Sunday, December 1, 2013

Unexpected Game Review: Wings-4:Senators-2

Since I started my first full-time teaching job, I haven't been able to watch much hockey or blarg about it. Part of that is due to the fact that I haven't had the time, and part of it is because I decided to spend money so that I could play hockey again instead of renewing my NHL TV package. It's a hard knock life.

Needless to say, I'm always excited when I go through the TV channels I do have access to and there's Red Wings hockey on. It usually means I have to watch shitty coverage from NHL on NBC or, in tonight's case, shitty coverage from the NHL Network. But at least I got to watch the game, and what a game it was!

Obviously the big story was Daniel Alfredsson's return to Ottawa for the first time since signing with the Red Wings. I'm obligated by sports writer/blogger law to make mention of it, so this will be the first and only mention of it. The tribute video was great, the fans response was great. Moving on.

The first period was a pretty even tilt between the two teams. Both teams seemed to have a lot of energy and intensity and speed. To go along with that energy, intensity and speed was a whole lot of inconsistency and chippy play. The Red Wings never really got the opportunity to set up the puck possession game they wanted to, but the Senators also sort of over-committed or pursued sometimes. They were running around, trying to lay the body on the Wings, and certainly racked up the hits, but it seemed without cohesion or a plan. It did, as I mentioned, disrupt the puck possession of Detroit, but they also couldn't turn it into goals and scoring chances.

The big story of the first period were the two penalties taken by Detroit. The interference call was fair, but as I tweeted, Darren Helm is the victim of those kinds of plays pretty much every shift and it isn't called. Speaking of Darren Helm, he had a couple of excellent chances while shorthanded, including a quasi-breakaway that he couldn't finish. The first penalty kill, the Wings had as many shots as the Senators did. The second penalty, a dumb too many men penalty, the Red Wings kept the Senators from even getting a shot.

The second period, the Wings really got their game going, and the two goals they scored were demonstrative of that. Franzen takes a good pass and just rips a shot past Lehner, and Drew Miller gets his first of two goals. The pass from Tomas Tatar was just... fuuuuuuuuuuck that kid is good. He's averaging a point about every two games, and is really only part of the story. He's hungry for the puck, makes good decisions with it, has been reliable defensively and showing a lot of poise and skill. At one point, he put on a damned near Datsyukian stick handling clinic, making the Senators chase the puck while keeping it away, and getting shot and pass attempts to keep the play alive in the offensive zone.

The second and third periods showed a lot of intensity from the Senators. They scored their first goal when the whistle should have been blown, but wasn't. They drove the net hard and when Gustavsson bobbled the puck after when the whistle should have been blown, they popped it free and eventually into the net. But they got a lot of scoring chances due to long, bad changes and/or smart passing. Gustavsson had to be good for the Wings tonight, and he continued to do so.

Let's hand out the first game pucks in a long time, and call it an evening.

The Bret Lebda Game Puck: Brendan Smith - He didn't have a good game. There was the huge, stupid turnover that Monster had to bail him out on. There was the dumb penalty he didn't have to take because he had already defused the scoring threat, and then just decided, "HERP DERP! LET'S HAUL A DUDE DOWN TO THE ICE!" I'm not to crisis point with Smith, yet, but he's continuing to struggle and it is a concern. 

The Kris Draper Game Puck: Darren Helm - The "best 3rd line center in the league" has become one of the better 2nd line centers. He's scoring goals, winning face offs and being all around awesome since finally returning from injury. Here's the crazy thing: he's getting 2nd line center minutes AND doing power play minutes AND doing penalty kill minutes and every shift he is still balls to the wall intense. That's just insane.

10 Points to Griffins-dor: Tomas Tatar - The orgasm above wasn't indicative enough?

The Perfect Puck: Tomas Tatar and Niklas Kronwall - Two perfect passes give Drew Miller his first goal

O' Captain, My Captain Game Puck: Drew Miller - Oh sure, he benefits from some excellent passes from his team mates, but he's positioning himself perfectly to receive those passes and putting the puck in the net. His second goal he had to skate to stick it at speed, which is not easy, and shoot those pucks perfectly. Plus, he's been consistently good for the Wings and has worked hard every game.

Last note: I caught a lot of shit awhile back because I said that if the Red Wings couldn't beat the Jets in regulation, they weren't a playoff team. People spent a lot of time ignoring the things I was saying and flipping out over things I didn't say. The point I was making is that there were a lot of problems with this team that needed fixing - and that horrible losing streak was proof of that.

Since that time, the Red Wings have improved most of the problems I was seeing - goal scoring, goal tending, and attitude. The last one first: When the game is in hand, you have to have the killer instinct to score one more goal and put it away. The Red Wings weren't doing that and losing games late because of it. Tonight, the Senators came within one, and the Wings got an empty netter right away to get the 2 goal lead back.

Scoring is getting better, and the kind of depth scoring that helped take the Wings to Stanley Cups in years past, has picked up. Goaltending has gotten better, with Gustavsson really showing he can be a quality 2nd goalie.

So I said tonight that THIS Red Wings team could beat the Jets in regulation; if they get the defensive struggles underway and keep plugging away with everything else, they will be a playoff team. I said specifically that they had plenty of time to do it, and I did expect them to. It's good to see it happen now and not in February and March.

Keep it rollin', boys. Let's go Red Wings

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