Wings escape Montreal with shootout win

Oh, hockey gods, why do you hate me so? Back to back overtime games? With my Red Wings notoriously bad in the extra frame and/or shootouts? Thankfully, the Red Wings win this one in a shootout, on the shoulders of skill competition goals from Datsyuk and Zetterberg – and regulation goals from Stuart and Datsyuk. All in all, it was a great game to watch – lots of fun, but plenty of blown opportunities for the Red Wings to blow this game wide open.

The talk of this game will be Georges Laraque’s knee-on-knee with Niklas Kronwall, which was brutal and very intentional. It’s a little strange that it only earned him two (additional) minutes in the penalty box – but he was assessed a total of six minutes in penalties on that shift (after high-sticking Darren Helm a moment earlier). Whatever. Thanks for the two goals, Georges.

They’d be the only Detroit goals in regulation. Mike Cammalleri had both of Montreal’s tallies, and the teams headed to overtime tied at 2. After a fairly eventful overtime, I was admittedly a little nervous to see the shootout with Jimmy Howard in net, but he made a beautiful save on the first shooter (the very same Mike Cammelleri that buried two during the game) and the second shooter put one off the post. There wasn’t a need third shooters, and the Wings earned their eleventh win of the season.

TPL’S TAKE:
1. Okay, seriously. How many damn jerseys do these people have? It’s starting to look like very minor league hockey with a different gimmick jersey every night.
2. I know Montreal Canadiens fans are notoriously douchy, but I loved hearing that crowd. The oohs, ahhs, boos, and cheers in unison was awesome. It was a sign that everyone in the building was (wait for it…) watching, caring and understanding what was going on. Pay attention, Colorado.
3. I enjoyed the HNIC commentators, too. How old-timey is that one guy who says DETROY-IT? I felt like I could have been watching an Original Six game from 1930. Except I was watching it on television. And in color. And there was a black guy in the game.
4. Either the Montreal penalty kill is exceptional, or Detroit’s power play sucks donkey nards. Yes, the PP had two goals, but with various 5-on-3s and playing the entire first period on the man advantage, it should have been 5-0 heading for the first intermission. They were relatively useless in the first three minutes of the PP and I question Justin Abdelkader on the man advantage at this point in his career. I love the kid, but he looked a tad out place and couldn’t really get a handle on the system. But if you’re on the fifth of a six minute power play, you’re probably running out of bodies to put on the ice. That said, Datsyuk’s goal was a thing of beauty. Absolutely wonderful re-direct. Brad Stuart’s goal was odd because it seemed like it SHOULD have hit all kindsa stuff on the way in, but instead it went straight in. It was a great shot from a guy that was shot-crazy (with 8 in the first period).
5. Was that Brian Rafalski that passed the puck directly to Mike Cammalleri in the defensive zone in the first period? What the hell was that, his Todd Bertuzzi impression? While we’re on him, Bertuzzi truly is useless. Losing the puck during a 5-on-3 because he refuses to pass to anyone – to a guy a foot and a half smaller than him, no less – is absolutely unacceptable. He’s supposed to be the big, dumb, strong kind. Instead he’s just big and dumb. In related news, he’s on pace for 12 goals. Here he comes, Maurice Richard Trophy!
6. I had planned on watching the Satellite Hotstove, but as I was fast-forwarding through it, I didn’t see Pierre LeBrun shoving his fat head into a retarded helmet prototype, so I kept going.
7. Jimmy Howard should have had the first Cammalleri goal a few seconds into the third. A shot from that far away shouldn’t get past you unless it redirects a handful of times. He had no chance, however, on that second goal. Yeah, Nick Lidstrom made an ill-advised pass, but he could do that once a game and I wouldn’t be mad at him because he plays the rest of the game like a robot.
8. Patrick Eaves played a hell of a game. As a matter of fact, everyone on the third and fourth lines played really well. I especially liked Drew Miller jacking up Laraque’s face and then pretending he didn’t know he did it. Attaboy! Eye for an eye. Or in this case, eye for a knee.
9. I’m starting to feel bad for Ville Leino. Homeboy couldn’t buy a goal tonight. And he really did have a few chances – from fairly close in, too. He’s doing a lot of things right, getting to the right spots, and going to the front of the net. He just can’t seem to pot one. But they’ll come, I still have faith that he can find his finishing touch.
10. Really physical game, eh? I feel like Detroit held their own – even without the services of Niklas Kronwall.  Everyone seemed to embrace the physicality of tonight’s game and it was a hell of a lot of fun to watch (minus the Kronwall injury, obviously).

