… The Ducks have lept out to a 5-5-3 record this season, which is good for last in the Pacific (three teams above them have 14 points).
… They’ve lost four in a row, but earned a point in their last two, in Washington (OT) and New York (SO). This is the last of a 7-game road stretch for them, a trip on which they’ve earned just one win, so couple that with the losses and you’ve got a tired team that’s nonetheless looking to snap a skid. Here’s hoping they fall more on the tired side than the angry one.
… The Wings have lost six straight, though they did earn a point in the fifth. The six game in this skid came Thursday night against Calgary in a 4-1 decision that took the team to lows not seen since February 2008.
… They’ll be without Patrick Eaves (sore back) and Bertuzzi (sick). Fabian Brunnstrom has been recalled to fill in. Khan has the lines they skated with yesterday, though with Bertuzzi out, there’s a chance they’ll change. Hard to imagine they’d put Brunnstrom on the top line with Pavel and Cleary.
… Jimmy will get the start. Hopefully, he’ll continue to play as well as he has been and that he’ll get the support he deserves tonight.
… The Wings could probably use a few more days between games to get some more practices in and sort this out, but since they don’t have that, they really need to find a way to work it out in-game. Playing a nominal rival like the Ducks should provide added motivation to the mix. Tonight, the skid has to end.
Sorry for getting this out so late. I wasn’t able to write it up on lunch.
An Earned Result: George nailed it. The Wings deserved this one. They played barely well enough to stick with the Ducks and not close to well enough to pull away from them. Their PP effort was pathetic and their play at even strength wasn’t exactly great. They were well on a trajectory to lose well before Salei tugged Ryan’s arm.
About That: It was a penalty and, given where Ryan was relative to everyone else, a penalty shot. I just wish he didn’t feel he had to dive. More than that, I wish Salei had let Jimmy take him. There’s a point at which a defenseman should accept that he’s beaten, at which flailing to make up for it only makes it worse. Salei was at that point on that play. A good ref makes that call 100 times out of 100.
Upside to That Sequence: Jimmy’s reaction to the game-winner. That was one pissed goaltender. It’s almost too bad MacDonald is in tonight, because I’m sure Jimmy would have had a heck of a game in San Jose. I like to think that part of that frustration was directed at his teammates. After all, Jimmy showed up to play. He only faced 29 shots, but he had a few brilliant saves and look sharp in general.
More Like Powerless Play, Amirite? I already said this, but it bears repeating: the PP sucked. So they got one goal. But failed on 9 other chances. This was a penalty fest and should have been a game for the Wings’ PP to shine. Maybe that was the problem: too many power plays?
Not much else to say: Really. I don’t have much in my Twitter notes and there isn’t much else that sticks out. This was a dull game. I hope the PP is in better shape tonight.
… The Sharks have won all three games since we saw them last, and have now won 7 in a row. They’re up to 80 points now, just five back of the Wings. That’s close enough to get NHL.com a little overexcited about the second-seed battle aspect of this game.
Update (4:34 PM): Looks like Khan was wrong: the Freep reports Abdelkader will sit. - Matt
… This is the fourth and final meeting between the Wings and the Ducks this season. The Wings have won the first three meetings, beginning with a 4-0 decision to open the season, continuing with a 5-4 comeback win later in October and setting up a potential season sweep with another 4-0 win on December 3rd.
… The Ducks went 5-5-1 in February, a month that included both a four-game win streak and a four-game losing streak. They managed to get three of four points to close out the month, however, so they’re somwwhat on the upswing.
… Their 33-25-5 record overall is good for 71 points and 11th place in the West, just three back of 8th place LA.
… The Ducks’ big deadline acquisition was Brad Winchester. I’m guessing David Perron didn’t shed any tears at the departure of his former teammate. And it looks like he’ll be in tonight.
… Injuries for Anaheim include Saku Koivu and Jonas Hiller. Corey Perry left practice yesterday and is questionable.
