WELL THAT WAS FUN. After losing back to back games against two terrible teams, the Red Wings promptly ran one of the best teams in the East out of the building. Hockey is funny. It's hard to say Mrazek was the biggest or even second biggest reason the Wings won today, but he stopped every shot he faced, and that really counts for something after the way March has gone.
The Wings started on time resulting in a solid first period all-around. Abdelkader took a bad penalty early with a really dangerous hit on Garrison, and I wouldn't be shocked if he gets a player safety call for that one. The hit definitely looked worse than it was intended to be with Garrison losing an edge, but it's still Abby's responsibility to ease up going into the boards. The highlight of the first was undoubtedly the Datsyuk/Tatar/Helm line putting together a monster shift in which they got multiple quality scoring chances and dominated the puck, but just couldn't quite bury it. Both goaltenders looked pretty dialed in, with several quality saves happening on both ends of the ice. TB's even strength chances came almost entirely by hemming Glendening's line into their own zone, which I guess shouldn't be too surprising.
The Red Wings came out and just flat-out dominated the first half of the second period. Mrazek didn't so much as see a shot on net until there was 11:21 left, and at the halfway point of the period, Detroit had 3 goals to Tampa's 2 shots on goal. What's almost lost in the shuffle is the goal Tatar/Jurco got completely robbed on with a defenseman making the save with his hand on the goal line. Most impressively, none of this was done with the help of a PP. This was just old-fashioned 5v5 domination. Anderson tipped in a weird Quincey shot, Abby kept his feet moving to create a breakaway goal by blocking a Victor Hedman pass, and Nyquist beat out an icing to squeak out a weird goal past Bishop. The first 10 minutes of this period was probably some of the most fun and satisfying hockey I've seen Detroit play in at least a month. Great stuff all-around. Tampa Bay got some quality chances late in the period, and the Wings were fortunate to see their best opportunities go wide of the night.
This period was super boring, and that was pretty much the best possible outcome. Tampa's offense is high-powered and has engineered a lot of 3rd period comebacks this season, but the Wings actually controlled play for the vast majority of this period. Tampa looked resigned to a defeat for much of this period, which always feels really good when you're on the other end of that.
All of this adds up to an extremely satisfying win. 2nd place in the division is probably still out of reach barring something crazy, and it would take something even crazier for the Wings to miss the playoffs, but this really helps lock down the 3rd place finish in the Atlantic.
- It sure feels good to have the Helm/Datsyuk/Tatar line back together again. The trio had 64%, 76%, and 74% corsis respectively at even strength despite some of the toughest zone starts on the team, and honestly that almost undersells how good they were in this game. It was the best line on the ice by a mile.
- It really is impressive to see how much Marek Zidlicky adds when he's on the ice in the offensive zone. Sure he has that ridiculous shot, but his knack and feel for when and how to step forward offensively is easily the best on the blue line. Every game there's at least 1 or 2 offensive possessions that he extends with his abilities.
- I felt like Henrik Zetterberg had a rough stretch of games recently, but I thought he was excellent today.
- The Red Wings foot speed is one of the key strengths of this team, and that was really on display today. Abdelkader's quickness and ability to keep his feet moving created his goal and a bunch of other chances, and Nyquist's goal was pure out-skating the defenseman. Even setting aside the goals, the zip Tatar and Helm have in the offensive zone was key in extending some of their big offensive possessions.
- Mrazek wasn't exactly heavily tested today, but we've stopped taking for granted easy saves around here, so it's really great to see him get a shutout. He did make a couple nice saves on the rare occasions that he was tested.
- Luke Glendening getting 3rd star because he lucked into an empty netter instead of Nyquist's multi-point game is dumb, but whatever.
- The Red Wings are officially the first team to shutout Tampa Bay this season.