What’s next?
Headin’ to the hotbed of hockey: Tennessee. Nashville Predators on Monday. Yeehaw.

Photo Credit: Graham Hughes, AP/The Canadian Press

SACRE BLEU! Red Wings va Francais!


NOW, WHERE WERE WE?
The Wings and Canadiens last met on November 26, 2008. The Habs came out on top of that one, 3-1, but the Wings were without the services of Danny Cleary (eye) and Tomas Holmstrom (back). Johan Franzen was the lone goal scorer for the Red Wings and Ty Conklin took the loss.
WHAT’S HAPPENED SINCE THEN?
Montreal just squeaked into the post-season, needing various tie-breakers with the Panthers to qualify for the tourney, where they lasted exactly four games. They had more turnover than any other team this summer, and are (SHOCKINGLY) struggling to find their chemistry as a unit in this, their second 100th Anniversary year. Somehow. IN are Scott Gomez, Mike Cammalleri, Hal Gill, Brian Gionta, Jaroslav Spacek, Paul Mara, and Marc-Andre Bergeron. OUT are Chris Higgins, Ryan McDonagh, Doug Janik (hey!), Mike Komisarek, Alexei Kovalev, Saku Koivu, Tom Kostopoulos, Mathieu Schneider, Alex Tanguay, Bobby Lang, Patrice Bergeron, and Francis Bouillon.

OH, HI AGAIN

Add to the list of departed Habs Mathieu Dandenault, who – had he been resigned – would have been the lone former Red Wing this season since Schneider and Lang left town.

MEMBA ME?!
Having Doug Janik is like having our very own Mike Sillinger. Again.
DID YOU KNOW…
Henrik Zetterberg is on a 5-game point streak, during which he has 11 points.

THEIR LAST GAMES
–Detroit played last night, losing to the Panthers 2-1 in overtime.
–Montreal also played last night, defeating the Capitals 3-2 in DC.

RECORDS
Detroit Red Wings :: 10-6-4 (3rd in Central, 8th in West) :: 3-4-2 on the road
Quebec State University :: 11-11-0 (4th in Northeast, 12th in East) :: 6-5-0 at home
EXPECTED LINEUP
Jimmy Howard is expected to get the call tonight, the second of back-to-back nights. I haven’t heard about any other lineup changes, so it looks exactly like last night’s game, except the goaltending change.

Bertuzzi — Datsyuk — Holmstrom
Cleary — Zetterberg — Leino
Draper — Helm — Eaves
Miller — Abdelkader — Maltby
Lidstrom — Rafalski
Kronwall — Stuart
Ericsson — Lebda
Howard
Osgood
Scratches:
Derek “TweetSuite” Meech
Brad “LaRue” May
Injured:
Andreas “Three Train” Lilja
Johan “Team MVP” Franzen
Valtteri “Santa Hat” Filppula
Jason “Loves Columbus” Williams
QUICK THOUGHTS
1. Both teams played last night, but the Canadiens won – so they’ll probably be coming in feeling better than the Red Wings.
2. Jimmy Howard might want to come out and show he’s deserving of starting a regular game. Don’t be surprised to see him try to take advantage of his opportunities a little bit more now that Chris Osgood is back.
3. The third line was moving last night, and here’s hoping they still have some juice left in those legs. And they can convert on their various offensive chances.
4. Both teams are ravaged with injuries, so no excuses.
WHAT WE LEARNED vs. the Panthers
67 shots directed toward the net isn’t enough, apparently.
CANADIEN WE COVET
I like Mike Cammalleri, and at the risk of enraging the “grit groupies” who won’t like that I picked a 5-9er, I’d like to remind them that he scored 82 points in 81 games last season.

