You know what they say about winning ugly? Me either, but if it were me, it would be "who cares, it's still winning." The Detroit Red Wings came into the game tonight against the Phoenix Coyotes looking to bounce back after a poor performance against the Dallas Stars on Thursday night, and while the effort was better, there's still some room for improvement. In what would prove to be the theme of the evening, the Wings were unable to convert on two 1st period power plays, and the Coyotes got on the board early. The Wings tied it midway through the second on an ugly goal by Pavel Datsyuk, and after that, neither team really had many quality scoring chances. The Coyotes decided to goon it up as if they were the Ducks in overtime, and Niklas Kronwall blasted a shot home with 16 seconds left in OT to give the Wings the win, and more importantly, avoid a shootout against the team that had the most shootout wins last year. Join me after the jump for the bullet points.Let's get to it:
- First, I love when the Wings play in Phoenix, because when they score, it's almost like a home game. I've had the privilege of seeing a game at Jobing.com Arena, and it's a nice place. It's also 30% Wing fans, definitely not a hostile environment for the road fans.
- We wanted the Wings to get off to a better start, and they did that, not allowing a goal in the first minute. However, they did allow one with 10 seconds left in the first period on a play that should never have happened. Brad Stuart went well out of position up the half boards to follow the winger, and only Nicklas Lidstrom was in any kind of position to defend the 3 Coyotes that were below the faceoff circle.
- On that note, I found that whenever the Coyotes did have any sustained pressure in the Wings' zone, the Wings tended to run around on defense. Their positioning was off again, and if this continues, it should be a growing concern. One thing Wing teams have been known for is their poise and smarts on the ice, and being caught the way they have the last couple of games is a disturbing trend.
- Other than that, I thought the Wings played a solid game, but not a spectacular one. I never at any point felt like the Wings had total control, although after they scored, their game did pick up. The second period in particular was a good one, as the Wings threw 14 shots at Ilya Bryzgalov and really controlled play. The OT was a good one, but that's because they spent most of it on the power play.
- The power play. It was 1 for 8, and let's be honest with ourselves: it never really looked good. There was far too little movement, and every shot they took was from the middle of the ice with the lane blocked. The Wings have the skill and talent to be creative with the puck, and the Wings were too static and predictable tonight. I know that this will change when Brian Rafalski comes back, but for now, the Wings have to be better. First things first: shoot the puck. On the flip side, the Wings killed off all 4 of their penalties, and looked good doing it.
- While the majority of the team looked pretty good tonight, Jiri Hudler and Mike Modano were no-shows tonight, and the two games that I have seen have left me less than impressed with either one of them. I understand that the last game for Modano was a tough one emotionally, but he did nothing out there tonight. Maybe it's just me, but I don't feel like he is the right fit on the point on the power play. And Hudler? Good gravy, get him back to Russia. I saw 5 different instances where he was out-hustled or out-worked for a loose puck, and he looked completely disinterested throughout the game.
- Jimmy Howard really played well tonight, and gave the Wings a chance to win in the first period when they were outplayed and outshot, including a brilliant save on Petr Prucha who had a breakaway. This is the kind of goaltending that the Wings are expecting out of Howard, and after all the debate the last few days about him and Chris Osgood, hopefully this performance will calm everyone down.
Overall, it wasn't their best performance, but let's look at the big picture here: we are 5 games into the season, and the Wings are 3-1-1. They've taken 7 out of a possible 10 points, and if they keep this up over the course of the season, that equals 115 points and over 50 wins. I don't know about the rest of you, but I would take that record in a heartbeat. The Wings have a few days off and don't play again until Thursday. Hopefully we'll be previewing that game and talking about Johan Franzen and Justin Abdelkader and their return to the lineups.