February 14th is Valentine's Day, and is supposed to be all about love and romance and other junk like that. The Wings and Bruins played a Sunday matinee game that made us love and hate hockey all at the same. The love we felt for Petr Mrazek wavered for just a moment, but our love of the new forward lines was solidified, thanks to a dominant performance by the newly formed first line. In the end, the Wings bailed Mrazek out for once, beating the Bruins despite a poor effort from their goaltender, and leapfrogging the Bruins in the standings and moving closer to first place in the Atlantic Division.
The Bruins wasted no time breaking the hearts of Red Wing fans. 6 seconds into the first period, the Wings iced the puck, and 2 seconds after the ensuing faceoff, Brad Marchand ripped a wrist shot over the shoulder of a screened Petr Mrazek. However, the Wings wouldn't be deterred, and tied the game a little over 2 minutes later off a mad scramble in front. Henrik Zetterberg picked up a loose puck and backhanded the puck over a prone Tuukka Rask to tie the game. The Bruins challenged the play, claiming Justin Abdelkader was offside, but the review proved to be inconclusive and the goal stood. While we were all lamenting Ed Olczyk calling the game, Zach Trotman unleashed a slap shot from the blue line that found its way past Mrazek, and the Bruins had the lead again. The Wings earned the game's first power play when Brendan Smith sold a call against Zdeno Chara, but less than 20 seconds later Mrazek continued his hot start by playing the puck outside the trapezoid, resulting in a long stretch of 4 on 4. The Bruins increased their lead as David Krejci fed a pass to Loui Eriksson on an odd-man rush, and he buried the pass to make the score 3-1. The Wings got a power play shortly after that, and Pavel Datsyuk got the Wings to within 1 by putting a loose puck past Rask. The Bruins and Ed Olczyk thought that Abdelkader high-sticked the puck, but they were wrong. The Wings had another power play late in the first, but other than a Datsyuk shot that hit iron, the Wings weren't able to tie the game. The period ended with the Wings somehow down by only a single goal.
Score: 3-2 Bruins
Shots: 9-6 Red Wings
Strong Period: Pavel Datsyuk
Tough Period: Kyle Quincey
The Wings started the second period with a much better effort, and it paid off 3 minutes in when Darren Helm banked a pass in off Trotman's skate to tie the game at 3. Justin Abdelkader and Colin Miller took matching penalties for roughing and high-sticking, respectively, leading to some 4 on 4 action, but Eriksson took down D-Boss and the Wings were on the power play again. Datsyuk continued his recent resurgence and beat Rask high blocker side to give the Wings their first lead of the game. There was a scary moment just after the goal as Matt Beleskey hit Gustav Nyquist knee-on-knee, leading Nyquist to head to the bench immediately. Nyquist went to the room, and we waited for an update. While the game went on, the Wings continued to put pressure on the Bruins, holding them to zero shots for over 9 minutes. The Wings increased their lead thanks to more great work by the 4th line. Darren Helm scored again, this time on purpose, and the Wings looked to be off and running. Rask was pulled for Jonas Gustavsson, and the Bruins got some momentum when Dennis Seidenberg's long shot eluded Mrazek to get the Bruins back to within 1. The Bruins spent more time in the Wings' zone after that, but the Wings held on for a while. The Bruins received their first long PP when Brad Richards was called for tripping. Luke Glendening made a wonderful play on a rebound to prevent an open net chance, and the Wings killed the penalty without further damage. The Wings got a power play late in the period when Zac Rinaldo high-sticked Zetterberg with 11 seconds left in the second. The Wings got a good chance on an Abdelkader tip, but the period ended 5-4.
Score: 5-4 Red Wings
Shots: 27-12 Red Wings
Strong Period: Darren Helm
Tough Period: Petr Mrazek
The Wings looked to use the power play to increase their lead, but it was the Bruins that stormed out of the game, once again scoring early, this time shorthanded. Joonas Kemppainen's shot went under the arm of Mrazek, and the game was tied. The Wings held on, even when it appeared the Bruins were going to take the lead again, but as the period progressed they began to push more. The Wings regained the lead off a faceoff when Danny DeKeyser's shot was tipped in by Zetterberg, his second goal of the game. The Wings nearly increased their lead a minute later but Abdelkader's shot went wide of the open net. Mrazek's tough night continued when a puck squeaked through him and nearly in, but Abdelkader was there to keep it out of the net and preserve the lead. The Bruins pressed and pulled Gustavsson, but the Wings held on and earned the victory they deserved.
Score: 6-5 Red Wings
Shots: 35-22 Red Wings
Strong Period: The First line
Tough Period: Petr Mrazek for the 5th goal
Points of Observation:
Ed Olczyk is the absolute worst. I don't know how much longer anyone can stand watching this may call games on NBC. There was a petition to remove Mike Milbury from NBCSN, and one can only hope that if it is successful, Edzo is next.
Congratulations to future Hall of Famer Pavel Datsyuk on his reaching the 900 point mark with his first period goal. That moved him to 6th all time in Red Wing history, joining Howe, Yzerman, Delvecchio, Lidstrom and Fedorov. 4 of those players have their numbers in the rafters. I'm thinking that 2 more need to be added. Datsyuk is also your player of the game.
There's no question that the new lines have been a huge part of why the Wings look better since returning from Florida. The Datsyuk-Zetterberg-Abdelkader line had 4 of the Wing goals today and easily could have had more, while Datsyuk looks like he's finally healthy, while Zetterberg has regained his early season form. For all we complain, Abdelkader seems to really work with the two of them.
At the other end of the lineup, the 4th line of Riley Sheahan, Darren Helm and Luke Glendening has been nothing short of a revelation since being formed. Helm's 2 goals today were a needed boost of offense from an unlikely source, the game after having 9 shots on goal. That line is solid defensively and spending more time in the offensive zone than they had been prior to Helm's arrival.
At this point, barring injury, I don't see any way you bring Teemu Pulkkinen back in the lineup because he's not an upgrade over anyone already playing right now.
There's no question that Petr Mrazek has been the Wings' MVP this season, and their place in the standings is due mostly to his brilliance. However, this was easily his worst outing of the year , and I called for him to be pulled after the 3rd, 4th and 5th goals. The last two he allowed were very stoppable goals, and yet Blashill chose to leave him in. It could be that he wanted to keep Jimmy Howard fresh since Detroit plays again in a little under 24 hours, but it could also be a message to Mrazek that he will be allowed to try and work through his struggles. It could be that Mrazek simply needs a rest, and he's going through a little rough patch that all players and goalies eventually hit.
I don't know what Mrazek asked for as a birthday present, but 6 goals should be a very nice surprise.
I don't know what that first period intermission was, but everyone associated with it should be horribly embarrassed.
Brad Marchand is a very hated player by everyone with intelligence, and scoring 8 seconds into the game was not a nice way to start the game. However, the Wings completely neutralized him the rest of the way, and he finished the game with a 38.7 CF%. With Patrice Bergeron missing the game due to injury, it was important for the Wings to silence the Bruins' best player, and they did that very effectively.
The Wings finished their homestand with a 4-0-1 record, and easily could have gone completely undefeated were it not for a hot Avalanche goalie. The Wings will take to the road for a Presidents' Day matinee against the Islanders, and a chance to move within a single point of the Panthers for first place in the Atlantic.