Panthers use OT to knock off Wings

Detroit won’t like this one. They absolutely, wholeheartedly deserved the two points tonight, badly outplaying the Florida Panthers throughout much of the game. They only allowed two shots in the first period, eventually winning the shot war 40-20.
Pavel Datsyuk got off his schneid and Henrik Zetterberg continued his point streak, but the best player on the ice for the Wings was Darren Helm. He used his speed to create quite a bit of offense, including two breakaways (neither of which he could convert, however). He was blazing all night, and I was sure he was going to net one at some point. That’s just bad news for Montreal…
Scott Clemmensen won that game for the Panthers. He stopped 39 of 40 shots, playing in his first game since criticizing the defense. Take that, karma.

TPL’S TAKE:
1. Chris Osgood played admirably in his return from flu-like symptoms. The numbers don’t look so great, though, allowing the two goals on just twenty shots (.900 save percentage), but this one can’t be hung on him.
2. On the bright side, Jonathan Ericsson didn’t score for the Panthers.
3. Darren Helm is my hero. That kid has wheels.
4. So does Kris Draper. Rob mentioned during the game that someone should remind him of his age, because he looked two decades younger tonight.
5. Come to think of it, the entire third line was good. Patrick Eaves had a buzz about him, nearly netting himself a goal on a nifty feed from Draper.
6. The fourth line was solid, as well. Great effort along the boards from Justin Abdelkader. Drew Miller was putting himself in the right places. Kirk Maltby was making things happen at both ends. That’s a good line.
7. The Panthers played quote-unquote effective defense. They allowed a ton of scoring changes in the first, and a ton of shots the whole game, but there weren’t a ton of “oh man, how is that not in the net” moments. Eaves’ one-timer probably should have hit net, but that was a hell of save. Todd Bertuzzi (surprise!) whiffed badly on an attempted one-timer. If Darren Helm could have gotten a stronger shot of on either of his breaks, it would have been a different game, but he lost the handle the first time and was being mugged on the second.
What’s next?
Montreal tomorrow.
Photo Credit: Jerry S. Mendoza, AP

Red Wings / Panthers :: November 20

Roar. Sigh.

NOW, WHERE WERE WE?
The Wings and Panthers will meet almost exactly a year after their last run-in. On November 14, 2008, our Red Wings defeated Florida’s Second Favorite Hockey Team 3-2 with Ty Conklin in net, and on the strength of two Hossa goals and a third from Franzen. The win gave Detroit a record of 11-2-3. They’ll be looking for their eleventh win of the season once again against the Panthers.
WHAT’S HAPPENED SINCE THEN?
The Panthers BARELY missed the playoffs, finishing with the same amount of points and wins as the 8th place Montreal Canadiens, which is heartbreaking for a team that – like Drew says – hasn’t qualified for the playoffs since the Clinton Administration.
OH, HI AGAIN
Shawn Matthias, the prospect included in the deal that brought Todd Bertuzzi to Hockeytown originally, is Panther property, but he’s currently in Rochester of the AHL. Would have been awesome to see him line up directly across from Todd Bertuzzi and not fall for Bertuzzi’s retarded Savard impression.
MEMBA ME?!
Todd Bertuzzi only played seven games for Florida before THEY realized he wasn’t all he was cracked up to be. Andreas Lilja is also a former Panther, but he’ll be in Vancouver visiting that chiropractor again.
DID YOU KNOW…
The Panthers all-time record against the Red Wings is 3 wins, 9 losses, 3 overtime losses, and 5 ties. The Red Wings have outscored the Panthers  71-47 in their 20 games. Why, yes. Yes I did go through each Panthers season manually and do the math.

