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Helm Celebrates an Early Happy (Hudler) Birthday: Wings 4 - Blues 3 (OT)

Jeez, Barret, if you didn't want to see my Stanley Cup ring, you just had to say "no thank you". I looked at your Calder Trophy.
Jeez, Barret, if you didn't want to see my Stanley Cup ring, you just had to say "no thank you". I looked at your Calder Trophy.

The Red Wings decided that slow starts were getting them in trouble, because it was costing them too much energy trying to come back all the time. Tonight, they decided to do the exact opposite, only to learn that jumping out to a lead and then sitting on it while the other team comes back is also pretty tiring.

The Wings were sharp right out of the gate, and they applied pressure early. The Wings took the lead 12:25 into the game when Patrick Eaves converted a Henrik Zetterberg pass for his 13th goal of the season, and for the first time in 2011, the Wings took a 1-0 lead in to the first intermission.

In the second, the Wings controlled play for the first 5 minutes, and Todd Bertuzzi took a handoff from Valtteri Filppula, ate a puppy, then put the puck past Jaroslav Halak, who was still looking the other way. 2 minutes later, Filppula and Jiri Hudler converged on the Blues' defense with Jakub Kindl trailing the play. Kindl took the pass from Flip and tried to get it to Hudler, but it bounced in off of the Blues' defenseman and past Halak for Kindl's first NHL goal. The Blues cut the lead to 3-1 when T.J. Oshie scored his second goal of the year in his second game back from injury. The Blues outshot the Wings 10-3 in the second period, but were out-scored 2-1.

The third period saw the Blues come out with a lot of energy and the Wings unable to match it. Patrick Berglund got the Blues to within 1 goal. The Blues entered the zone led by Vladimir Sobotka. Both Filppula and Ericsson went to Sobotka, leaving Berglund and Oshie alone in front of Howard. The puck got to Berglund, who put it past Howard. The Blues then completed the comeback when David Backes slipped a puck through Howard's legs with about 5 minutes remaining after a scramble in front of the net. The Wings woke up enough to realize that they weren't going to win if they didn't put some pressure on the Blues, and came close to winning it late in the third if not for a great double-pad save by Halak.

In overtime, Darren Helm sprung Jiri Hudler for an odd-man rush, and after Hudler fed Helm the puck, he got the puck under Halak's arm and in to the net for the game-winner.

This was a game that should not have ended in OT because the Wings should have taken care of business in during regulation. Follow me after the jump where we break this mother down (shut your mouth).

  • There have been 2 main issues with this team for the past 2 weeks: the injuries and the poor starts. The Wings answered point number two by playing their best first period of 2011. All 4 lines had sustained offensive pressure, they prevented the Blues from generating any great scoring chances, they outshot the Blues 12-6, and that did not include at least 3 opportunities that missed the net. It's the first time in a long time that the Wings were the better team in the first period, and they carried that over into the second, where they put on a clinic about how to execute a puck possession-style of game. That led to 2 goals, and we in the game thread were all wondering where this team has been for the last 2 weeks. Yes, I realize that there have been injuries, but there is still enough talent on this team to play the way they did for the first half.
  • Having said that, when we said that we wanted the Wings to get off to a quick start and build a lead, we did so under the assumption that they would continue their habit of finishing games strong. Unfortunately, the Wings assumed that because they built up a huge lead, the Blues were going to forfeit the game after the midway mark of the second period. The Blues responded by turning it on, and they were able to salvage a point after being severely outplayed. I imagine there a lot of Blues fans wondering why that team didn't show up in the first period, because the Blues probably would have won in a laugher had they played in the first period the way they did in the third.
  • The theme of tonight's game from a Red Wing perspective was missing the net. I counted no less than 8 instances where the Wings had a prime scoring opportunity and the shooter missed the net. The Wings had 29 shots on net, but I would guess their quality scoring chances were more misses than saves by Halak.
  • I'll mention the refs, only because I thought they were pretty bad for both teams tonight. There were only 3 penalties called all night, and there probably could have been many more. However, the call on Reaves was atrocious, and it was one of the few instances in my life where had the Wings scored, I almost would have felt bad. I look at it this way: if that call had been against a Wing, my TV would have gone through a window.
  • Congratulations to Jakub Kindl, who scored his first NHL goal tonight. He becomes the third Wing in the last month to score his first NHL goal, joining Tomas Tatar and Jan Mursak. It wasn't pretty, but it counts. Question for anyone who cares to research this: when was the last time the Wings had 3 players score their first NHL goal in the same season, let alone within a month of each other? That's the kind of thing that makes me optimistic for the future. Tonight, Kindl was pinching a lot more and showing some initiative in the offensive zone. He's also making smart plays with the puck. I'm not expecting him to set the world on fire, but this is a marked improvement from the beginning of the year.
  • I've said it before and I'll say it again: as it stands right now, I'm just not afraid of the Blues as a playoff opponent. I don't think they have any offensive depth at all beyond their top line (and yes, I am aware the injuries to David Perron and Andy MacDonald are crippling to a team that doesn't score that mich anyway), but their defense is very underwhelming, and unless Halak goes on a tear like he did last year, he's been pretty run-of-the-mill, certainly against Detroit. Halak has given up at least 3 goals in every game he's faced the Wings, and to date he's given up 18 goals in 4 games. Maybe I'll turn out to be wrong about them, in which case I'm sure my avatar will be burned in effigy over at SLGT; but that's just my take on them right now.
  • Darren Helm, I don't know what happened, but someone gave you a set of hands and you are becoming a very dangerous individual. With the rash of injuries that has hit the Wings, Helm has been my number one guy to step up and fill the void, as he's now got 12 points in the last 11 games, a nice run of consistency that is necessary with all the offensive firepower out of the lineup. We talked around Christmas that someone needed to get him a the ability to finish, and he is starting to look very dangerous out there offensively. FS-D did their profile on him and he turns 24 tomorrow, so Happy Birthday, Darren; it was nice of you to give the Wings a gift in the form of a victory.
  • Casey will have an update on the Nabokov signing tomorrow, but as of right now it appears the deal with him is done, and he'll be put on waivers. So we're all in a holding pattern as we figure out where he ends up.

The Wings just concluded a stretch of games where they played 14 games in exactly 30 days, 11 of them on the road. They started this stretch with Pavel Datsyuk out of the lineup, and subsequntly lost the following players to injuries: Dan Cleary, Brad Stuart, Chris Osgood, Tomas Holmstrom, and Jimmy Howard. The Wings went 8-4-2 in those 14 games, including a sweep of Western Canada for only the second time in their history.. They currently sit 2nd in the West, 1 point behind Vancouver (although the Canucks have a game in hand), and 1st in the Central, 6 points ahead of the Predators. It's funny to think that we have been pretty concerned with the Wings' play recently, yet when I checked the schedule to see what their record was, they really didn't fare that badly. 2 more games before the All-Star break, at which point Datsyuk and Cleary are slated to get back in the lineup. Next up, the Wings get to play the Blackhawks away from the United Center for the first time this season, and the Joe should be rocking.