You still awake? Me neither. The Red Wings entered play on Friday night looking to extend their winning streak to five games, but unfortunately they forgot there are three periods in the game, ultimately losing to the Minnesota Wild 4-3 in OT. This was an absolutely brutal game to watch, as there was little in the way of flow or excitement for most of the game.
The Wild opened the scoring in the first period when Brent Burns ripped a wrist shot past a number of players as a Wild power play expired. They doubled their lead early in the second when noted goal-scorer Cal Clutterbuck scored an ugly goal from behind the net. The Wings decided to score a last-minute goal of their own at the end of the second when Darren Helm finally eliminated the "0" on his goal-tally sheet. The Wings tied it early in the third on a power play goal of their own, this one on a Johan Franzen shot that was deflected in off a Wild defenseman. A little under 3 minutes later, Patrick Eaves scored on a wraparound to give the Wings their first lead of the game. The Wild, for some inexplicable reason, still trapped for the rest of the third period, even though they were trailing. However, the Wild tied the game with less than 2 minutes to go when Mikko Koivu pounced on a bad rebound by Jimmy Howard, sending the game to OT. The two teams went back and forth in OT, but with less than a minute left John Madden eluded Nicklas Lidstrom and popped in a cross-ice pass, giving the Wild the victory. Down that cup of coffee and follow me after the jump for the analysis.
Let's get right to the bullets:
- When the game started and they said Jose Theodore was starting, this was what I wrote down: "Wings will either win big or get 40 shots and lose because he's really good". You can guess which option I was hoping for.
- The fourth line was by far the best line of the night for the Wings, and as I've said before, that's nice for them, but bad for the team. Darren Helm and Patrick Eaves, regardless of who was on their line with them (Tomas Holmstrom, Justin Abdelkader, Al Sobotka) were flying all over the ice and generated great offensive chances. I said early in the game that this might be the game Helm pots his first, and once again, I was right (my arm is sore from patting myself on the back so hard). They also held the NHL's #1 power play off the scoresheet, and while that's impressive, it was the fact that the Wild are the league's best power play that shocks me more. The only time I use "Wild" and "offense" in the same sentence is when I say "I really take offense to how boring the Wild are".
Jonathan Ericsson, yet again, was the Wings' best defenseman tonight. I've never been a huge E fan, but I can get on board with this new version. He went from being a solid #6 guy in the playoffs to a huge rookie disappointment to....whatever we've got now. I know there are a ton of nicknames out there for him right now, but I'd like to bestow another one on him in honour of this "new" Ericsson: E2.0.
- Uh, Mike? You remember how you talked about wanting the PP to be better, and you wanted to get it going? One ugly deflection goal does not count as "improvement". That blown 5-on-3 sums up their struggles all year so far: no puck movement, bad passes, and shots not hitting the net. It is the one area of their game that has not gotten better, and is of great concern.
- Jimmy Howard had an off night; there's no way around that. He was caught out of position on the second goal, and gave up the big rebound on the tying marker late in the third. He's been lights out lately, so he gets the benefit of the doubt. However, one of the big issues with him last year was his rebound control, and it's a little disconcerting to see that raise its ugly head again. However, on the bright side, he showed his fiery side when he kept getting run into early in the first. I love that our goalie is a bit of a bad-ass.
- I'll be perfectly honest: I missed a good chunk of the first period. Part of that was because I was spending time with the family, and part of that was the coma the Wild put me in after they scored. It's been said before, and I'll repeat it here: the Wild have got to be the most boring team in the world. Once they get a lead, they just sit back and trap. Even sitting here, writing about them is making me sl...zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.
- Yes, Johan Franzen scored a goal. No, that does not mean he had a good game. Are you like me and getting sick of waiting for him to "break out"? I've got an idea: instead of rotating Drew Miller and Patrick Eaves, sit Franzen for a game. Let him see what happens when you don't do the things you're being paid to do, like use your body, create some semblance of offense, and hit a guy once in a while. Right now Franzen is playing on the edges, and he needs to be in the middle of everything. He always plays better when he's mad, and what better way to piss him off than taking away the one thing that matters to every NHL player: his ice time? I think it's an idea worth pursuing, but it will never happen.
- I'm not really going to get in to the rest of the team, because outside of a handful of guys, no one really played well. The first line was very quiet (again); the second line was good, but not great; and the third line was also good but not great. It was just one of those games. To be completely honest, while the Wings did have a lead late in the third, this was not a game they ultimately deserved to win. They got away with only showing up for one period against the Blues; it was not meant to be tonight.
There was no real consensus on player of the game, so we're putting it up to a vote. Also, since no one predicted a Wing loss (I came close - should have stuck with my gut), no one got the score right. Next up is a rare Sunday afternoon tilt against the Flames as the Wings wrap up their homestand. Game is at 5 pm EST, so make sure you pull yourself away from your NFL football to see if the Wings can get ready for their road trip with a win.