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Todd Ber"two"zzi: Red Wings 3 - Blackhawks 2 (OT)

Now that's more like it.

Last week I wrote about the Wings and their identity. One of my main beefs with this team has been how they try to adapt to the style of their opponent rather than just playing their game and making the other team try to beat them.

The Wings took that advice to heart in the first period, absolutely dominating an over-matched Hawks team through 20 minutes. A third period surge by Chicago and 2 lucky bounces earned them a loser point, but the Wings re-asserted themselves in the overtime period and for the second time in less than a week, won a close-contested game in overtime. The win marked the 14th straight at home for Detroit, tying a franchise record.

The Wings' power play, which has been absolutely anemic the past 2 weeks, struck midway through the first in a period which the Wings absolutely dominated. Ian White's point shot was tipped in by Tomas Holmstrom, who managed not to trip any Blackhawk defenders into the path of the shot. Todd Bertuzzi increased the lead when he converted on a breakaway, lifting a backhand past Corey Crawford, who was the only reason the Wings weren't up by 10 after the first.

It looked like the Wings were well on their way to an easy victory. It turned out to be yet another intense battle for 60+ minutes.

The second was more of the same of the first, although the Hawks began to push the play as the period went on. The Hawks were gifted a goal when a fluke bounce off the end boards came out in front, and even Andrew Shaw couldn't miss and the Hawks were within a goal.

The third was the polar opposite of the first. Chicago came out fired up and at one point were out-shooting the Wings 15-2. However, the Wings weathered the storm, including a double minor to Drew Miller for high-sticking, and looked poised to win their 14th straight at home. However, Jonathon Toews won a faceoff cleanly and fed the puck back to Marian "Mr January" Hossa. His shot went in off Nicklas Lidstrom's skate and in, ensuring the Wings will wait at least another day before taking their rightful place at the top of the Central Division.

I don't know what happened, but the Wings reminded everyone, including the Hawks, that they were the better team when the score was tied, and they made the Hawks their bitch for 5 minutes. The shots were 9-0, and I think Howard could have gone for his post-game shower the way the Wings controlled the puck. Bertuzzi batted a rebound out of the air and past Crawford, and the Wings got the two points that they deserved.

  • It's well known that serial killers suffer from some sort of mental illness, and today Todd Bertuzzi displayed classic signs of manic depression. He surprised no one by scoring on a breakaway, given his abilities in the shootout. He also knocked home the winning goal when he batted it in out of midair. However, the rest of his game was uneven. He had one bad giveaway, and there were numerous passes that he couldn't make and more that ended up in his feet. However, scoring that OT goal earns him raves.
  • Henrik Zetterberg almost won the game himself late in the third when he took over in the last 5 minutes. Every time he touched the puck, he was a threat to score, something we haven't said a lot this year. Only a post prevented the Wings from getting 2 regulation points today.
  • Drew Miller is proving why he will never spend time in the Leino Lounge. He had 6 shots to tie with Bert for the game lead, and in the first he was all over the Hawks' defense, going to the net and getting chances. It's too bad he couldn't convert that breakaway after his penalty, but it worked.
  • Whatever NBC did on the audio, kudos. The on-ice sounds were very pronounced, so much so it felt like being there, and the commentary was very quiet. I guess that's the compromise to having Ed Olczyk call games involving the team he works for, since he was once again in his homerific glory all day, pointing out all the things the Wings did wrong and never showing anything his pwecious wittle Hawks did that might have been illegal. The fact that Pierre was also muted is just an added bonus. I can dig Emerick, but that's the last time I listen to a game on NBC involving the Hawks that Edzo is involved with.
  • Speaking of Edzo, can he go and review Rule 74? That's the one dealing with Too Many Men, and it would be nice if he understood that if the "offending" team doesn't touch the puck or affect the play, then there's no penalty. The horse, it is dead, Eddie.
  • I heard the song "anything you can do I can do better" midway through the third period as Jimmy Howard matched Corey Crawford big save for big save. Both goals that got by Tiberius were flukes, and he was fantastic throughout the game, especially in the third when the Wings stopped skating. That performance is why Howard will be in the Vezina talk at the end of the year. I would be remiss if I didn't point out how good Crawford was, as he was the only reason the Wings didn't run away and hide.
  • We've picked on the PK a lot this year, but that kill in the third period was a thing of beauty. Only 2 shots for the Hawks over the course of 4 minutes, and the Wings spent at least a minute in the Hawks' zone. My guess is that the Hawks really missed Patrick Sharp on the power play.
  • Both teams are going to spin this game differently. Chicago fans will talk about the resiliency of the Hawks as they came back from a devastating first period. They'll point to the third period as somehow proof that they were the better team, and simply didn't play their game in the first and through the second. You'll hear talk about how the 15 shots they threw at Jimmy Howard shows how when they assert themselves, they could dominate play. The thing is that they will be wrong. The Wings came out, showed that they were the better team, then sat back. You know how I know that I'm right? The overtime. The Hawks were out-muscled, out-shot, out-chanced, out-skated, out-played, and just plain out-classed during the overtime period, despite having a real chance to wrest a victory out of the jaws of defeat, but I imagine that was due to being so tired from playing hard for 1 whole period. Bottom line is the better team won today.
I will say this: a playoff series between these two teams would be one of the most entertaining series of the playoffs. Both teams play a very high-tempo game that relies on skill and puck possession. I would absolutely take 7 games of this (well, 6 since that's how many it would take for the Wings to win the series). Unfortunately, allowing Chicago to get that loser point prevented the Wings from moving up to first in the Central, as they still sit 1 point behind the Hawks despite having won 2 more games. They do move ahead of the Blues, and the Central division continues to be the best in hockey.