I'm back folks, after a fun night in Kansas City with some fellow Wings fans watching Detroit school the Oilers' kids on what it means to have complete players and play a system game. The shots may have been even in this game, but that's as close as it came. Even then, there's still room for improvement with the Wings, and that's what makes them a very dangerous squad.
Detroit's power play went 1-for-4 on the night against the league's worst penalty kill. Even this number is skewed though, as Nikolai Khabibulin was the only thing between that number and a much higher percentage. Edmonton, a team that hasn't had trouble scoring went capitalized on one of the five opportunities they were given, leading to a bit of a conundrum I'll go over when I analyze that goal below. Until then, let's get to the good stuff.
Jimmy Howard had another great effort in goal behind a defense that played fairly well. I counted four big saves on the night and, on the only goal he allowed of the night, there was nothing he could have done to have stopped it. He did put out one pretty bad rebound directly up the middle in the third period, but that puck went right to Pavel Datsyuk's stick. On the night, his rating was +4
Scoring and bonus plus/minus after the jump.
1st Period 1:45 - Detroit Goal: Justin Abdelkader (backhand) from Mike Modano and Dan Cleary
Casey breaks this play down in a new feature for us here. The short-short version is Cleary clears past Smid, Modano picks it up for a 2-on-1, looks Khabibulin off and takes a shot that leaves a rebound out front for Abdelkader to slam home. Despite Dan's great play on the night, I'm going to split this assist between Cleary and Salei. Since Ladislav Smid made a huge error he should not have made, the credit for getting the puck to Modano should go to the guy(s) who helped him make that mistake the most. As the puck comes around, Salei takes body position slightly up the boards to keep Dustin Penner away from the puck and let Cleary get the backhand up ice. Without a very heads-up play by Rusty there, that play doesn't develop.
2nd Period 5:26 - Edmonton Goal (PP): Taylor Hall (wrist shot) from Shawn Horcoff and Kurtis Foster
Edmonton is on a power play here and, after some good cycling by the PP unit, the puck goes to Kurtis Foster's stick at the right point. Foster winds up for a slapshot that Dan Cleary goes down to block. The shot ends up taking a bounce down low to an open Taylor Hall just wide of the play. Jimmy Howard had gone down to block the initial shot and could not recover in time to stop Hall from depositing it high into the open net. Originally, this looked like a bad-luck bounce, but the replay shows Foster intentionally waits fro Cleary to slide out of his lane and makes a slap-pass to Horcoff's skate and that Horcoff intentionally kicks the puck to Hall. This is just a fantastic play by the OIler's power play unit. I kicked around the idea of giving Jonathan Ericsson a minus for being in the box after taking an instigator for fighting Gilbert Brule after a clean hockey hit, but I can't be that happy to see Ericsson drop the gloves and then punish him for it. I agree that the refs made the right call and they should ideally get fighting after clean hits out of the game, but there's an intangible here about Ericsson proving himself to his coach and teammates for sticking up for Pavel Datsyuk that I certainly appreciate. No scoring adjustment on this play.
2nd Period 8:46 - Detroit Goal (PP): Valtteri Filppula (wrist shot) from Dan Cleary and Nicklas Lidstrom
Detroit has the man advantage because Zack Stortini is a retarded donkey. Zetterberg clears the puck into the Edmonton zone 1-on-2 and Stortini takes him down from behind. This is legitimately one of the dumbest penalties I've seen all season. Anyway, after wasting most of the power play, the Wings bring the puck in on what could have been called an offsides play. Abdelkader and Filppula cycle the puck back up to Kronwall at the top of the umbrella. Kronner finds Lidstrom low with a slap-pass that he collects before dishing off to Cleary standing in front. Without missing a beat and with his back to to goal, Cleary backhands a no-look pass to Filppula on the back door. Val settles the puck and rips it past Khabibulin before he can get set to put the Wings back on top 2-1. Kronwall gets a the third assist on this play and Abdelkader gets a half-assist for his work doing puck retrieval low to start the cycle.
3rd Period 19:39 - Detroit Goal (EN): Dan Cleary (snap shot) from Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg
Edmonton has six attackers on late in the third period trying to tie the game. Pavel and Hank fight for the puck on the boards against the Edmonton forecheck. Zetterberg kicks it back to Datsyuk who spins off the boards with the puck and releases a quick pass up ice to Dan Cleary on the other side of the center red line. Cleary snaps it 85 feet down ice into the open net. The pluses and points here are all well-earned; no scoring adjustment on this play.
+1 to Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg: The bonus ratings are designed to showcase which players made the biggest differences that may not have shown on the scoresheet. If not for three posts and two fantastic saves by Khabibulin, we're talking about a huge night for the Eurotwins. They were outstanding all night.
+1 to Nicklas Lidstrom and Jonathan Ericsson: I thought these were our two best defensemen on the ice and not just in a pity-point-for-Ericsson kind of way but because Big Rig was incredibly solid. He missed out on more ice time because of the 17 minutes in penalties he took, but like I said, Iiked that fight. Lidstrom broke up what could have been four very good scoring opportunities for the Oilers.
-1 to Niklas Kronwall, Brad Stuart, and Henrik Zetterberg: There was a play about 5:40 into the 2nd period that gave Horcoff and Hall a 2-on-0 against Howard that they thankfully mishandled. Kronwall stepped up on a guy in the neutral zone and neither planted his man nor kept the puck from getting through. Stuart took a lame swipe at the puck that missed, and Zetterberg did not hustle enough to get back and cover. This triple-failure could have cost Detroit big.
There are no penalty plus/minus adjustments from this game. I thought this one was generally well-officiated (except for the linesmen and how they chose to break up the two fights), but none of Edmonton's penalties were particularly forced by great plays nor were Detroit's penalties horrible brain-farts. Kindl's high-sticking was perhaps the worst taken by a Wing, but that's a stick-lift maneuver he made successfully three other times on the night.