THEIR LAST GAMES
–Detroit lost to Dennis LaRue and the rest of the Dallas Stars on Wednesday. The final score was 3-1
–Florida smoked Buffalo 6-2, with goals from six different scorers.
RECORDS
Detroit Red Wings :: 10-6-3 (3rd in Central, 9th in West) :: 7-1-1 at home
Miami-Dade Orange Jerseys :: 8-9-2 (4th in Southeast, 13th in East) :: 5-4-1 on the road
EXPECTED LINEUP
Chris Osgood will start for the first time since getting blown out in Toronto during Hall of Fame weekend. Brad May, despite his fight and obvious goal on Wednesday, comes out and a healthy Kirk Maltby goes in.
Bertuzzi — Datsyuk — Holmstrom
Cleary — Zetterberg — Leino
Draper — Helm — Eaves
Miller — Abdelkader — Maltby
Lidstrom — Rafalski
Kronwall — Stuart
Ericsson — Lebda
Osgood
Howard
Scratches:
Derek “Press Pass” Meech
Brad “That’s a Goal, Boys” May
Injured:
Andreas “Pretty Much Retired” Lilja
Johan “This. Is. Sparta.” Franzen
Valtteri “Red Cast” Filppula
Jason “Not the Basketball Player” Williams
QUICK THOUGHTS
1. It’ll be really interesting to see how the Red Wings rebound from getting hosed on Wednesday. There’s no guarantee the outcome would have been any different in terms of wins and losses, but it definitely deflated the sails a little bit. I expect them to bounce back like the professionals they are, and now that Uncle Mike has said his peace, its water under the bridge.
2. Florida is coming off a great effort in Buffalo, beating a hell of a hockey team. They should be flexing their muscles and feeling good about themselves as they come into the Joe, so they shouldn’t be underestimated despite the fact that they haven’t been on the playoff radar the last few ice ages.
3. I would love if Henrik Zetterberg continued his hot streak. In the last four games, he has five goals and five assists, he’s shooting 31% and is +6. Also, he’s Arbified a desperately hungry nation of Wings fans.
4. Draper, Helm, Eaves, and Miller are coming off of rather quiet games, and I’d expect a little more jump from them.
5. I’m sure we’re all excited to see how Chris Osgood plays in his first game back from an extended break. He’s due for a good performance, but he’s also rather cold.
WHAT WE LEARNED vs. the Stars
Tin foil makes for great hats.
PANTHER WE COVET
Shawn Matthias. Because that means the Todd Bertuzzi trade didn’t happen. Of course, he still may have signed as a free agent in July…but still. I’d only be embarrassed for the Wings once instead of twice.

Dallas Stars 3 – Detroit Red Wings 1 – Toronto Incompetent Officials 1

Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard, seen here demonstrating a new style of netminding: turny-backy.
Well, the story here is going to be the egregious blown call on what would have been the Red Wings second goal. Brad May (WORD!) took a shot, and the puck which became wedged between Stars goalie Alex Auld’s leg pad and the side of the net. It was a good four or five inches past the goal-line, in plain view of anyone with eyeballs that it was as good a goal as ever’s been scored.
A few seconds later, the whistle blew. The referees (Stephane Auger and Dennis LaRue) decided it was no goal, for some reason, and play was resumed after a phone call from Toronto, which I assume went a little something like this:
LARUE: ‘Allo, this is LaRue.
TORONTO : Dude, totally a goal.
LARUE : Neaux. Neaux es goal. C’est le Rouge Wings. You sayed Rouge Wings must loses.
TORONTO : Yeah, but I mean… supposed to be less obvious. I mean, I can’t believe we got away with that six players on the ice thing during the Finals…
LARUE : Oh yes, this was good.
TORONTO : Mike Babcock really scares us, I really don’t want to fine him after he understandably tears us apart in the post-game.
LARUE : Que sera sera.
I have now exhausted all the French I know. See the shitstorm for yourself.
TPL’S TAKE:

1. If we’re going to get royally jobbed by the officials, I suppose I’d prefer it to be in the 19th game of the regular season, as opposed to playing against six skaters for 45 seconds in the Final. Or any number of waved off goals in the playoffs. Needless to say, we’re owed. Big time.
2. Brad May’s fight was actually pretty funny. He and Barch seem to genuinely like one another, and were having a good laugh together during the warm-up and from separate penalty boxes. It was great to see the mutual respect. The fight was pretty good until May punked out, eventually falling to the ice and bringing Barch with him, although it had lasted quite a while.
3. Todd Bertuzzi is the worst player in the NHL. I know I’m a little extra hard on him, but his blind spin-o-rama passes to nowhere are getting OLD. Not only that, there was a time in the third when his linemates did a hell of a job to keep the puck deep and, alone in front of the net, he passed the puck — with fervor — to the Stars defenseman. He’s absolutely horrendous with the puck on his stick.
4. That game was the first one the Red Wings lost in regulation at the Joe this year. Their previous “home” loss was in Sweden.
5. Henrik Zetterberg continued his hot streak, scoring another beauty in the second period. It was the only time that any of the Red Wings seemed interested in playing tonight.
6. Jonathan Ericsson. Boy, oh boy. First he deflects the first Stars goal past Jimmy Howard, then he takes a(nother) dumbass penalty, leading to the third and most deflating Stars goal. I won’t go so far as to say that he doesn’t belong in the lineup, but he’s certainly running out of good will. Good will, it would seem, he earned by being 6 foot 5.
7. Justin Abdelkader played a hell of a game. He was all over the place, making things happen. Great defensive plays, awesome forechecking. He’s a heck of a player. Brad May had his best game so far in a Red Wings uniform. Their linemate, Drew Miller, wasn’t a factor – this was probably his weakest goal since arriving from the waiver wire. I wouldn’t be surprised if he was out and Maltby was back in on Friday.
8. Ville Leino, invisible manager of the Leino Lounge. I’m starting to wonder if he’d be playing if all were healthy.
9. Jimmy Howard played as well as we could have hoped. I’m not sure he had a chance on any of the three that got by him. Howard played in his fourth in a row, allowing an average of 2.25 goals. If you had told me that the Wings would go 3-1 with Jimmy Howard over these four, I would have taken that deal.
10. Moral of the story: The Stars had 32 shots. The Red Wings had 32 shots. Alex Auld stopped 30 of them. Jimmy Howard did not. Said James Tiberius Howard: “that’s the type of game game I needed to come up with another save for the guys.” FINAAAALLLLLLYYYYYYYYYY…..a Red Wings goaltender says what is Commandment Number 1 for Netminding. Jimmy Howard did not lose this game. As a matter of fact, he did more to keep the Wings in the game than they usually get from their goaltender. But, when looking at the byline, and seeing that ALEX FREAKING AULD made 30 (or 31) saves, and your goaltender didn’t, it’s clear that another save might have been the difference. Or a few more, better shots going the other way. Yeah, probably the last one.

What’s next?
Panthers. Friday. Joe Louis. 7:30pm. Supposedly Chris Osgood’s triumphant return to the crease.

Photo Credit: Carlos Osorio, AP

Red Wings and Stars Renew Acquaintances

God DAMN that’s an ugly uterus-like logo.

NOW, WHERE WERE WE?
It’s actually been quite some time since the Wings met the Stars. On January 29th, 2009, Dallas chased Chris Osgood on its way to a 4-2 victory at the Joe. The Stars scored three goals in the first period, Ty Conklin came in for the second and immediately allowed a fourth goal. The Wings got goals from Marian Hossa and Andreas Lilja.

WHAT’S HAPPENED SINCE THEN?
A week after the Wings game, Dallas dumped Sean Avery. They didn’t qualify for the playoffs, which was a bit of a shocker. Both Co-GM’s were “re-assigned” in favor of Joe Nieuwendyk. Brendan Morrison, Sergei Zubov and Darryl Sydor departed Texas and were replaced by Karlis Skrastins, Warren Peters, and Jeff Woywitka. Yeah, that oughta do it.

