I typically don't believe in things like "must-win" or "statement" games so early in the season.
Game 7 of 48 is no different than game 9, 15 or 21. However, last night's game against the Blues did carry more importance than your typical regular season game. After the Red Wings were thoroughly embarrassed in the season opener in St. Louis, it was crucial for the Wings to come out with a far stronger effort and at least look like they belonged on the same ice as the Blues.
Thankfully, the Wings have a dynamic and talented leader who does what is necessary to give his team a better chance at victory. Henrik Zetterberg proved once again that he is too much man for anyone to handle, and single-handedly had his way with the Blues, figuring in on every Wing goal.
It was the kind of performance that we all expected when he was named captain before the season began. Pavel Datsyuk is the most talented Wing, but Zetterberg is the guy that makes them go. When he's putting up points like he did last night, it takes pressure off the rest of team.
We'll get to the bullets in a second, but a big caveat; I traveled to my homeland yesterday, and didn't get a chance to really focus on the game. I caught some of it, but outside of the final 5 minutes I really didn't see too much. GCL isn't allowing me to see the replay, so this recap is going to be based off the highlights and the boxscore.
- If that's the type of performance that we can expect after Zetterberg had the flu on Thursday, I hope that he breathed all over Datsyuk so we can see what he can do after a day off.
- That empty netter was a thing of absolute beauty. Between Z's hustle to get to the puck and T.J. Oshie's complete inability to effectively interfere with Z and prevent the goal, it was the type of empty net goal that will be shown on highlight reels forever as an example of how to try to cheat and not have it work out. I'm also glad to see people get upset because it wasn't called a penalty, because it shows that Oshie can't even break the rules properly.
- Seeing Jonathan Ericsson as the 2nd star was surprising, but his stats were nice. We talked a little on the last WIIM Radio about how the Wings have lacked a strong outlet pass from the defense, but E's pass to Zetterberg on the 2nd Wing goal was exactly what we were talking about. It's a weird feeling to know that Ericsson is such a vital piece of the defense, but his presence makes that group better.
- The special teams battle was a little more even, but a 60% success rate on the penalty kill still isn't good enough. However, 2 power play goals and a shorthanded goal takes a little of the sting out of the PK's performance.
- I have no idea why, but only giving up 14 even strength shots against a team like the Blues is a very positive sign. Giving up 3 while shorthanded 5 times isn't so good.
- I guess I should weigh in on the David Backes hit. Sure, it didn't look like he connected with Kent Huskins' head. And it may not have been as late as some other hits, at least ones that normally get called for match penalties. However, a player being wrongly ejected from a game couldn't have happened to a better guy. Backes is a thug who gets a pass because of his citizenship by a lot of fans. The fact the Wings were able to take advantage only makes this even sweeter, because it drives Blues fans crazy with made-up conspiracy theories. If there had somehow been supplementary discipline (which was not deserved), I would be put in the hospital with laughter-induced chest pains.
- Other favorite part of all the whining? Seeing Blues fans complain about all the calls that went against them after they took the lead and forgetting they spent the last 2 minutes of the game on the power play.
Brendan Smith was your ice-time leader for the Wings, and only Kevin Shattenkirk and Alex Pietrangelo played more of any skater in this game. That's a good thing. I think.
- It's around this time that I realize that only watching highlights isn't the greatest way to analyze a game. However, at least it wasn't a loss where I had to suffer beyond the actual game.
After feasting on opponents who had played the Blue Jackets the night before the past 3 games, the Wings will find themselves with the shoe on the other foot as they take on the Blue Jackets tonight. For those keeping score at home, that's 2 wins in a row, which constitutes one of those magical things called a "winning streak". The Wings are looking better with each passing game, and hopefully continue their progress with another strong game tonight.