Final Scores (Hi Dad! x2)
Red Wings 4-0 Ducks
Kings 3-2 Red Wings (OT)
Eleven Observations of a Former Hockey Player
:: Obviously, the story that will live on from the Ducks game is Jimmy Howard’s second shutout of the Quacks this season. He’s been playing really well all year, and it shouldn’t be a surprise anymore when he turns in a great effort like this. He looks confident, and his teammates are very much at ease knowing he’ll bail them out more often than not. That’s a quality goaltender — gives his team a great chance to win every night, so long as they don’t crap the bed. I was trying to think of which goalie is “the best” in the league yesterday, though I generally hate discussions like that. There are insanely talented guys who just aren’t getting the job done (Luongo, Miller) and legends walking among us (Brodeur), but aside from Tim Thomas and Carey Price, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better goaltender in the league than Tiberius. That’s saying a hell of a lot.
:: There’s a lot of talk about how poorly the defense is playing, and I respectfully disagree. This will be familiar if you read the Spaceballs pre-game, so apologies for that, but there’s a difference between playing weak defense and playing efficient defense. No one should expect to have their goaltender face fewer than twenty shots in any given game. If that happens — and it does — it’s a combination of exceptional circumstances, and probably says more about the horrid offense of the opposition than the stellar defense of your squad. Allowing 41 shots sounds like a lot, but Howard saw each and every one of them clearly, and was able to play them well. When there was a rebound or a scrum, his defense was there to mop up. I’d happily take 40 unobstructed low-percentage shots over 15 quality opportunities every night of the week.
:: Dan Cleary is doing whatever he wants right now. And the best part about it is that he’s still under the radar somehow. You don’t always notice the effort he’s putting in on every shift, and neither do the opposing teams. That’s evidenced by the fact that he’s scoring every night, and kind of popping up out of nowhere to do it.
:: Perhaps after Operation: Curly Fries proves to be a complete and total success, we’ll begin an effort to collect funds to buy Darren Helm some hands. I adore him. He’s literally one of the most valuable players on the team. He’s easily one of the most underrated players on the entire planet. If he could score goals on his several breakaways, he’d be every bit as dangerous as Pavel Datsyuk is, on the whole.
:: Jiri Hudler is invisible. I dig him, and wish he’d do well. But he’s running out of time for the “his paycheck requires he stays in the lineup” excuse to have any merit. We all know he has it in him to score timely goals, but with Kris Draper ready to make his return, and Patrick Eaves and Drew Miller playing incredible hockey, you’d be right to think the least valuable player in the lineup was Jiri Hudler. He didn’t deserve to play in Los Angeles, but I’m sure Babcock is just trying to get him going. It isn’t working. Here’s hoping it will eventually.
:: This is also a repeat from the pre-game, but Ruslan Salei made a play on a penalty kill that will go completely unnoticed by most viewers, but is every bit deserving of praise as any other defensive play of the season. He gained the blue line, on his own, with attackers nearby — lost the puck momentarily, and then blocked their re-entry into the zone, deflecting a pass (it ended up heading into the bench area). Then, he hit the brakes directly on the center red line and made a change, knowing he’d likely not have a better opportunity. And he did it with a look on his face like he didn’t do anything special. That’s a series of plays that are pretty difficult and he wasn’t even outwardly satisfied with his beautiful play — for the same reason Dan Cleary wasn’t happy with just being ahead in the Anaheim game: this is a good hockey club and they aren’t satisfied being “rah rah Red Wings.” They want perfection.
:: Chris Osgood didn’t allow a goal in the opening minute, which is excellent news. In fact, he played pretty damn well — particularly for a guy coming back in off of a long-term injury. I hate the first goal he allowed (which was, incidentally, in the opening minute of the second period), but there was nothing he can do about the second, which bounced off of Darren Helm (they tell me… I didn’t really see it clearly). The overtime winner left something to be desired, too, since he played such a strong game. It was a very quick shot, one-timed off of a strong cross-ice pass, and Osgood got over in time: he just missed it. To be clear, he’s not expected to stop such a shot… I was just hoping he would. Oh, and also, getting penalized for playing the puck behind the goal line is bush league. The rules didn’t change in November, boss!
:: Immediately following that first Kings goal, Todd Bertuzzi saves the day — scoring a goal on a beautiful shot where he picked a corner (who knew?). That goal was exceptional, and it did two things: it put the Wings back ahead, where they belong; and it lessened the pressure on Chris Osgood, who was probably thinking he was going to get a lot of flack for allowing a goal as soon as the puck dropped after intermission. If the Wings hadn’t scored less than a minute after that goal… we’d still be talking about it.
:: On Friday night, I was extremely impressed with Ruslan Salei. On Saturday night, it was Jonathan Ericsson. I’m notoriously hard on Rig, but he’s playing well and I’m man enough to admit that. His goal in the first was a goddamn laser beam. That’s the kind of thing he should be doing — he has a 100mph+ shot (allegedly) but he’s taken, in my approximation, four shots in his entire NHL career. In addition to that canon, he’s been playing some mean defense. Very few miscues, and making the simple plays he has to make. Good on him. He was rewarded by being on the ice in overtime. Do you think he would have been at this time one year ago?
:: Brad Stuart was all testosteroney on Saturday night. Methinks he doesn’t like that Los Angeles gave up on him and shipped him out of town. He let every single player in black and purple (tee hee… purple) know it.
:: Kris Draper played only five minutes in his return to the Red Wings. I don’t remember seeing him except on the bench once. I’m sure he’s being eased back into action, and probably has a bit of rust to shake off. I don’t think he’ll be coming out of the lineup in the next few games, but may join the rotation soon. I’d be shocked if Miller isn’t scratched for the next game… I’m pretty sure Babcock is going to at least complete one rotation of the Eaves/Miller thing before pulling Hudler (or Draper) out.