Who You Gonna Call? Red Wings 3 - Flyers 0
To call tonight's game against the Flyers crucial is to not give enough importance to what was at stake. The only two things more important than beating Philadelphia are breathing and eating, two things that very few Red Wing fans did throughout Wednesday's game. The Red Wings came up with a fantastic performance, getting goals from Darren Helm, Andreas Athanasiou and Kyle Quincey to give the Wings a 3-0 victory and move them 2 points clear of the Flyers and idle Bruins in their quest for a 25th straight playoff appearance.
The pace at the beginning of the game was frantic, with the teams going up and down the ice. The Wings had some icing problems through the first 6 minutes, but faceoff wins prevented any damage from occurring. There weren't too many great scoring chances through the first half of the period, with both teams choosing to play cautious and safe. The Wings got on the board with the crucial first goal. A faceoff win led to the puck getting deep in the Flyers zone. Pressure from Brad Richards caused the puck to get out front, and Darren Helm got his stick on the puck and it went up and over Steve Mason. The Wings got the game's first power play and had a few good looks, but couldn't pad their lead. The Flyers got their first power play late in the period when Tomas Jurco was called for tripping. The Wings killed it off, thanks in part to a wonderful shift by Luke Glendening. The period ended with matching minors to Justin Abdelkader and Claude Giroux and the Wings leading 1-0.
Score: 1-0 Red Wings
Shots: 9-6 Red Wings
Strong period: Darren Helm
Tough period: Our ears for listening to the NBCSN crew
The period began 4-on-4, and Helm had another good chance but couldn't get it past Mason. The Flyers got another power play when Abdelkader was called for tripping, but the Wings were the team with the offense when Andreas Athanasiou made the most of his 5 minutes of ice time* (*ed. note: this part was written mid-2nd period) and scored on a shorthanded breakaway, giving the Wings a critical 2-goal lead. The Wings poured it on after that, earning a power play and doing everything they could to score but making things easy for Mason by shooting it right at him instead of in the net. Helm was robbed on a breakaway, and the Wings missed the net several times on great chances. The Flyers got another power play when Pavel Datsyuk was called for tripping. Voracek hit the crossbar, and the Wings were down another 2 men without sticks, but the Flyers were unable to score. Philly got the better of the play after that, but Jimmy Howard was strong in the Wings' net, preserving the 2-goal lead. The Wings got a power play late in the period, but the old Wings' PP showed up and it was completely ineffective. The period ended with the Wings maintaining their 2-goal lead as we all clenched our butts heading into the third.
Score: 2-0 Red Wings
Shots: 19-18 Red Wings
Strong Period: Luke Glendening
Tough Period: Justin Abdelkader
The Wings got on their heels early in the third period as the 4th line got hemmed in, but escaped without any damage inflicted. The Flyers had issues icing the puck, but despite several offensive zone faceoffs, the Wings could not get another puck past Mason. Gustav Nyquist had a glorious opportunity to increase the lead but Mason made a stellar save. Danny DeKeyser took a high-sticking penalty 8 minutes into the period, but several key blocks and timely saves by Howard kept the game at 2-0. The play went 4-on-4 when Wayne Simmonds and DeKeyser were called for offsetting roughing penalties. The Wings had a few chances, and the Wings went back to the power play, this time with Abdelkader and Michael Raffl going off for roughing but Simmonds taking an extra penalty for elbowing. The Flyers pulled the goalie with 2 minutes left, but Kyle Quincey called his shot, a perfect bank off the boards, the jumbotron, the glass, and the noggin of one of the 4 Flyers fans in attendance to ice the game and end the home portion of the regular season with a victory.
Score: 3-0 Red Wings
Shots: 30-26 Flyers
Strong Period: Jimmy Howard
Tough Period: No one, let's get weird
Points of Observation
The Wings had a lot of problems with icing the puck tonight, particularly in the first period as the Flyers clogged up the neutral zone and took away passing lanes. Fortunately for them, the Wings were great in the faceoff circle and didn't allow the Flyers to set up in the Wings' zone. As the game progressed, the Wings got much better on breaking out of their own zone and use their speed to establish a forecheck.
There are many who wrote off Jimmy Howard during his slump earlier, claiming that the team was Petr Mrazek's and he was the goalie of the future. Mrazek struggled, and Howard stepped in and was very good. Tonight, he was spectacular, and now looks like the #1 goalie again after a 30-save shutout. I have no idea what his recent performance will do to his trade value or what should happen with him after the season is over. All I know is it's great to have a goalie playing this well at the most important time of the year. He's your Player of the Game.
Darren Helm was a close second, as he had a monster of a game. He scored the game's first goal by going to the net, led the team in shots with 4, and had several other quality chances. The Flyers struggled with the Wings' speed all night, and Helm was a big reason why.
Obligatory point about ice time distribution for young wingers.
The Wings' much-maligned defense had a particularly strong game. After giving up 22 shots in the first period of their last meeting with the Flyers, the Wings held them to 30 over the course of the game, and won the scoring chance battle despite being out-attempted at even strength. In the third period when the Wings were holding on to their 2 goal lead and everyone in the building knew the Flyers would be desperate, the Wings only gave up 12 shots, and 5 scoring chances. The Wing defenders, particularly Kyle Quincey and Danny DeKeyser, did a very good job of containing the bigger Flyer forwards and not allowing them to get to the front of the net without any resistance.
The Calder voters will have a lot of video of Shayne Gostisbehere to review after tonight. Unfortunately, most of it will be him getting torched at a blue line by a much faster and better Red Wing player.
A player who quietly had a very strong game was Gustav Nyquist. He made a phenomenal move that nearly resulted in a goal were it not for a great save by Steve Mason, and was doing his little jitterbug skating thing all over the ice. He had the best CF% of any Red Wing skater at +7 and had 3 of the Wings' 18 scoring chances.
Tonight probably was the Wings' most complete game of the season, and it couldn't have come at a better time. There will be zero rest, as they will head to Boston for a matchup with the Bruins tomorrow. There are lots of scenarios that could result in a Wings' playoff berth, but ultimately it comes down to this: if the Wings win in any fashion tomorrow, they are in the playoffs for a 25th straight season. They continue to control their destiny, and another effort like tonight's should see them make it yet again.