First Round Effort: As I suggested last night, the Wings’ played a game last night that probably would have been good enough to beat Phoenix. George put it better in his reaction post (well worth reading in its entirety):
… it appeared that the Red Wings thought that they were playing the Phoenix Coyotes for the game’s first twenty-five minutes, and instead, a San Jose Sharks team that’s more than just a cut above the Coyotes pounced all over the Wings as they belatedly adjusted to playing a bigger, stronger, faster, and more offensively talented team.
Bad Breaks: I think the Wings’ effort, early and later adjusted, may have been enough to beat the Sharks in a game where there were no bad breaks. But this wasn’t one of those games. As it was, they needed an even better effort to pull this one off. But since they didn’t, two plays (bad breaks, if you will) in particular stand out. You know what they are:
- Devin Setoguchi and Johan Franzen pass by each other at center. Franzen’s stick lightly taps Setoguchi’s leg. Setoguchi is evidently simultaneously sniped by hockey’s Loki. His stick clips Franzen’s face, cuts him. The ref calls Franzen for tripping and ignores the bleeding.
- Less than a minute later, Filppula’s stick catches Setoguchi in the shoulder/chest at best. Setoguchi, the unlucky sap, is once again simultaneously sniped by Loki. Or at least, his leg function is removed by the wily hockey god. He lays there stunned. Fortunately for him, Loki set the whistle as the signal for the return of his mobility for as soon as it blows, Setoguchi’s on his feet feeling pretty good about himself.
Now, obviously, the actual cause of those incidents is Setoguchi’s gutlessness and referee gullibility and self-hatred, not a retasked Norse god. And because I hate associating calls with losses, I wouldn’t mention them were it not for a couple things:
- If the refs wanted to call the trip on Franzen, fine. But send Setoguchi off for four minutes. Give the Wings their two minute power play (correct me if I’m wrong; I think that’s how it’d’ve wored).
- Setoguchi, who shouldn’t have been on the ice, then drew another penalty with his Oscar-worthy acting. Both penalties carried over to the third. And Joe Pavelski scored the deal-sealer on that 5-on-3. A 5-on-3 that never should have happened.
Call it whining if you want, but if you believe that, you know, it’s important that refs get things right, that sequence was a travesty. And no, that sequence was not the one and only reason the Wings lost, but it would be ludicrous to pretend it wasn’t a big factor. One I would have liked to have seen the Wings overcome, sure, but a factor nonetheless.
Datsyuk: Best Red Wing of the night. The guy looked on and like he wanted to win it all on his own. He did great thing offensively and great things defensively to round out a strong night and, I hope, set the tone for his second round performance. On a lot of nights, that could have been enough.
Franzen: Finally, the Mule we know and love made an appearance. That goal was vintage Franzen. And he had a few other chances that were, too. Here’s hoping that, combined with somebody making him bleed his own blood (h/t @stephtronic via @jennyquarx), sparks him for a big second round.
Fourth Line: Strangely enough, I thought this was the Wings’ best of the night, at least early on and in terms of shift-by-shift impact. Abdelkader and Company pinned the Sharks a number of times and really made themselves a nuisance. If they can contribute a goal like that every night, it’ll be a big factor in the Wings’ efforts to out-depth the Sharks.
Howard: Not his strongest night through four goals allowed. But he came up big aside from that on shifts when the Sharks had the ice tilted in their favor. We need Jimmy to tighten down his 5-hole, but if he does that, they’re in good shape against this team.
Nabokov: I gotta say, he looked shaky and perhaps the Wing’s biggest failure last night was that they failed to take advantage of that by creating followup chances. Nabokov often makes the first save, but how many times did he do that in a way that had him majorly out of position? Often enough that the Wings have to be kicking themselves a bit today. They need to create followup chances in Game 2 and beyond.
Thornton: Looked less like an inanimate corpse out there and at least more like one of those old-school slow-moving zombies that are still dangerous but only if you’re not careful. He assisted on the Heatley goal, but honestly the moment that stands out in my mind was his snowjob on Howard at the end of the first. I just wish the Wings’d fed off that for the remainder of the game, as it was one of the more classless moves of the night.
Cleary: Very fortunate he apparently doesn’t have a major head injury on a fluke play at center. The collision with Abdelkader was scary enough without the knee to the head by Blake (who made contact accidently. Not blaming him here.). When Cleary made it back to the bench, he didn’t look like a player with a head injury, so it makes me think he might have just torqued his neck.
Official interference: I don’t know about you, but I saw a Shark step off the bench, get tied up with an official and manage to trip a Wing flying down the wing on a rush at one point in the third. Seemed to me to be too many men, but I’m not an expert.
Pavelski: I said this last night, but it bears repeating: the Wings need to shut down that guy. Two goals is bad enough without all the space he was given. I don’t know what happened with the assignments, but they need to get Zetterberg and Lidstrom out there when he’s out, STAT. Let Datsyuk and Kronwall/Stuart take care of the top line.
Lines: Speaking of lines, Babs did some mixing at the end. I wonder if he’ll stick to it.
Setoguchi: Be aware, Wings, sneezing on, or in the general direction of, Devin Setoguchi will result in a penalty. Also, if you find his guts, burn them. He prefers to remain gutless.
In Summary: So, the Wings put on a good effort overall. They just need to ramp things up even further. This is the first loss of the playoffs I’m not going to freak out about. They didn’t come out flat like in Game 1, Round 1 and so we know that’s not the issue. What we saw last night was probably as much a product of the short break as anything. They still managed a stiff fight, but couldn’t kick in that extra umph needed to beat both the officials beating them and the Sharks’ restedness. That shouldn’t be an issue Sunday.
They can split.