The Detroit Red (Griffin) Wings went into action against the Chicago Blackhawks with a 10 point lead in the division, but with 4 games remaining between these two teams, there is still a good chance the division crown could come down to the end of the season. Unfortunately, someone forgot to tell the Wings this, and they responded with yet another lackluster effort against a divisional foe.
The Hawks controlled the pace of play in the first period, but it was the Wings that opened the scoring when Cory Emmerton scored his first NHL goal on a shot that Corey Crawford is going to want back. The Hawks evened up the score when Dave Bolland, who got open by cross-checking Ruslan Salei in the back a gajillion times, potted a cross-crease pass from Troy Brouwer. He celebrated by cross-checking Salei again, showing how classy the Hawks players are (just like their fans). Jimmy Howard stood on his head in the frame, making 14 saves on 15 shots, including a couple of big saves on Jonathan Toews and Fernando Pisani.
The second period began with the Hawks once again taking the play to the Wings, and Tomas Kopecky had a puck bounce in off his stick and off skate past Howard to give the Hawks their first lead of the game. Ian Walsh was sure that Patrick Kane had given the Hawks a 3-1 lead, but the replays showed that it hit the crossbar, and the score remained 2-1. The Wings thought they tied the game at 2, but Chris Rooney lost sight of the puck and it was ruled no goal; I know, I'm shocked, too. Jiri Hudler had a glorious opportunity to score, but his shot (again, like you, I was shocked he shot the puck) rang off the crossbar without a whistle, and the Hawks transitioned down the ice on an odd-man rush. Howard poked the puck off of Hossa's stick, but the game mirrored real-life when Kopecky picked up Hossa's garbage and scored. The Wings showed a little bit of life towards the end of the period, but ended up heading to the dressing room in the familiar position of being down by 2 goals.
Once the third started, the Wings seemed to get some life as the Hawks played prevent defense. The Wings had a flurry of chances midway through the third, but Crawford stood tall in net, and after yet another Niklas Kronwall turnover, Troy Brouwer buried a Toews pass to make it 4-1 and put the game effectively out of reach. The Wings had 19 shots in the third period, but Crawford played really well to atone for his early mistake, and the Hawks hung on for the victory.
Follow the jump for the bullets.
- The last time the Wings played the Hawks with this many guys out, they were shut-out in back to back games by identical 3-0 scores. This means that the game was a success the minute the Wings got a goal. I also considered this game a good one (minus the final score) to be a good one because Nicklas Lidstrom was not speared by Patrick Sharp and Franzen's knees are still intact.
- Jimmy Howard's stats weren't spectacular from today, but he was really hung out to dry by his team, and if it were not for him, this game would have been lost in the first period. He made several big saves to keep the game tied at 1, and you can't put any of the 4 goals on him as a "softie". Once again, the defense was pretty porous today, including Kronwall who had another turnover that led directly to a goal. Earlier in the season we were hoping that Brian Rafalski would come back quickly so that the Wings could get better offensively, but now, I just want Brad Stuart back so we can get the Wings' defense from November.
- News came out that Patrick Kane was named as an alternate captain for Team Lidstrom in the All-Star Game, which sickens me on so many levels. First, that someone believes Kane should have a say in who gets picked, and second, that people believe he is one of the better "leaders" or "players" among those chosen. During the Hawks' broadcast today, there was a segment where he said that he would not want Toews as one of the captains, because he wants to "play against him for once"; we all remember the last time that Kane and Toews were on opposite teams, and the results did not go Kaner's way.
- Congratulations are in order for Cory Emmerton, who notched his first NHL goal. He is now the fourth Wing to accomplish this feat this year, and 2nd in 2 nights. Somewhere in the Wings' dressing room, Ruslan Salei is looking on in quiet jealousy.
- I can't stand watching the Hawks' broadcast, and by my tally Ed Olczyk only said "lively boards" twice all game, although he did not mention "active stick" or "time and space" at all. Someone also needs to advise Pat Foley on how to pronounce the Wings' names, because he butchered at least half the team today (Lindstrom, Rafahlski, Hoodler).
- Discipline is not normally an issue with this team, but the Wings took 2 pretty stupid penalties that led to Hawks' goals, the first a lazy trip by Todd Bertuzzi and the second a dumb elbow/rough by Justin Abdelkader. I can only imagine the death stare both of those players got from Babcock when they got back to the bench.
- There was some discussion in the game thread about how listless the Wings looked today, and I mentioned that it was not the rookies and call-ups that looked bad, but the veterans. Particular scorn was heaped on Johan Franzen and Niklas Kronwall, and my issue is that neither has stepped up to the degree that is necessary in this time of injuries. It was pointed out that these guys are dealing with new linemates every game and perhaps we are expecting too much. Regardless of that, neither one of them was very good today.
- I'm not normally one to blame officials for the outcome of a game, but allow me to put my tinfoil hat on and say that the referees today were absolute garbage. Nevermind the missed cross-checks on Bolland before he score; nevermind the quick whistle that was blown when Ian Walsh was convinced that a puck that even the announcers thought hit the cross-bar actually went in, negating a Wings' rush the other way. The "Intent to Blow" made it's dreaded appearance when Henrik Zetterberg appeared to score, but the play was blown dead before the puck went in the net. I'm not upset about that call, because it's happened so many times that it's old-hat by now; but if you're going to be so quick to call a goal at one end that 19,000 people in the building and those at home can tell did not go in, then put the damn whistle in your pocket unless you are sure that the play is dead later on. It certainly did not help that Kopecky scored almost immediately after that to give the Hawks a 2-goal lead. I'm just pleading for the millionth time that NHL referees display some sort of consistency. I also wish for cancer to be cured, and guess which one will happen first in my lifetime.
- However, despite the refs, the Wings were outplayed in every facet of the game today, and did not deserve to win. This is the 2nd game against a true rival that they have come out with no intensity and lost 4-1 in a game that was really pretty boring. The injuries are no longer an excuse; it's time to step up and play with some passion and purpose.
The Wings are off until Wednesday when they take on the Devils, who have been on a bit of a tear lately. After that, the All-Star break is finally upon us, and every Wing except for Lidstrom will have an extended vacation to relax and heal up. Word is that Pavel Datsyuk and Daniel Cleary should be back, which will give the Wings 2 legitimate scoring lines again. I guess if there's one consolation in all this, it's that the Wings got this crappy effort out of the way early so we can all get on with our weekends. Go Packers!!!