… Dan Ellis will get the start tonight with Hiller out. Ellis came over from Tampa Bay in a deal last week, and will offer opportunities for Twitter-related humor, I’m sure.
… The Wings are coming off a 7-4 win over the Kings Monday night. Unfortunately, I had to quit the game thanks to a headache, so I can only say that I hope they didn’t use up their weekly offensive output on that one game.
… Johan Franzen, now the proud father of a baby mule, will make his return to the lineup after being a good husband instead of playing hockey Monday night. That means somebody’s got to sit. Miller scored twice Monday but that may not save him. I guess we’ll see. Khan suggests Draper, which would make sense.
… The Wings have won six in a row on the road and are 22-8-2 on the road (versus 17-10-4 at home) this season, so they’ve got plenty of reason to stick to business tonight and take care of the Ducks. There’s always a little fire to these matchups, so it should be an entertaining game. Just one I hope the Wings will control.
Jimmy Howard: One of two big stories in this game, for sure. 41 saves to close out his starting streak in style. He was very much on his game and had to make a number of key saves. A big game for a guy who has to start entering discussions on big time goalies.
Offense versus defense: The other story of the night. The Wings’ offense is as dangerous across the board on an otherwise average night as anyone’s in the League is on a stellar night. The defense still needs work, however. It’s unusual to me to see the Wings look so lost in their own end after years of defensive prowess, but it’s what we’re getting right now. They’re leaning too heavily on the the Jimmy in the defensive end and that’s not Red Wings hockey. Any team with the likes of Nick Lidstrom, Brian Rafalski, Niklas Kronwall and Brad Stuart in the top four and a resurgent Jonathan Ericsson and a steady Ruslan Salei in the third pairing should not be giving up 41 shots to a team of the Ducks’ quality.
Because here’s the thing: offense is cyclical. At some point, the odds are it’s going to dry up, even on a team as deep as the Wings. A steady defense is kind of important during those stretches.
Refereeing: I did think the Ducks played about as clean a game as I’ve ever seen them play, but it was still absurd that the Wings had to deal with three penalty kills in a row before they finally got one power play. That’s pretty pathetic.
Perry: I’m not sure there’s a more gutless guy in the League today. Cross-checking Holmstrom after his goal? Just another in a long line of evidence in the case against Corey Perry. There isn’t a player in the League less worthy of respect.
Getzlaf: I’d like to know who picked the stars. Getzlaf as #2? When Fil had two points? Franzen as #3 when he had two points and the game-winner?
Ericsson: Jonny’s back.
Tonight: Facing off against a Kings team thatÂ started out the season 12-2-0. That ended when a six-game winning streak was halted by the Sharks on November 15th. They’ve since gone 2-7-0 and fallen to third in the Pacific, though their fast start has them only three points out of first.
They’d lost four in a row before they beat the Panthers 3-2 Thursday.
On the Wings’ side, we’re getting Chris Osgood and Kris Draper back tonight. Should be interesting to see what their respective rust level. Would be good if the D shows up.
Here’s hoping the Wings can stand in the way of the Kings getting back on their feet for at least one more game.
Comeback: It wasn’t the cleanest comeback effort, but it was a comeback win and that counts for something. This team may not being doing all the things it needs to do for long-term success, but it’s showing that it has the building blocks. Them not quitting when down 3-1 or when the Ducks pulled ahead again at 4-3 is a good sign. The fact that they were in either situation is not, but this point is to focus on the positive.
Defense: On to the negative.
The first Ducks goal was sad: Bobby Ryan left wide open out front. I say it all began with Bertuzzi going after Visnovsky at the blueline when Franzen already had him covered. The goal happened a bit after that, but if Bertuzzi hadn’t committed out at the blueline, he may have been able to make a difference out front.
