
Buffalo breaks the shutout on a nothing play in the Detroit zone as Girgensons tips a centering feed into the net off his skate. Miller can't handle a short outlet pass in the neutral zone and the Sabres regather possession, going with a quick-tip dump with Hodgson chasing Quincey into the corner. Q plays a bit slow on it to try and shield it from the forechecker as they both coast in on it. Mitchell and Glendening battle just to the interior of this to lock off one of the outlet lanes and Hodgson is able to pull the puck to the to the side where he has body position, moving it to the corner. Quincey is now fully behind Hodgson, who fully recovers possession along the boards and simply throws the puck at the front of the net. Girgensons has just arrived there having backed into the spot in front from the high slot and has the puck go in off his skate just as DeKeyser goes to establish contact. I'm going to clear Legwand and Glendening on this play. DeKeyser will earn a half-minus for failing to clear a puck that goes right through him. Miller and Quincey will each get turnover minuses for their failures to control pucks they should have had (Miller with the neutral zone turnover and Quincey losing the board battle).
2nd Period 12:28 - Detroit Goal: Brendan Smith (wrist shot) from Johan Franzen and Daniel Alfredsson
Detroit ties it with a well-layered rush out of their own zone that culminates in a pretty cross-ice pass for the finish by Smith. Tyler Ennis drives into the Wings' zone and fires a harmless shot from up high that Howard plays to the corner. Kronwall recognizes Foligno coming in on him hard and plays a bit off the puck, taking a shoulder to the face when Foligno decides to ignore the puck and go for a headshot. This play allows Datsyuk to get it at the half-wall and turn it to Alfredsson jumping from the net-front up the middle. Franzen loops from just above Datsyuk all the way over to the right wing to join Alfie up the ice. Smith, who had followed Ennis to the low coverage on the puck going to the corner, has already recognized that Datsyuk will be flat-footed on making this play and is already pushing up ice to fill the hole on what is now a 3-on-2 rush. Alfie feeds off to Franzen at center ice and they both enter the zone with Mule swooping wide and Alfie driving the middle to tie up his defenseman. Smith trails behind in the soft area of the ice, receiving a beauty of a pass from Franzen as he hits the high slot. Hackett is still moving laterally when Smith releases it from the hash marks into the net. Alfredsson, Franzen, and Smith will each get a half-plus for smartly playing this rush to create maximum advantage for the odd-man situation.
Goal-Saved Adjustment - 2nd Period 14:48: Pavel Datsyuk: On the Sabres' 5-on-3, Buffalo gets a glorious chance at the side of the net as a rebounded Cody Hodgson shot has Howard down-and-out with Ristolainen on the doorstep. Before Ristolainen can control and lift it over the outstretched toe of Jimmy Howard, Datsyuk gets his stick in to prevent him from being able to roof it. I can't guarantee this is what absolutely prevented the goal because Howard had the low area covered, but it certainly looked like Ristolainen was trying to lift it. I'm going to award Datsyuk a half-plus for saving a goal.
3rd Period 03:33 - Detroit Goal: Darren Helm (wrist shot) from Kyle Quincey
Helm wins himself a faceoff and then finds a loose puck in front off a Quincey shot that he puts home. The faceoff comes from a tip-in dump-and-chase play that Hackett holds as Glendening gets on him quickly. Helm wins the faceoff cleanly, bouncing it off the boards to Quincey, who quickly fires it at the net with traffic forming. Helm tips the puck on its way in and Hackett gives up a rebound that sits right in front. As Miller and Glendening fight in front to free their sticks in an attempt to get to it, Helm follows up behind the scrum and is able to drag it off to the side of that mess before roofing it over the downed goalie. Helm is going to earn himself a plus here for the good faceoff win, tip, and follow-up. Glendening will get a half-plus for driving the faceoff and doing good work to tie up bodies in front.
3rd Period 15:46 - Detroit Goal: David Legwand (wrist shot) from Drew Miller
Detroit forechecks well, creating a turnover that Legwand finishes on a short 2-on-1 play. Off a defensive zone faceoff win, Glendening makes a quick play to put the puck in front of his own net where only Brendan Smith waits to turn it up ice. Smith gets to his blue line before being forced to toss it up to Miller at the Buffalo blue line. Miller taps it high into the air to get it in the zone and Legwand follows up on the forecheck. The puck lands at the top of the circle where McCabe and Legwand both chop at it. McCabe wins the battle and tries to start it out of the zone, but Miller turning in from the blue line not only takes a bit of contact from Mitchell, but is also able to knock it away from the D-man back to the same spot at the top of the circle. Only Pysyk is back a Legwand turns to pick up the puck with Glendening to his right also in position. Legwand carries it to the dot and outwaits Hackett before sliding it through the five-hole for what will be the game-winner. Glendening will get another half-plus for the transition he helps create while Legwand will also get a half-plus for the forechecking. Miller will get a full plus for creating the turnover that leads directly to the goal.
