Next time let's do this outdoors, ok?
In a very entertaining game between the Red Wings and Avalanche, the Wings withstood a barrage from the Avs early, counterpunched with a goal in the second, then sealed it when Patrick Roy tried to outsmart Mike Babcock by pulling the goalie with too much time left. It was a fun game that brought to mind the old rivalry days just a little bit, and the Wings for the 8th year in a row took the season series from the Avs thanks to a 3-0 victory.
A fight less than a minute in? Nathan MacKinnon didn't like something that Jonathan Ericsson did, and decided to drop the gloves with the Wing defenseman. We've all wanted to get a shot in on Big E based on his play this year, but all it did for MacKinnon was take him off the ice for 5 minutes.
The no-goal call in the first period was controversial only if you don't know the rules, which I'm sure is true of the 6,000 Avs fans in existence, or what they call "decent attendance" at the Pepsi Center. But for those that can actually read, here's the rule in its entirety:
79.1 Hand Pass - A player shall be permitted to stop or "bat" a puck in the
air with his open hand, or push it along the ice with his hand, and the
play shall not be stopped unless, in the opinion of the on-ice officials,
he has directed the puck to a teammate, or has allowed his team to
gain an advantage, and subsequently possession and control of the
puck is obtained by a player of the offending team, either directly or
deflected off any player or official.
The Avs had the 29th best PP in the NHL entering the game, so naturally we all assumed that they'd score on their first and all other power plays against the now-putrid Red Wings penalty kill. The PK unit for the Wings was stout, denying the Avs many good looks and keeping them to the perimeter for the most part in a perfect performance.
The first period was definitely a case of the Wings looking to get their game legs under them after being off since Saturday afternoon. The Avs were all over them and they were lucky to get out of the period tied.
I'll admit I don't watch the Avalanche ever because I have better things to do like walk my dog and not hate myself, but tonight I was really struck by how strong their puck support was. There was no secret that the Avs rolled out hot garbage for a defense corps with Tyson Barrie out, but the Wings had a really difficult time getting through to them because the forwards were either controlling the puck or coming down low to act as a safe outlet to relieve what little pressure the Wings could exert.
The Wings got the first goal of the game when Justin Abdelkader converted on the Wings' first power play of the night with a nifty bit of stickhandling in front of Varlamov. Thankfully he only used his stick and not his hand so it counted.
One Red Wing player who was particularly noticeable for doing good things tonight was Tomas Jurco. Despite only starting 40% of his shifts in the offensive zone, he was a 69% CF% at EV, which is a sexy stat on several levels. More importantly, he seemed to have a real offensive surge to his game tonight, taking the puck to the net in traffic and using his speed and his body to gain position in the offensive zone.
How about Petr Mrazek? After a sluggish few games that involved several soft goals, all of a sudden he's stopped 50 of the last 51 shots he's faced. He'll probably get one more start against Arizona before Jimmy Howard returns next week against Pittsburgh, but he's making a strong case to remain as the backup for the rest of the season.
This was probably one of the best Wings-Avs games I've seen in a long time. The action was non-stop, both teams were generating offensive chances throughout the game, the speed of both teams was evident, and the goaltenders were fantastic. This will be something I'm reminded of when the outdoor game next year is a 1-0 slogfest where the only goal is off a weird bounce off the glass.