12/6 :: Red Wings and Howard defeat Rangers

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The second half of back-to-backs have been rather forgiving to the Red Wings this season (3-1 prior to Sunday), and that trend continued with a 3-1 win over the Rangers in Manhattan on Sunday night. The Wings got goals from Pavel, Cleary, and Draper, but the story should be Jimmy Howard’s strong play in the net. The Rangers may have the perennial Vezina nominee in Henrik Lundqvist, but on this night, it was the Red Wings with the better goaltender.

The Wings annual fathers’ trip concludes with the team earning three of a possible four points during an East Coast road trip. They are now 14-10-5 through 29 games. After 29 games last season, the Wings were 20-5-4.

1. Alert the presses, Ville Leino was the odd man out at game-time, scratched in favor of Brad May. But, more realistically, it’s a comment on how well Kirk Maltby and Drew Miller have been playing, and how poorly Leino has. Rafalski was back in the lineup as well, and Kindl was a healthy scratch for the first time in his young NHL career. Milestone! Kindl will be sent back to Grand Rapids on Monday.
2. Did y’all see that flurry about halfway through the first period where the puck traveled across Lundqvist’s goal line? I was wondering how the hell it didn’t go in, but then I saw a #44 jersey in the vicinity, answering all questions. That’s for you, Kyle! (And, in reality, he had very little to do with that play aside from making it happen… he was an innocent bystander)
3. Unfortunate first goal for the Rangers, which came immediately following a Wings PP. Howard had no chance on the re-direct, but it appeared as though Jonathan Ericsson did nothing except wave his stick at the goal scorer Boyle. Not quite sure what the hope was there…
4. That penalty shot scenario was 1,000% the fault of Ericsson. Retarded giveaway, inability to catch Callahan, and a ridiculous hook. He owes Jimmy Howard a steak, as Howard made a fantastic save on the shot. Game saver, too, because being down 2-0 in an opponent’s barn – especially one as hostile as MSG – would have been trouble.
5. U-G-L-Y, you ain’t got no alibi, power play. That second power play was atrocious, but thankfully Pavel gets off his schneid four seconds after the penalty expired, which was quick enough that Marc Staal hadn’t made his way back into the play yet.
6. Best Name Nominee Artem Anisimov got rocked by Brad Stuart. Clean hit, shoulder to chest. That’s what you get for having your head down in the neutral zone, son.
7. Sean Avery pulled a Todd Bertuzzi, completely whiffing on a wide open net during a third period power play. The way the game had been played up to that point, that could have been the difference. His aim must have been off after sustaining the life-threatening injury from that punishing and menacing knee-to-knee from the notoriously dirty Henrik Zetterberg.
8. The parade to the penalty box was strong in third, but J-Ho (not to be confused with Jai Ho) was the best penalty killer on the Wings. The PK has been notoriously bad this season (particularly on the road), but they were 4-for-4 on Sunday night, including three in a row in the final period.
9. After a phenomenal pass-play to Marian Gaborik, which was perfectly defended by Nicklas Lidstrom, the puck goes 180 feet, capped off by a nifty Zetterberg-to-Cleary play that made it 2-1 Wings, which was their first lead since November. It would stick – and Draper would add an empty netter. Winner winner, chicken dinner.
10. Finally, many thanks to those of you that voted for TPL in the Wings Blog-Off, as we were lucky enough to advance to Round Two. Congratulations to The Triple Deke, Nightmare on Helm Street, Abel to Yzerman, Winging it in Motown, The Scrappy Octopus,  On the Wings, Snipe Snipe Dangle Dangle, and Hockeytown Static! Head over to vote for your favorites: all are great choices.

1. The Wings needed to play like they did in the Devils game. It was a good effort, and they played a better, more complete game than they have made the norm this season.
2. Nick Lidstrom played a hell of a game. Much has been said of his lack of offensive output, but two assists will suffice. Plenty should be said about his defense from Sunday’s game – he was the best player on either blueline .
3. I somewhat called out Zetterberg and Datsyuk in the last post-game, as have plenty of others, but they combined for a goal and two assists. They were, as they should be, the best Red Wings and were difference-makers.
4. Jimmy Howard: Good Jimmy showed up, stopping a penalty shot and another breakaway in the second period alone. He stood on his head, and for the first time in a little while, a goaltender won a game for the Red Wings.
5. Helm/Draper/Eaves: another strong game, like we’ve come to expect. They were rewarded with an empty netter from Draper, assisted by Helm.

What’s next?
Wednesday, the Blues visit the Joe. The Wings are 1-2 against the Blues so far this season.

Photo Credit: Paul Bereswell, AP