3rd Period 17:49 - Buffalo Goal: Zemgus Girgensons (wrist shot) from Cody Hodgson and Mark Pysyk
Buffalo makes it close on a great move by Girgensons to walk Kronwall and snap it past Howard. Kronwall gets the puck around two forecheckers to Jurco up the boards in his own end. Jurco turns up ice and tries to start Alfredsson up through the neutral zone, but saucers it way too high for Alfredsson to pick up. Pysyk gets it in the neutral zone, backs to his blue line, and feeds it to Hodgson in the middle. Hodgson is skating back to his own end, so he curls at his own blue line and tosses it up to Girgensons at the center faceoff dot heading in the right direction. Girgensons shields it from Jurco as he crosses the blue line and then catches Kronwall reaching a bit for a puck he has held away from his body. As Kronwall makes a move to get between Girgensons and his puck, the trickster drags it back across his body and uses the momentum to turn the corner on Kronwall just above the dot. Howard doesn't track outside-inside fast enough and Girgensons pops it over his pad to the far side. Miller will have his minus cleared. He had just stepped on and isn't responsible here (Alfie won't get the minus for changing because the missed Jurco pass isn't his fault). Helm will have his minus halved. I think a bit more aggression chasing Hodgson in the neutral zone maybe prevents this, but he's also at the end of his shift. Even though it's Kronwall getting badly walked, I'm going to let Smith keep his minus. With the way this coverage is evolving, Smith has time to make a read that his partner is in trouble and adjust in order to meet Girgensons before he can make the pull back to the middle. Jurco will get a turnover minus on the bad pass in the neutral zone and Kronwall will get a coverage minus for getting walked.
3rd Period 19:55 - Detroit Goal (EN): Pavel Datsyuk (backhand) unassisted
Pavs salts this one away with an empty netter from the wrong side of center with just five seconds left. Ehrhoff makes a pass to Ennis from his own zone to center ice trying to get the Sabres through the middle. Ennis gets one full touch on the puck before Glendening gets over to him from one side and Datsyuk joins in the pressure from the other. Glendening disrupts the handle with a sweep check and Datsyuk completes the turnover at the blue line by being hard on the puck. Ehrhoff follows up, but he can't get there before Datsyuk casually chucks it into the open net from just outside his own blue line. Once again, Glendening is involved in a goal without getting points credit. I'm going to give Glendening and Datsyuk a plus on this one. Good defensive play on the whole shift pays off.
1st Period 01:34 - Mike Weber (delay of game): Weber puts a puck over the glass from his own end. There's not enough pressure here to warrant the mistake. No adjusment.
1st Period 03:57 - Darren Helm (goaltender interference): Helm hooks the goalie's skate as he passes by him and Hackett makes sure the refs see it. This is a dumb play by Helm, who will get a minus.
1st Period 17:07 - Mark Pysyk (hooking): The Wings get a few good chances in the offensive zone before Glendening gets slew-footed in front to end a rebound opportunity. Good smart play by Legwand, Smith, and Miller help keep this play in the zone and Glendening's willingness to go into the tough areas makes this happen. I'm going to give half-pluses to all four of Legwand, Smith, Miller, and Glendening.
2nd Period 05:37 - Mike Weber (boarding): Nyquist is protecting the puck against the boards when Mike Weber plants him face-first. This is just a stupid play by Weber. No adjustment.
2nd Period 12:47 - Danny DeKeyser (holding): On the first shift after the Smith goal, DeKesyer lets Girgensons take the corner on him to create a good scoring chance. DK prevents the follow-up opportunity by grabbing onto his man and goes to the box. Minus for Dekeyser on the easy call.
2nd Period 14:56 - Justin Abdelkader (delay of game): Abby gets a clear on the power play that he puts over the glass on the far end of the ice to go to the box. Minus for Abdelkader. Just can't do this. What a dumb play.
2nd Period 18:36 - Brian Flynn (holding): Datsyuk drives deep into the Buffalo zone, threatening the front of the net and drawing a hold by Flynn. Datsyuk will get a plus.
3rd Period 01:11 - Chris Stewart (roughing): Stewart tries to goad Jurco into a penalty giving him a little bit of a shot. This isn't a strong call. No adjustment.
+1 to Kyle Quincey: I thought Quincey was relatively good in this game after the mistake that led to the Girgensons goal. He made up for it with some great play to help kill the lengthy 5-on-3.
+1 to Brian Lashoff: He didn't do as much work on the first half of the 5-on-3 as Kronwall did, but he was out there blocking lanes effectively to limit chances and for that he deserves to finish this game in the positive.
Niklas Kronwall was the only Red Wings' player with more defensive zone starts than offensive and he held his own well. A number of mistakes kept him from getting a better rating, but the play on the first half of the 5-on-3 means he deserves to finish as a plus.. Kindl struggled at times, but settled down after a shaky first. For the forwards, it was nice to see that Luke Glendening, Pavel Datsyuk, and Drew Miller led the way in adjustments, because I thought they were each great defensively in this one and that paid off. Otherwise, I thought the forward ratings were accurate. Jurco struggled in this one. I thought the Kid line had good jump at times, but they spent far too much time trying to get it out of their own zone. I expect them to dominate the kind of opportunities they were given and instead they played at a "just ok" level.
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