Preseason Game Recap: Wings 4 - Leafs 2

The first of three straight games against the Toronto Maple Leafs ended in favor of the good guys. Rematch tomorrow.

The Toronto Maple Leafs came to town for the first time since some guy named Mike Babcock left Detroit. This was predictably the big story of tonight's meaningless preseason game, but something tells me the players are as sick of the Babcock media circus as the fans. That something happens to be called Niklas Kronwall, who quickly shut down any talk of his former coach in his first intermission interview, wanting instead to focus on the game at hand. Good thing too, because the Wings were too busy winning to worry about the familiar guy behind the Leafs bench.

First Period:

Well that didn't start the way we wanted. Mike Green was welcomed back after injury in typical Detroit defense fashion - by scoring a goal for the other team when the puck bounced off of him and into the net. Fortunately the top line was on the case and a pretty feed from Captain Henrik Zetterberg to resident piano man Justin Abdelkader got the equalizer less than 90 seconds later. The Leafs got a couple of good chances off a Dylan Larkin miscue in front of the net, but fortunately for the kid, Toronto didn't capitalize. At 5:21, Drew Miller gave the Wings a 2-1 lead with a goal from the slot with two Leafs below the goal line.

With about six minutes left, the teams went to 4-on-4 hockey after a weird goaltender interference call on Arcobello at the same time Arcobello was hooked by Miller. Kronwall nearly scored on another nice feed from Zetterberg down low, but was turned away by a crease-sliding James Reimer. That's the activating of the defense we've been hearing so much about in Blashill's system. Both penalties expired without consequence, but we saw Larkin, Zetterberg, Green, and Kronwall all out together for the time being. Tell me that's not a sexy combination of players and I will call you a liar. Larkin intercepted a pass in the neutral zone and caused a whole lot of trouble for Toronto as the Wings were able to sustain some pressure off the possession change. Dion Phaneuf finally got called for interference with about 31 seconds left in the period, and the Wings will start the second period on the PP.

Score: 2-1 Wings
Shots: 14-12 DET

Standout Players: Larkin, Howard, Miller
Tough Period: Tatar, Martin Marincin's right ear

Abdelkader goal

Miller goal

Second Period:

Leafs kill off the early power play and then it's a bunch of back-and-forth hockey for both teams. Green broke up a 2-on-1 nicely by just tipping the puck down out of the air and letting it roll out of reach of the attacking Leaf. Blashill decided to switch up the lines halfway through the second, putting Larkin with Zetterberg and Abdelkader and Nyquist with Richards and Tatar, though we did see this reversed later in the game. There was a bunch of pretty passing by the Wings with the Leafs largely on their heels, but of course there was one pass too many when Johan Franzen's attempt to Green was broken up by a sliding Nazem Kadri. Larkin continued to use his speed throughout the second to create problems for the Leafs defense.

The Wings had trouble getting any sort of offensive push for a few minutes, and when they finally were able to get out of their own zone, Tomas Tatar took a hooking penalty with 71 seconds to go. The Leafs took advantage and tied the score 2-2 with 31 seconds left on a PP goal, which was similar to the one Miller scored in the first. Richards had a good chance to untie it in the last 20 seconds, but Reimer made a good glove save to deny him. A lot of players are having meh nights, and it's disappointingly the guys we need to show their stuff. Nyquist has been noticeably unnoticeable and Tatar is still doing that annoying dipsy-doodling stuff that continues to turn around and bite him.

Score: 2-2
Shots: 27-21 TOR

Standout Players: still Larkin, Howard, Richards
Tough Period: still Tatar, Sheahan, Nyquist

Third Period:

Wings go right back to the PK as our bearded Captain takes a holding penalty 25 seconds in. Detroit kills 1:22 of the penalty before Phaneuf takes his second minor of the game, taking down Larkin for having the audacity to hit him. During the brief 4-on-4, Franzen had a great backhand shot in front of Reimer after a steal from Robidas, and despite the flurry in the crease after, the puck was safely in Reimer's glove. I really liked Green's swift puck movement from the point once the Wings were on the power play, and on the next zone entry, he made a nice cross-ice pass to Nyquist that turned into a behind-the-back drop pass (eek!) right to Zetterberg, who made no mistake putting it through Reimer's five-hole to put his team up 3-2.

Cleary took a stick to the face from teammate Brian Lashoff, probably jarring whatever teeth he had left loose. This had many fans calling for Lashoff to be named player of the game and his number retired. But let's be real, folks, Cleary's going to benefit from broken teeth because it's easier to tear through the flesh of the living that way. Anyway, Andy Miele had a couple good chances late, including a break behind the Leafs defense, but Stephane Robidas got back to prevent the diminutive forward from getting a shot off. The Leafs pulled Reimer shortly after but it didn't take long for Richards to score an empty-net goal.

Score: 4-2 Wings
Shots: 33-30 TOR

Standout Players: Zetterberg, Green, Howard
Tough Period: The kids not named Larkin or Ouellet

Phaneuf penalty

Zetterberg goal

Final Thoughts

Larkin is still good and should make the team. Fin.

Just kidding, there's more to talk about. I thought Howard was solid this game, and he very well could have regained his starter's position for a week from today. Green is an exciting adventure on the ice, and as long as the good things he does outweighs the not-good, I have a feeling we're going to like him around for the next three seasons.

I really don't know what it is with the Kid Line players. They're not playing together, obviously, but all of Tatar, Sheahan, and Nyquist have been having really uninspiring preseasons. I hope this isn't an omen of things to come, because those three are going to be crucial parts of the Red Wings puzzle this year.

Cleary had an assist. I don't care and you probably don't either. The goal he assisted on was Drew Miller's third of the preseason, so let's celebrate the majestic Silver Fox instead. Yay!