Just when you think the holiday is over, the Red Wings drop another gift at your feet with a 60-minute performance dominating the Minnesota Wild and taking the game 4-1. Half of the Wings' lineup recorded at least one point as the scoring came from a variety of sources and the energy flowed very well from one line to another. The only downside to the evening came late in the third as the Wild spoiled the shutout bid.
Detroit outshot Minnesota 27-17 in a stifling defensive effort.. The Wild don't get many shots to begin with, but this was still 10 fewer than their per-game average. The special teams battle got plenty of opportunities to be the difference in this game, with 12 separate opportunities split evenly between the two sides. Both teams were able to capitalize on only one of their six chances, a number made all the more surprising when you think that the Wild had six power play opportunities and only 17 shots on goal for the entire game.
Jimmy Howard had a strong performance, if not an incredibly taxing one. The power play goal which got by him was the result of good puck movement by the man advantage unit and by a failure to cancel out a player standing at the back door, but not a bad goal by Howard. Also, I'd argue that he helped himself greatly in the shots against department by using his sense extremely well for when he needed to hold the puck with no rebound while traffic was threatening to crash. Of those 17 shots, I counted three that qualified as big saves for a rating of +3.
Scoring and plus/minus adjustments after the jumpThe Goals
Penalty Adjustment: barely more than a minute into the game, Zetterberg helps the Wild start what becomes a very penalty-filled first. Chuck Kobasew hooks him as his hustle out of the zone forces the guy with some lazy stickwork to hook him. I do think that Kobasew is more at fault for taking the lazy hook, but Zetterberg's speed and willingness to keep his feet moving to power through the hook help him draw it, so I'm going to give Z a half-plus.
1st Period 4:38 - Detroit Goal: Henrik Zetterberg from Niklas Kronwall and Johan Franzen
Zetterberg scrambles an offensive zone faceoff that Franzen picks out of the pile on the faceoff dot. Franzen skates back and passes to Kronwall, who starts a give-and-go with the Mule. This passing play ends with Kronwall putting a dangerous shot on goal from the slot. Backstrom makes the initial save, but Zetterberg picks it up in the corner and throws it at the goalie as he's getting up from the initial save. The puck goes in off his pants before he can hug the post. Abdelkader gets a half-assist for his work in front of the net. He's not necessarily screening, but he is using his stick to tie up Brent Burns to keep him from making a play on Zetterberg. I'm also going to give a half-plus to both Kronwall and Franzen on this play, as them switching places in the zone works out superbly, leading to the goal.
1st Period 8:58 - Detroit Goal: Danny Cleary (wrist shot) from Valtteri Filppula
After gaining control following an icing, Cleary chases a dump-in deep into the Minnesota zone, forcing a pass back around behind the goal. Bertuzzi helps on the forecheck to force an attempted bounce off the boards to clear which Filppula intercepts. Flip passes to Cleary at the side of the net in the corner just off the boards and heads in front where Bertuzzi is also crashing. Just like Zetterberg on the first goal, Cleary chucks the puck at the net from a bad angle. Backstrom is holding his post, but does not have his skates tight and Cleary's shot on the ice deflects off Backstrom into the net. Filppula's keep-in and charge to the net will get him an extra plus while both Cleary and Bertuzzi will get extra half-pluses. The forechecking work by these two forces the mistake and the idea to crash the crease and go for a rebound is what creates this goal.
Penalty Adjustment: Immediately off the faceoff after the Cleary goal, the play is stopped for a puck-out-of-play. On that faceoff, the Wild get a penalty for getting two guys kicked out of a faceoff. 11 seconds into the Detroit power play, Tomas Holmstrom takes a goaltender interference penalty after falling onto Backstrom. In defense of Holmstrom, he did have his skates pushed out from under him. Unfortunately, he was too close on his screen in the first place. He knows how fine a line he walks in the net-front role and he crossed it on this play so Homer will get a minus.
Penalty Adjustment: A few minutes after the expiration of the two above-referenced penalties, Danny Cleary goes to the box for hooking on Martin Havlat. This is perhaps the easiest and best penalty call on the Wings all game. Cleary will get a minus for taking this.