OH, HI AGAIN
Garrett Stafford, former Griffin, plays with the AHL’s uniquely named Texas Stars. So, barring a barrage of call-ups, we won’t meet any former Red Wings property.

MEMBA ME?!
Likewise, the only former Star in the Red Wings system is Doug Janik.

DID YOU KNOW…
It has been 15 games since Nicklas Lidstrom put one in the net. That’s obviously not his main objective, but if he can get going – with Z, Datsyuk and Kronwall keeping up their paces – things will start to feel like they’re back to normal.

THEIR LAST GAMES
–Detroit went 3-0-0 last week, outscoring opponents 19-6 along the way. The most recent game, Saturday vs. Anaheim, was a 7-4 winner, featuring a hat trick from Henrik Zetterberg. Mmm…Arby’s…
–Dallas has been off since Saturday, as well. They lost to the Coyotes, in Phoenix, by a score of 3-2. Expect them to be fully rested. The only sighting of Alex Auld will be when a puck sails into the Stars bench, prompting a pan of not-really-that-frightened faces.

RECORDS
Detroit Red Wings :: 10-5-3 (3rd in Central, 7th in West) :: 7-1-1 at home
The Artists Formerly Known as the Minnesota North Stars :: 8-5-6 (3rd in Pacific, 8th in West) :: 5-3-3 on the road

EXPECTED LINEUP
Chris Osgood is out again, and Daniel Larsson has been recalled for the third time in five days. Jimmy Howard will get his fourth start in a row, and the former Swedish netminder of the year will learn the craft by counting faceoffs. Or something.

Bertuzzi — Datsyuk — Holmstrom
Cleary — Zetterberg — Leino
Draper — Helm — Eaves
Miller — Abdelkader — May

Lidstrom — Rafalski
Kronwall — Stuart
Ericsson — Lebda

Howard
Larsson

Scratches: Derek “Scratch” Meech, Kirk “Recovered” Maltby, Chris “Quote-Unquote Flu” Osgood
Injured: Andreas “Chirotastic” Lilja, Johan “Disabled Mule” Franzen, Valtteri “Blonde Beauty” Filppula, Jason “Fantastic Fibula” Williams

QUICK THOUGHTS
1. Brad Richards is good. Very good. He leads the Stars with 20 points. Relative unknown, but also very good, James Neal leads the team in goals, with 10.
2. I’m Anxious to see which Jimmy Howard shows up: the one that allowed only one goal in back-to-back games, or the other one. Ya know…the one that sucks.
3. I think we should keep letting Niklas Kronwall shoot at will. He’s got a hot hand, USE IT.
4. Is it me, or is the power play INFINITELY better without Jason Williams (or Mikael Samuelsson) on the point?
5. Check out this back-and-forth I did with ESPN Dallas regarding tonight’s tilt.

WHAT WE LEARNED vs. the Ducks
For the second time in three games, we learned that offense should not be used as an excuse for this team’s troubles. We also learned that Jimmy Howard, not unlike his team, is a bit of an enigma. If the right one shows up, the team should be okay against the Stars, who have a great roster but have been underachievers for the last year or so…

Last but not least, we learned that Arby’s curly fries taste better when they’re earned. They may not be free (and ZERO of you sent me or Rob any of yours…) in New York, but it was still yummy.

STAR WE COVET
I love Brendan Morrow. That is all.

Fare thee Well, to the Jig

Today, hockey legend Brendan Shanahan announced his retirement. NHL.com broke the news, which caught some steam on Twitter.

The New Jersey Devils used the second overall pick in 1987 to select Shanny, who also played for the Blues, Whalers, Wings, and Rangers during his 21-year career. His best offensive years were with the Blues, but it wasn’t until Hockeytown that he was able to find the holy grail. All three of his Stanley Cups came in a Red Wings uniform, while serving as an alternate captain.