The second one: all Hudler. You gotta play Carter tighter than that and at least wave your stick at him. I guess I can give Jimmy a little flak for his rebound control there, but if Hudler uses his stick, it doesn’t matter.
The third: Janik. Here I don’t mean defense as in without the puck. I mean it in the “play in your own zone” sense. Horrible turnover by Janik leads to quick chance for the Ducks. Jimmy got beat, the puck crossed the line (if barely), and it’s 3-1.
The fourth: this one was less defense and more Jimmy, but it’s still about puck management and Cleary’s failure to adhere to that basic principle of Red Wings hockey. Jimmy has to make that save, but the break never should have happened.
So you get the idea. Other instances of defensive breakdowns either resulted in a Howard save or a post bailout. They only gave up 25 shots, but enough were A or B Grade chances to be disconcerting.
Back to the positive.
Datsyuk: He only got one point, but he was easily the most dominant player on the ice all night. His best game of the season, maybe. His game winner was mind-blowing in real time and he was doing stuff like that all night. Fun to watch.
Zetterberg: I still think his first goal will be taken away (the puck hit Homer’s foot and changed direction a couple degrees), but he had a great game as well. About time.
Franzen: Still looking like a guy who could light up the League if can stay healthy. His goal wasn’t pretty, but it was a great effort.
Howard: Selanne break and minor quibble on the Carter goal’s rebound control aside, I thought James had a strong game. Certainly good enough to win without needing to score 5 goals, but he didn’t get the defense to allow that. So he looks sort of average with 21 saves on 25 shots.
McElhinney: Got a star despite giving up 5 goals, but I sort of thought it was warranted. The Wings’ offense did have a few Grade A chances that he managed to stop, and if Pleiness had to pick the star before the comeback really got going, it makes sense. If that’s the kind of effort their backup can manage, maybe the Ducks won’t be so sucky after all.
That’s a head-up, shoulder to head hit. I don’t like the “to head” part, but it’s not an illegal hit in today’s NHL. It wasn’t blindside and the contact was made with the shoulder, with his elbow and arm coming up after contact. Selanne can cry about it, but I don’t think Kronwall’s in any danger of facing punishment for it. Unless you count more whining from other fanbases about his wild elbows punishment (it is for those of us who have to hear it, anyway).
Next: The Wings get another lengthy break, with their next game coming Thursday against Phoenix. More time to rest up for guys like Ericsson and Abdelkader, so that’s good. Sitting around twiddling our thumbs as fans, not so much.
Late to the computer on a lazy Saturday that turned into a lazy Saturday when rain ruined a perfect opportunity (Michigan bye week) to rake up a fraction of the 1 million leaves currently blanketing our front and back yards. So I’m going to keep this to a minimum since I’m not really in a blogging place today.
I just want to say something about Lilja. The big guy grew on me over the years and I was less than thrilled when it looked like he was headed out of town. I then sort of felt for him when it became clear he’d made a mistake to think he had value on the open market. I mean, he was just believing in his ability to be a top 4 guy, not looking for a ton of money. I was slightly annoyed when he took a tryout with the Sharks and then bummed for him when he got cut loose. Then he signed with Anaheim.
Now all I want is for him to do this for the Ducks like he did for the Wings:
So, thanks for your time, Lils. But I hope you’re victimized tonight.
The Wings opened the season with what appeared to be a pretty commanding win over the Ducks. The Ducks proceeded to show us that maybe we shouldn’t have been so excited about beating them by just 4 goals. They’re 3-4-1 right now. That’s not as bad as the trajectory they were on in the immediate aftermath of the Wings’ shutting them out, but it’s not great. They are not a good team.
There’s a lot to hate about them, but the Wings need to focus on taking care of business, and improving on that 4-0 effort with one that includes better work in their own end. I want to see nothing less than a dominating performance tonight. The #1 guy is in net, the forward corps is healthy, and the defense still has most of the tools.
Lay waste to the Ducks like the crap team they are.