2nd Period 5:30 - Detroit Goal: Kris Draper (tip in) from Niklas Kronwall and Jonathan Ericsson
Detroit's fourth line exhibits the kind of hustle and forecheck that's come to be expected from them as Draper and Eaves team up on one side of the ice to force a dump around that Helm intercepts and takes around the edge before passing to Ericsson at the blue line. Ericsson passes across the ice to Kronwall, who waits for Draper to get in front before lobbing a wrist shot on net that Draper gets his stick on to change the angle and get it past Backstrom. Helm will get an assist for getting the play started and also a half-plus for his great forechecking interception. Eaves and Draper each also get half-pluses for forcing the play on one end to create a rushed pass for Helm to intercept.
2nd Period 13:50 - Detroit Goal: Tomas Holmstrom (backhand) from Henrik Zetterberg and Nicklas Lidstrom
Detroit is on the power play here because Kyle Brodziak cross-checks Darren Helm at the boards, forcing his face into the dasher. It's very fortunate Helm wasn't badly hurt on this play. The first half of the power play is held at bay by the Minnesota defense, as they even manage to stop the Wings through the neutral zone as they try to set up plays through center ice. However, the Wings quickly adjust to this, as Lidstrom finds Zetterberg streaking up the middle of the ice. Z carries in on both Wild defensemen while Holmstrom charges to his office from the Wing. Z pushes the puck past the D-men as they converge on him and still manages to get a strong shot on Backstrom. The puck bounces off Backstrom's pads, but lies in the crease. Holmstrom somehow manages to get his stick on it while tied up with Matt Cullen and puts it in on the backhand before falling on and breaking his own stick. Zetterberg's rush into the zone to create the play will earn him an extra half-assist while Holmstrom's job of tying up Cullen's stick while somehow managing to get his own stick on the puck to scoop it home will get Homer a plus.
3rd Period 16:20 - Minnesota Goal (PP): Brent Burns (wrist shot) from Martin Havlat and Patrick O'Sullivan
Kris Draper takes a Red-Wings-Are-Up-By-Too-Many-Goals-In-The-Third penalty here to put Minnesota on another power play. The Wings are able to kill most of it off, but the Wild's power play unit creates good movement in the zone, forcing the PKers to give up a bit more room. O'Sullivan receives a pass while both Cullen and Clutterbuck cycle around him to confuse the PKers on that side (Kindl and Helm). O'Sullivan finds Havlat alone down low next to the net with enough room to take it out front. Kindl and Howard combine to keep Havlat from putting it in himself, but the rebound ends up on Burns' stick to chip over Howard as Eaves tries in vain to make up for having lost position on the man sneaking in behind. I'm not going to make a scoring adjustment here. While there are a couple of defensive breakdowns here, they are caused by some great movement by the team with the man advantage.
+1 to Tomas Holmstrom: Homer's often the target of good-natured teasing around here for less-than-stellar puck handling and skating abilities, but the man is much better than we give him credit for. He is absolutely dogged on the puck in the offensive zone and is even pretty good in his own end. That was on display in this game and, for that, he gets a plus.
+1 to Valtteri Filppula: Flip still needs to shoot more, but he skated hard all game, created room for his teammates with good puck-handling, and broke up several good Minnesota rushes.
+1 to Nicklas Lidstrom and Brad Stuart: The two best defensemen that the Red Wings have played nothing less than the two best defensive games.
-0.5 to Johan Franzen: Nobody on the Wings had a particularly bad game, but I expect more out of Franzen and he didn't deliver. He had a very bad clearing attempt in the third period where he tried to shovel the puck high, but didn't get any air under it which led to one of Howard's big saves.
-0.5 to Jiri Hudler: He played 8:35 and had a big regression on the night in terms of how aggressively he had been playing and how well he had been skating. He was all but invisible.
+1 to Darren Helm: Pretty common story by now - Speedy speedster uses speed, creates speedy chances... speed. Guy's got hustle all over the ice and created a few really good chances.
Honorable Mentions: There are a few penalties in this game that don't appear in the penalty adjustments because overall, I thought the game was inconsistently reffed and didn't want to give minuses for plays I saw go uncalled several times that did get called according to the circumstances of the scoreboard. Speaking of which, Ericsson played fairly decently, but I was half and half on his first period penalty. On the one hand, he was the victim of Brunette grabbing his stick and falling down. On the other, he did hold his stick parallel to impede a guy's movement. It evens out to a non-adjustment because it was ultimately the right move, as Howard was down and out on the play and Ericsson was a half-step behind the player in moving to the puck.
Colorado tomorrow. Hopefully the defense can play as well against one of the league's best offensive teams the same way they played against one of the league's worst.