Over the next few days, plenty will be said of his career in hockey, and his importance to the union (which I predict he’ll be running in a matter of hours), and all of it will be deserved. I won’t try to be the one to write something epic about our Shanny, but this does provide an opportunity to say something we all know, but should be said anyway:

Brendan Shanahan is the reason the Red Wings started winning Stanley Cups in 1997. Just two games into the 96-97 season, the Hartford Whalers sent Shanahan to Detroit for Keith Primeau, Paul Coffey, and a first round draft pick. At the time, it may have seemed like a heavy pay-out, but I can’t think of a trade that saw more value come to the Wings. He was that last piece of the puzzle to send the team over the top of the mountain, playing a big part in the Wings’ first Cup in 42 years that very same season.

The next year, the Wings repeated. It was practically automatic. Four years after that, Brendan Shanahan anchored the 2002 Cup team, which featured no less than ten personalities destined for the Hall of Fame, which is exactly where we’ll see Brendan in three years.

From The Production Line, a sincere thank you to Brendan Shanahan for his years in red and white.

Henrik Zetterberg NHL’s First Star

For the first time all season, a Red Wing is one of the NHL’s 3 Stars of the Week. NHL.com has the write-up:

Zetterberg capped his best week of the season with the best night of his career Saturday — he had his fourth career hat trick and added two assists for a five-point night in the Wings’ 7-4 win against Anaheim. For the week, he had 3 goals and 6 assists, was plus-5 and scored the winning goal in back-to-back games.

So, wait a second. He had a hat trick on Saturday…had three goals for the week…but winning goal in back-to-back games? Someone got their math wrong. Zetterberg actually had four goals and five assists this week. His eight goals are second most on the Red Wings, one behind Tomas Holmstrom, but he leads the league in game-winning goals, with four. The article continues:

Not coincidentally, the Red Wings won all three of their games last week. The Wings and their star center are both on their best streaks of the season; he has 5 goals and 11 points in Detroit’s last six games, and the Wings are 5-1-0 in that span. It took Henrik Zetterberg a while to find his scoring touch. But the 2008 Conn Smythe Trophy winner is now on a roll — and so are the Detroit Red Wings.

Ilya Kovalchuk and Ryan Miller were the second and third stars.

Niklas Kronwall also gets a shout-out in the form of an honorable mention of sorts. He’s listed under “three more players who have been hot,” indicating he may have also gotten some 3 Stars votes.

The big scorer on Detroit’s defense isn’t future Hall of Famer Nicklas Lidstrom — it’s Kronwall, who had the best offensive week of his career with 3 goals and 4 assists for 7 points while going plus-5.

We mentioned Nik Jr.’s hot hand, as well, and suggested he keep putting pucks toward the net since they seem to be going in for him.

