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Hook, Trip, and High-Sticking: Red Wings 4 - Panthers 3

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Joel Auerbach

Coming out of the holiday break, the Red Wings were hoping to get a few injured players back and get on a roll to climb up in the Eastern Division standings.

They got off to a start last night, defeating the Florida Panthers for the first time this season. I neglected the word "good" in the previous sentence, because I thought overall the Wings didn't play a great game. The Panthers carried the play for the majority of the game, and it was their inability to hit the net combined with timely defensive plays by the Wings that was the difference.

Not that I'm complaining, mind you. The Wings have played plenty of games where they were good for most if not all of the game, only to have a couple of mistakes prevent them from earning a full 2 points. One could argue that the Wings should have 2 points in at least one of the previous meetings between these two teams, but their inability to hold a lead (not limited to games in Florida) didn't allow that to happen.

  • The name of the game last night was specialty teams. The refs were bound and determined to call just about anything, with both teams combining for 11 power plays. The Wings went 2-5 on their power plays, and held the Panthers to only 1 goal in their 6 opportunities. In the third period, the Wings took 2 penalties and held the Panthers to only 4 shots total. Ultimately, this was the difference.
  • This is not the shot chart one typically sees after a Wings-Panthers game:Fenwick_chart_for_2013-12-28_red_wings_4_at_panthers_3_medium

  • Say what you will about Jonas Gustavsson and whether he can continue to carry the Wings while Jimmy Howard recovers from his knee injury, but despite all the swimming in his crease and looks behind him and general uneasiness he inspires from his frenetic movements in the net, his athleticism allows him to make at least one spectacular save every week or so.
  • Is it just me, or did this game develop a little nastiness between these two teams? I can't recall another meeting that involved the number of post-whistle pushing, shoving, and scrums like last night did. I don't think of Florida as a particularly "nasty" team, so maybe this was a case of both teams realizing how important the points were in what is becoming a tight race for a playoff spot.
  • The return of Henrik Zetterberg, Justin Abdelkader and Danny DeKeyser was a welcome sight for all Wing fans, and I thought all 3 played pretty decent games. Hank's goal midway through the first reminded us that he will take a large load off of Pavel Datsyuk's shoulders offensively, Abby played a physical game, and DK did his usual good work in the Wings' zone. I think that last night will help them get back up to game speed, and with each game they'll all get better.
  • I can not be the only one that thought "I can not WAIT to see HBO next week" after Brendan Smith's goal. I thought Smitty had a strong game, finishing 2nd on the team in CF% 5-on-5 and kicking in his first goal of the season, all while playing 23% of his time shorthanded. Since returning from his injury, Smith has been getting more and more consistent, and if he add offense, he'll solidify the Wings' second pairing.
  • Speaking of HBO, what are the odds that we see Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, Tomas Jurco and Danny DeKeyser at the same restaurant, only instead of fish tacos they all order chicken fingers and yoohoos while talking about last night's episode of Good Luck Charlie?
  • Did anyone else get all warm and tingly when they saw a PP unit of Nyquist/Tatar/Jurco? That's the future on display, and I get more and more confident in it the more I see it.
  • Apparently Chris Osgood made a comment about Jurco's turnover that led to the Panthers' second goal, saying something about that's why you don't put youth in the lineup. Personally, I think that instead of using it as an excuse to keep young players on the bench, you use it as a teaching tool so he knows not to make the same mistake next time. Jurco only had 6 shifts after that, but I think that was more due to the score and wanting to have more defensively-responsible players out there rather than punishing him for a turnover.
All in all the Wings played a game that was good enough to allow them to earn 2 points, but it wasn't their greatest performance. However, these things tend to even out over the course of an entire season, so we'll take it and gear up for Nashville on Monday night. The Wings were shutout by the Predators the only other time they met, so revenge should be on the Wings' mind.