Too often this season the Red Wings have played down to their competition. Looking back at their schedule, there are losses to Colorado, Toronto, Florida, Columbus, and the same Sabres team they took on tonight.
Detroit wasn't about to allow an opportunity pass them by, and their play was good if not great as they earned 2 necessary points against Buffalo on Dominik Hasek night. Heading into a very difficult stretch of games, it was important that they shake off the loss the other night against the Capitals and guarantee at worst a split of this 6-game road trip.
The Red Wings started out strong, spending most of the first 5 minutes in the Sabres' zone and peppering Michael Neuvirth with shots. Eventually the Sabres got some offensive zone time of their own, sparked by a breakaway by Matt Moulson, who put his shot wide. The Sabres earned the first power play of the game, but it was Darren Helm who provided offense, ripping a shot past Neuvirth on a 2-on-1 with Joakim Andersson. It was the Wings' first shorthanded goal of the year and was the first time since before Christmas the Wings struck first. The Wings continued to press, but were unable to get anything going offensively, and Drew Miller took a holding penalty with 12 seconds left in the period to give the Sabres another man advantage heading into the second.
Buffalo did nada with their power play to start the period, but did have a decent chance to score when a pass was awkwardly saved by Petr Mrazek. The Wings nearly scored when Tomas Tatar snuck a rebound under Neuvirth, but he was to be denied. However, Rasmus Ristolainen took a 4 minute penalty for high sticking, and the Wings' power play went to work early. Gustav Nyquist was given an empty net and he made no mistake, scoring his first goal in 12 games to give the Wings a 2-0 lead. The Sabres took another penalty, but Detroit was unable to score again, making far too many passes and shooting pucks directly at Buffalo players rather than setting up a good opportunity. The Sabres got on the board when an errant pass eluded Niklas Kronwall, and the Sabres got an odd-man rush, culminating in Mike Weber scoring and cutting the Wings lead in half. The Wings got that goal right back when Tatar re-took the scoring lead from Nyquist, and the Wings ended the period with a 3-1 lead.
The Wings had a power play early but once again spent more time passing than shooting, and nothing came of it. Detroit began to retreat into a defensive shell, determined not to take any unnecessary risks that might allow the Sabres to get back in the game. While it wasn't pretty, it was effective, and outside of a few chances here and there, the third period was relatively uneventful and the Wings
- Congratulations to Dominik Hasek on his jersey retirement by the Sabres. We will always fondly remember him as a Red Wing, dominating en route to the Stanley Cup in 2002 and being a key figure on the 2008 Cup team. It's weird to think that in '08, Mike Babcock thought that Hasek wasn't the best choice if the Wings were going to win, so Chris Osgood took over and the rest is history. I hope that story is told at Osgood's jersey retirement ceremony in 2043.
- The Tatar taketh, and the Tatar giveth away. I am a huge Tatar fan, but sometimes I find that he tries to make the more difficult play rather than the easy one. His poor pass behind Kronwall was the catalyst for the Sabres' first goal, but a few minutes later he pops in a rebound to take the lead in goals from Nyquist again. I'll gladly give up a little bit of defensive responsibility if it means that he turns into a perennial 30-goal scorer, which he's on pace for at the moment.
- Petr Mrazek had a relatively easy night, which is a good thing because his workload is about to get a whole lot heavier with the news that Jimmy Howard will be out 2-4 weeks. It's nice that Thomas McCollum was called up, but the only way that he gets in a game is if something goes incredibly wrong. I hope he enjoys charting faceoffs.
- Despite the PPG scored by Nyquist, the Wings' power play was pretty ineffective, only generating 5 shots on 4 chances, including a lengthy 5-on-3. Thankfully they made up for it with their first shorthanded goal of the season. When the Wings don't play well on the power play, they look too cute, and tonight was a good example of that.
- The line blender was revved up before the game, but the trios put out by the Wings were generally solid. Helm-Pulkkinen-Weiss led the way in CF while Sheahan-Tatar-Nyquist was right behind them. Interestingly, despite passing the eye test, the Datsyuk-Zetterberg-Abdelkader line didn't have the greatest numbers, with Datsyuk leading the way with a +3.
- At the end of the day, this was a very solid win over a bad team, and the Wings didn't have to expend too much energy to do it. This will be crucial as they play 3 more times before Sunday.