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Post Game Thoughts: Red Wings 3 - Blackhawks 2

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The Red Wings took on a Chicago Blackhawks team stripped of its talons at the Joe Louis Arena tonight and came away with a 3-2 victory in a fashion not necessarily reflected by the scoreboard.  The Wings carried play throughout most of the night, save for some flurries in the early 2nd and mid-3rd periods.  The first game for the renewed Eurotwins line did not disappoint, potting two goals and two assists between them with a third called off on a Wings powerplay in the third period thanks to Tomas Holmstrom being too close to his office. 

Monty Babcock's Flying Circus wasn't the story of the night though; they excelled in a game in which they should have dominated.  When I said the Hawks were stripped of their talons, I meant it.  Tomas Kopecky, who had a hard time fitting in on Detroit's third line during his tenure with the Wings led all Hawks forwards with 19:20 in ice time.  Brian Campbell was the best Chicago defender on the ice.  This was a warmup for our top guys and an audition for guys fighting for roster spots, both in Detroit and Grand Rapids, an audition that several players passed wonderfully.

Take the jump for the bullets:

  • The line of Jan Mursak - Cory Emmerton - Jordan Owens was dominant during several shifts and made a fantastic energy line for the Wings.  They got on defenders quick and caused several offensive zone turnovers, the first of which led to the game's opening goal by Jan Mursak.  Interestingly, Mursak, the goal-scorer, was the least effective player of the three and his team-lowest 9:56 in ice time showed that.  Don't take that as a sleight against the young Slovenian though as much as it's a rousing bit of praise for both Emmerton and Owens.  Emmerton was positionally sound all night and made good decisions in all three zones.  Jordan Owens played like an even younger Darren Helm, flying everywhere on the ice and hitting whatever got in his way.  The former Rangers prospect picked up at last year's trade deadline for Kris Newbury has certainly turned some heads with a strong showing at training camp, a goal in the Red & White game, and tonight's good showing. 
  • Mike Modano still looks tentative as a Red Wing.  You can tell the high gears are still there, as is the creativity, but that he just has to get used to the Wings' style of play and his teammates.  He did register three shots on goal tonight and started to look more comfortable as the game went on.
  • In the unfortunate skewed stats department, for those who only look at scoresheets to judge a player's night, Jimmy Howard left the game with an .875 save percentage after stopping 7 of the 8 total shots he faced in the first two periods.  The one that got by him was off a scramble out front on a power play for the Hawks and, while you could say he probably should have controlled his rebounds better, there was a conspicuous absence of a penalty-killing forward to help down low when they got into Hasek-time around the net.
  • On the flip-side, Joey MacDonald stopped 10 of 11.  The one that got by him was the first and was on a very good passing play by the Hawks.  He calmed down after that, but he's still pretty herky-jerky in his moves in net. 
  • On the defensive side of things, The Nick-Nik (paddy wick, give a dog a bone?) top defensive pairing was as good as you'd expect and the Wings' team captain still joined the rush often, looking good doing so.  Brendan Smith had a pretty good game, with a head's-up play to keep the puck in the offensive zone on a play that would lead to the Wings' third goal of the night, scored by Henrik Zetterberg.  Still, Smith looks like he's got some growing to do, not just in how surefooted he looks in his own zone, but also in the shoulders.  He's got a good head on him and I think he'll make the club out of camp as early as next season.  The as-consistent-as-oatmeal Jonathan Ericsson had another decent night patrolling Detroit's blue line, but had the second-fewest minutes of any of the defenders.  He made a couple of particularly noticeable mistakes, one on a giveaway in the offensive zone and another on a failed pinch, but for the most part, he was just a big presence on the ice and was quiet.  It's easy to pile onto Ericsson, since a lot of people look closer for his mistakes, but it's also easy to forget that Brendan Smith has been playing defense longer than Ericsson and I thought he made just as many errors. That doesn't excuse the Big Rig when he does screw up, it's more a reminder to me that it's just preseason.  I've said before and I'll say again that I'm officially out of patience with him.  I know a guy slotted to be our #6 defenseman is not going to be perfect and I'm not expecting that, I just also don't expect a guaranteed two scoring chances against per night thanks to boneheaded plays.
  • Did I mention that Tomas Kopecky led the Hawks forwards in ice time?  Really... Tomas Kopecky. 
  • Darren Helm had two breakaways and hit two posts (although I'm still not entirely convinced the 2nd breakaway didn't find the net).  He took Brian Campbell to school in the third period during two power plays for the Blackhawks.  Helm will find his hands some day and he'll win a Selke for it.  He was very sound tonight.
  • Helm's linemate Eaves has been very quiet during this preseason.  I'm waiting for him to re-establish his presence.  I like his offensive upside and know he can kill penalties very well, but he's not guaranteed a roster spot and he needs to show more.
  • Tomas Tatar played tonight in place of Mattias Ritola.  Reports of his skills out of training camp were not exaggerated.  When he finds a way to corral that skill with a little control and a bit of snarl, he has the potential to be this franchise's future up front.

That's it for tonight.  We'll reset the scoresheets and do this all over again tomorrow night at 8 EST.  That game should be a bit tougher, since we can expect Chicago to come with Hossa, Kane, Toews, Keith, and Seabrook.  Not sure of lineups or starting goalies yet, but we'll have that up when we know.