The Red Wings saw their modest 3-game winning streak end on Sunday against Dallas, and things didn't get any easier as the Capitals came to town. Alex Ovechkin was looking to pass Sergei Fedorov as the all-time leading goal scorer among Russian-born players, and hoped to do so in front of the new Hall of Famer. Mike Green also used to be a Capital so this might have been a big deal for him.
The game began with Luke Glendening, Darren Helm and Drew Miller being matched up against Ovechkin's line. I know Jeff Blashill is new to the NHL but he should know by now that the home team has the last change. The teams traded chances through the first couple of minutes with neither team getting a strong scoring opportunity. 6 minutes into the period, there was a delay as the referees reviewed whether the puck went in the net. There was no goal called on the ice, and after review the call stood. Here's the play again:
You literally see Holtby scoop it, and throw it out of the net, but, okay. Whatever, I guess? pic.twitter.com/hmmuk0OUe8— Kyle (@KyleWIIM) November 11, 2015
Braden Holtby involved in a controversial play that resulted in no goal for the Wings? The devil you say https://t.co/waV6w3EI7X— Happy Grahamsgiving (@GrahamWIIM) November 11, 2015
It didn't seem to faze the Wings, but not long after Jakub Kindl took his first of two penalties in the period, this one for tripping. The Wings were strong on the PK and killed it fairly easily. Unfortunately, not long after that Kindl took his second tripping penalty, but again the Wings were able to kill it off and avoid falling behind on special teams. The Wings acquitted themselves well at even strength and played a good period overall.
Shots: 15-9 Washington
Strong Period: Dylan Larkin
Weak Period: Jakub Kindl
The Red Wings got the first 4 shots of the period and had several chances early, but were unable to beat Holtby. The top line of Henrik Zetterberg, Dylan Larkin and Justin Abdelkader spent several shifts hemming the Capitals in their own end, but unfortunately could not get a goal. The Capitals had a few one-and-done chances that just went wide, but the Wings did a good job of preventing t
hem from getting set up in their zone. The Capitals had a late push but Petr Mrazek was up to the task, and a relatively uneventful second period ended with no score.
Shots: 21-18 Washington
Strong period: Alexey Marchenko
Weak period: My bladder because of the beer I had at dinner
The third started as the second ended, with both teams getting some shot attempts but the defense buckling down and preventing too much sustained pressure. 4 minutes into the period, Andreas Athanasiou burst up the left wing, got around John Carlson, and fired a shot on Holtby. The puck found its way under Holtby's pad and in for Athanasiou's first ever NHL goal.
The goal seemed to energize the Capitals, who started to take the play to the Wings a little bit more, but Mrazek was a wall in goal. The Wings got their chances as well, but a late power play for Washington caused more than a few orifices to shrink. Mrazek and the penalty killers capped off a perfect evening with another kill, this one a little more tense as Ovechkin had several quality chances to tie the game. The Wings held on for the final 3 minutes and got a necessary 2 points.
Score: 1-0 Red Wings
Player of the Game: Petr Mrazek
Weak period: My heart, because I need to start cross-training again
If Pavel Datsyuk does return on Friday, the Wings are going to have an interesting decision to make: do you put Datsyuk back with Zetterberg and Abdelkader and move Larkin down to the second line, or do you leave that top line intact and put Datsyuk with Tatar and Helm, a line that worked well last year?
One area where the Wings looked good in this game was zone entries. The Wings have struggled a lot this year at gaining the zone and maintaining possession, but tonight they did a good job of avoiding having to dump it in and try to chase it.
Dylan Larkin is a stud. He led all Wing players with 9 individual shot attempts and was a +12 CF. That line was great tonight and should have had a couple of goals.
At one point in the game Ken Daniels compared Athanasiou to Ovechkin, which is unfair because Athanasiou actually scored a goal tonight.
Mike Green wasn't totally noticeable tonight against his old team, which isn't a bad thing. He had a gorgeous break up of an odd-man rush in the first period and was a +6 in CF at 5v5. The Wings only had 1 power play and didn't do a lot on it, but his return has stabilized the defense in a good way.
I always like watching the Capitals because they're an entertaining team. They employ a lot of skill and anyone who says they don't enjoy watching Ovechkin is not a smart person. But Blashill doesn't have to make him look even better than he does by matching up Glendening's line against him. For symmetry, Ovechkin ended the evening a +14 CF, while Glendening was a -14. Unfortunately, because Ovechkin didn't actually score on one of his 15 shots (!) is more a testament to Petr Mrazek and his ability to be good at goaltending and bad luck because no way does Ovechkin not score when given that many chances to get shots on most nights.
Mrazek didn't make a lot of highlight reel saves, but he was in position time after time and never seemed fazed. I can't get over how calm he looks in the crease. When Jimmy Howard appeared to be hurt on Sunday, the sense of relief knowing that the Wings have a competent backup for the first time in nearly a decade was easily felt.
This was a well-deserved win against a quality opponent, and was probably the Wings' most complete performance of the season. Despite the somewhat lopsided shots on goal, at 5v5 the shots were 26-24 for Washington, and Detroit actually out-attempted the Capitals 43-34 at even strength. The hockey fan in me thinks it's a shame that Ovechkin was unable to break the record in front of Fedorov tonight, but the Red Wing fan in me doesn't give a shit what that guy does because Detroit won.