The end of a west coast road trip is usually met with sighs of relief from Wing fans. No longer do we have to stay up until the wee hours of the morning watching our boys in red and white try to stave off the pretenders from California. However, when the Anaheim Ducks are the opponent, lately that's what has caused the relief for Wing fans.
The Wings continued their recent domination of the Ducks with their 5th win in the last 6 meetings with Anaheim, racing out to a 3-0 lead before holding on for a 4-2 victory, ending their road trip at 2-2 and salvaging 4 points after a disastrous start.
Henrik Zetterberg, he of the 3-season scoring slump, decided to rejoin civilization and become a productive member of society again by scoring a goal on purpose for the Wings. His backhand shot eluded Jonas Hiller to give the Wings an early 1-0 lead. Shortly after the Wings went on the power play, Anaheim knew it needed to come up with a new strategy besides "try and kill it" so they shut off the lights, hoping the Wings would get distracted by the sounds of the Disneyland fireworks and leave, forfeiting the game.
After Johan Franzen put the Wings up by 2 early in the second period, Detroit continued to put pressure on the Ducks and not show any fatigue from playing the night before in Los Angeles. Brad Stuart increased the lead with his second goal of the season midway through the period. Saku Koivu got the Ducks on the board when he converted a pass from Cam Fowler, ending Jimmy Howard's shutout streak against Anaheim at 4 days of game time. The Ducks thought they had gotten to within one, but Jimmy Howard made a spectacular save on Corey Perry, further endearing himself to decent people everywhere by keeping Perry off the scoresheet. However, the Ducks would get that goal back when Teemu Selanne converted on the power play for the 2 millionth time in his brilliant career, and the second ended with the Wings hanging on to a slim 1 goal lead.
In the third, the fatigue of playing back-to-back nights started to show in the Wings' play, as they surrendered 13 shots to Anaheim, but the Ducks were unable to penetrate the awesome armour of Jimmy Howard. Stuart pool cue'd the puck off the side boards and down the length of the ice for a shorthanded empty-netter to salt the game away and preserve the win for the Wings, their second straight.
- I appreciate that Jimmy Howard is going to be nominated for the Vezina this year, but I since he's going to be in the All-Star Game this year, perhaps Mike Babcock could give him a night off here and there. Jimmy started his 12th straight game tonight, and for the most part he was damn spectacular. The save on Perry in the second will be a part of highlight packages for the rest of the year, and he was a wall in the second half of the game as the Ducks took over. He was unbeatable in the third, and as the game wore on, I can't have been the only one thinking that as long as Howard is in net, the Wings have a chance to win. It's been a very long time since Detroit had a homegrown guy who inspired that kind of confidence night in and night out.
- We haven't talked too much about this so far this season, but the scoring from the defense has me thinking that despite the Wings' problems so far this season, they'll still be ok. With 2 goals from Brad Stuart, the Wings lead the NHL in goals from the defense with 18. With Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg hopefully emerging from their season-long slump with goals in their last 2 games, the defense won't have to carry the offense any longer, but continued production will only make the Wings a far more dangerous team offensively.
- Apparently Henrik Zetterberg was a little peeved at Pavel Datsyuk upstaging him last night, so he decided to rejoin the land of the scoring and finally get a goal. Z had a solid game, showing the speed we've been waiting for him to showcase as well as being very determined in his puck pursuits all night. However, Pavel liked scoring so much that he decided to follow up his 2-goal performance from the night before with 2 assists tonight. It's too early to say anything definite, but the last 2 games are very encouraging for the Eurotwins in breaking out of this funk.
- Another win, another game in which Johan Franzen registered a point. For those keeping track at home, the Mule has scored a point in each of the Wings' 11 wins so far this season, while he's been held completely at bay in all 8 of the Wings' losses. So, the Wings should spend the early part of every game feeding him the puck, get him a point, then just coast to the inveitable win that's going to result.
- Like a lot of you, I've been very impressed with Brendan Smith in the 2 games he's been up with the Red Wings. He has not looked out of place, and despite a mental mistake on the Ducks' second goal while killing a penalty and taking a penalty of his own, he's been good. But I'm not sure it's necessarily a good idea to keep him up full time at this point unless you know he's going to earn a spot in the rotation. As much as we pray to whatever deity we believe in every night, Jonathan Ericsson is going to be in the lineup barring an injury, so that would leave Smith in a battle with Jakub Kindl and Mike Commodore for playing time. Kindl hasn't set the world on fire, but he's a rookie just like Smith and he's also on a one-way contract, so he's more likely to get the playing time unless Smith outright takes his job. If that happens, then great, because that means that Jeff is all smiles here in the office. But if Smith is just going to sit in the Leino Lounge, then tell him he did a great job and send him back to Grand Rapids where his confidence should grow and he sets the AHL on fire before earning his full-time spot next year.
The Wings will head home after a very up-and-down road trip that saw them play like absolute garbage against the Blues and Sharks but turn things around against the Kings and Ducks. As we said after the Kings game, it's too early to pronounce this team as "healthy" in terms of their struggles, but there were definitely some positive developments after a lot of problems early. Next game is Wednesday night against the Flames as the Wings look to avenge their 4-1 loss to Calgary from earlier this season.