(h/t to WiiM reader J_Stone for the headline idea)
Oh boy. Losing is never fun. Losing to a divisional opponent is worse. But losing to the Blackhawks when they are missing some key players is really hard to take. This was a game that the Wings could have had, but the legs just weren't there.
The Hawks opened the scoring when Patrick Sharp ripped a slap shot through a sea of bodies and passed Jimmy Howard a minute into the game. Bryan Bickell found some open ice in the slot and put a wrist shot top corner. Mike Babcock used his timeout to no doubt scream some obscenities, and the fourth line came out and put a goal in, this one off the stick of Patrick Eaves, to make it 2-1. The Wings found their legs during the end of the first period, but must have left them in the dressing room during the intermission, because they were flat throughout the second period. Tomas Kopecky got behind the Wings' defense on a delayed penalty to make it 3-1, and the Wings spent most of the second running around.
Losing to the Blackhawks hurts a lot, because I live here and have to listen to Hawks fans. Unfortunately, between the Wings' performance tonight and the fact the Hawks are still defending champs no matter how much I hate it, this could be an uncomfortable couple of days. Join me after the jump where I break down the game.
- Let's get this out of the way early: the refs did not cost the Wings the game. Yes, a PP would have been nice, and we all saw things out there that should have been penalties called on the Hawks. But as Petrella said, you can't rely on any outside force to win you a game. Let's keep in mind that the only 2 penalties called were a hold on Ericsson and a high stick on Bertuzzi. The high stick was a no-brainer, and the Hawks scored on the delayed penalty because the 5 players on the ice were standing still while Tomas freaking Kopecky got behind them to get a breakaway that he buried. The refs didn't call a lot of things, including on the Wings.
- The Wings just weren't there tonight. It was one of those games where the passes ended up in feet, they were losing races to loose pucks, the defense was hesitating at the blue line when they had a chance to keep a puck in, and there was little resembling a forecheck all night. The Hawks played really good team defense, blocking a lot of shots (I didn't look up the total, but I'm pretty sure it was close to a thousand). The one thing that really got me was their inability to pounce on any rebounds. Corey Crawford was good, but the Wings shot a lot of pucks at him low (probably by design), and they got to very few rebounds. A little more drive to the net would probably have resulted in another goal.
- A game like this was bound to happen, but Pavel Datsyuk was all over the ice. He was credited with 6 takeaways by the opposing scorekeeper, and he received some high praise from the Hawks' announcers during the broadcast. Personally, I thought he was the only Red Wing who really did anything out there, and he would be my pick for PotG (poll is below). Look at it this way: Mike Babcock switched up the lines for the third period, and the only thing that happened is that Datsyuk was just as good despite the fact that he had a new winger not named Henrik Zetterberg.
- You know how I know it wasn't the Wings' night? Tomas Kopecky scored 2 goals. I'm so flabbergasted by this fact I can't even make a joke about it. Seriously: I've got nothing.
- I'm officially putting out an APB for Johan Franzen. Yes, I realize he's got 13 goals, good for second on the team. I also understand that he's on pace for 33 goals, only one off his career high. But watch him play: do you get the sense that he's a force out there? This is a guy that we thought could get to 40 or even 50 goals this year, and I watch him and I'm very disappointed. Maybe I'm missing something, but I've been expecting a lot more from him and haven't seen anything to indicate that he's going to bust out of this mini slump (3 goals in 11 games) any time soon. Am I wrong? Is he playing fine and I'm just over-reacting?
- I didn't see the beginning when they honoured Chris Chelios, but I'm told the boos were pretty easy to hear. I'm not one to tell someone else how to feel or act, but it really bothers me when people can't recognize what a player did for a franchise. Think about Sergei Fedorov: yes, he left the Wings under less-than-ideal circumstances. But does that cancel out everything he did while wearing the Winged Wheel? The man was an instrumental part of 3 Cups.....I'm getting off track: this is about Chelios. Chelios never wanted to be traded, especially to the Wings, but once he was, he was treated with respect and was part of a team that wanted to win. But tonight wasn't about that: it was about recognizing his contributions to a team that has had very little success in the last 30 years. I guess I was hoping for a more positive reception.
Man I hate games like these. The Wings were out-worked and out-played by an under-manned Hawks' squad, and that always drives me crazy. The Wings seem to put out a clunker like this every once in a while, and it's frustrating that it was against the Hawks. I'm not going to dwell on the loss, because it's the weekend before Christmas and I should probably start shopping. Next up for the Wings is a Sunday afternoon tilt against the Stars, where Chris Osgood will go for win number 400 in front of the home crowd. A win there would go a long way to erasing the memories of tonight's performance.