For my money, this was the quintessential Red Wings game of this young season; down 2-0 early and looking out of sync the team refused to quit, and a few players who have spent some time in the last few years came up with some incredible offensive plays to bring the game back. One of the greatest penalty kills I’ve ever seen preserved the lead, and the Joe threatened to force the issue on the new stadium construction by rocking so hard you had to think it would fall apart at the seams. This one was a lot of fun, and this team continues to surprise and impress.
It’s a good thing Brassard can’t handle a puck or we might have been down 1-0 before ten seconds had passed, eh? The wheels started to come off when Brendan Smith took a high stick that drew 4 minutes worth of blood getting in the way of an awkward looking Rangers break, and the Wings couldn’t get much going with it. Other than putting together a highlight reel of Ranger shot blocks that is. There’s a saying in the Auto Industry for power plays like that, but it involves several words that JJ advised me against using in a front page article, so suffice it to say things were very unsatisfactory.
It only got worse when a missed puck behind the net from Kindl turned into an ugly goal from Klein with nearly 10 minutes gone in the first. He got to pitch a tent and roast marshmallows three millimeters from Jimmy Howard’s crease, and the Wings paid for it; ten seconds later Kronwall went to the box for hooking Zuccarello. Not good, very bad, terrible, unhappy time. After a successful PK, things didn’t necessarily get any better. At all. Talbot made a great save on Datsyuk, and Nash immediately beat Jimmy on a breakaway. With five minutes left in the first, I think we all needed a break. Luckily, despite AMPLE opportunities otherwise, the Red Wings hit the break down 2-0, the dumpster might have been smoldering, but it was a long way from over.
The Wings got a quick PP to start the second period, and Zetterberg quickly put one heck of a scoring chance on net… against Jimmy Howard. Things were getting pretty old when the penalty expired. The next few minutes passed fairly uneventfully, the Wings played a little better and Weiss just missed burying a great scoring chance; but the turnover bug bit hard again around the 11:00 mark, and Nyquist ended up slashing Derick Brassard out in front of Jimmy Howard. Despite a successful penalty kill highlighted by one heck of a hit from Brendan Smith, it was hard not to think the Red Wings were on the brink of the end.
This team would have none of that shit. After some line blender action from Babcock’s death stare, Johan Franzen and Stephen Weiss (Good hockey player™) found Sheahan out front for a pretty looking goal at 14:14. The depth that this team has is really incredible, especially compared to the past couple seasons. Speaking of depth, less than a minute later Stempniak fell on a particularly slippery patch of ice and the puck found Drew Miller’s stick. The fourth line got into ARAM formation and was off to the races (League of Legends reference, my apologies to most of the audience). Miller, Andersson, and Glendening charged into the offensive zone on a 3-2, and Miller flipped a weak wide angle shot in front of the net. The puck got hung up in front of Talbot with Andersson bodily tying up the defense, and Glendening threw himself at the crease, and the puck into the net, with all the grace of a breaching whale.
Just like that, the Joe was alive with 20,000 screaming maniacs and the dumpster had been thoroughly extinguished. There was some excitement to close the period, with both teams looking a little frenzied; Jimmy spent about 10 seconds without a stick being bombarded by Ranger shots during a period ending penalty kill, and made a few highlight reel saves, the Red Wings making it out of the second 2-2.
The first five minutes of the third period passes reasonably uneventfully, before Brendan Smith took an awkward tumble just outside of the offensive zone, he did most of a front flip before landing faceguard first on the ice.
Shortly thereafter the Rangers finally made a mistake of their own (or at least it felt that way) as Zuccarello somehow missed a Tomas Tatar pass that found its way to ol’ Stone Hands with a free run on goal. This is a new Darren Helm though, and the puck found itself buried behind Talbot as the Red Wings somehow took the lead in a game that drove most of their fanbase to drinking before the end of the first.
Unfortunately, the jubilation was was short lived. Drew Miller went limping off the ice on one leg with 11 minutes left in the game, and the second bloodied face of the game put Detroit on a minute long 5-3 with a 4 minute penalty and no Drew Miller. Or maybe not, as the guy was somehow already back. Some seriously ridiculous clearing from Glendening and Helm killed off the 5-3 portion, until the second 5-3 started less than a minute later on a high sticking call without a matching embellishment on St Louis (a player I highly respect, who deserved to be called for that one). Mike Babcock got into a shouting match with the referees, which is when you absolutely know somebody messed up.
A machine gun salvo of goal post pings, a stickless Drew Miller laying out to do whatever he could, and some ridiculous Howard saves had the Joe as loud as I’ve heard it this season. I wish I could have been there, electric. On the Glendening clear to finally kill off the greatest penalty kill of the season (over two and a half minutes of 5-3) I’d swear the Joe was going to shake itself into the Detroit River. Some nifty possession play in the last two minutes kept Talbot on the bench until there was only one minute remaining,
- I'll leave any in depth discussion of the refereeing to JJ and the AAR, but it was a little odd in this one. I don't think it was particularly biased, I just think the ref's were trying to "let them play" but didn't really know how to do that.
- The Red Wings didn't look very good for long stretches in this one; bad stretch passes, bad blind passes, bad passes in general. A lot of pucks just seemed to find their way, over, under, or through Red Wings sticks, and it was very concerning to see.
- The awesome come back part I like, the dumpster fire in the first 30 minutes I could live without.
- To expand on that point though, we're spoiled everyone. Fans of the Red Wings are entitled jerks, and I love it. The Wings have been a competitive playoff team for as long as I have been alive, and long enough for memories of the Dead Wings to fade for a lot of the fan base. We don't tolerate a 2-0 game where we don't look sharp, and that's just weird. These are human beings, off nights happen, and we may need to remember that better sometimes.
- That Miller injury looked bad guys, he went off on one leg. He was back like two minutes later, clearly there's some serious voodoo healing in the annals of Joe Louis.
- The Red Wings are now 16-6-5, good for 37 points. That's good for second place in the Atlantic after a Tampa loss to Columbus, and Montreal drops one to Dallas.
I spent a long time trying to come up with a way to describe how I feel about this team, and I think I finally found it. In college, I drove an old 2000 Dodge Grand Caravan; it was a great vehicle always reliable and consistent; but it was old, and it was slowly winding down. I took a flight to Detroit for a job interview, and they put me behind the wheel of a brand new Charger. Before I knew it, I caught myself doing triple digits on I-94 heading into the city. That’s what watching the Red Wings feels like this year; surprising, exciting, and fun as all get out. They’re not quite sure what to do with all this unexpected talent and speed, but if they ever figure out (or find a right handed shot) watch out. Right now none of us knows how this season will end, but we appear to be watching the successful implementation of a nearly mythical on the fly rebuild. The journey has a long way (and a lot of kids) left to go, but we’re having a hell of a lot of fun getting there.
I love this team, and I’m not quite ready for them to miss the playoffs in my lifetime just yet. LGRW!!!