Photo Credit: Jerry S. Mendoza, AP

Rubber ducky, you’re the one…

Just like usual…no sign of Bert
To quote fictional Cleveland Indians manager Lou Brown, “you guys won yesterday. If we win today, that’s two in a row. Win again tomorrow, and that’s called a WINNING STREAK.”
Well,  boys and girls, that’s a winning streak for our boys in red. And, all three wins came with James Tiberius Howard in net. This one wasn’t easy. Don’t let the final score fool you – it was tied with four and a half minutes to go in the third. But, future captain Henrik Zetterberg decided that 107 games without a hatty was long enough, and gave us all free curly fries*. I was informed after the game that my good buddy Clay donated a hat to the cause.
Seven goals – and a total of 19 in the three games this week. I don’t want to hear about the 88 goals that departed this off-season (hey, by the way, it’s actually 90, but no one seems to care about Downey and McCarty’s offensive output). Long story short, it doesn’t seem that offense is the problem: the Wings had 68 goals through 18 games last season. That’s only six more than they have through the first 18 games this season. They’re on pace for 282 goals compared to 289 last year. BFD.
How many times were the Ducks offsides? Jesus, guys… welcome to Pee Wee hockey.
*Note: I live in New York and Rob lives in Texas, so neither of us qualify for free curly fries. Feel free to send us one of yours. 
TPL’S TAKE:
1. First, a bit of housekeeping. Yesterday, I said that Darren Helm had the series winner against the Ducks in the playoffs last season. Kyle from Babcock’s Death Stare pointed out in the comments that it was actually Danny Cleary who had the winner. He’s absolutely right – my bad. Thanks for the correction!
2. Speaking of Cleary, it’s awesome that he’s got a hot hand right now. Also, for the second time in three games, he comes away with the quote of the day: “if they want to spend all night in the box, I like our chances.” It’s like having our very own (better behaved) Roenick.
3. Henrik Zetterberg was a man on fire from the opening faceoff. I had the game DVRed, so I was unaware of what was about to transpire, but from his very first shift – I was thinking he was going to net one or two. By my count, he had six quality chances in the first period alone. The absolute best player on the ice.
4. Jimmy Howard looked great in the first period, and much of the second. Like…legitimate NHL starting goaltender good. But, he fell back to earth with some mediocre efforts in the second half of the contest, especially the second Ducks goal, which is 100% on him.
5. Niklas Kronwall has some hot hands, eh?! Keep putting them on/in net, Junior.
6. When Dominik Hasek was a member of the Red Wings, I often said that he should have been fined 20 grand every time he touched the puck. I want a similar policy enacted for every time Todd Bertuzzi spins and throws the puck to no one.
7. I would have loved to watch Johnny Ericsson kick the shit out of Corey Perry again – although, I almost guarantee that Perry wouldn’t have removed his helmet/visor: that’s kind of his M.O. Speaking of M.O.’s, Ericsson’s is quickly becoming dumbass turnovers directly resulting in a goal for the other guys. “Learning his trade” or not, that play was flat out retarded, which – sadly – is not all that surprising from him this season.
8. Ville Leino played with a bit more confidence tonight. It was good to see from a guy whose head is clearly his worst enemy at this point in the season.
9. Drew Miller had a hell of a game. I’m very impressed with him so far. Not enough to knock any of the Top 12 into the press box, but a great waiver acquisition.
10. Brian Rafalski confuses me. Here’s my thought process:
  A) He’s a good defenseman. We all know that. I was thrilled to pick him up eleven seconds after Schneider signed with Anaheim.
  B) He’s signed for 6M. Yowza.
  C) He’s having a rough season, but that’s okay. He’ll get back on track.
  D) He flubs the puck behind in the net, in true Ericsson fashion. He may as well have put it behind Howard himself.
  E) He scores on the Power Play! All is forgiven!
  F) He gets beat like a rented mule at the blueline a few minutes later…
  G) Put he comes with a choice of free topping.
  H) The toppings contain potassium benzoate.
Brian Rafalski is a riddle, wrapped in an enigma, wrapped in a vest. That’s right, two Simpsons references in a matter of seconds.
What’s next?
Dallas on Wednesday at the Joe.

Wings Face Fowl

HELP, CHARLIE CONWAY! A TIE-DYE DUCK IS TELLING ME TO START FIRES.

NOW, WHERE WERE WE?
The last time these two squads met was May 14th: the seventh game of the second round series. The Red Wings were 4-3 winners, with Darren Helm netting the game winner (and series winner, as it were). Game 7 marked the return of Kris Draper – who played his first game of the ’09 post-season.

WHAT’S HAPPENED SINCE THEN?
Well, the Wings had an easier time in the Conference Finals than anyone in Chicago saw coming and found themselves in a Stanley Cup Final rematch. We all know how that ended. There was a mess exodus of forwards in July, and a makeshift rebuild of the questionable variety. After an atrocious start in Sweden (0-2), the Wings are starting to find their way (9-3-3 since).

OH, HI AGAIN
Kyle “We Dumped Jason Williams the First Time for You” Calder has signed with the Ducks, but he finds himself in Bakersfield of the ECHL (because the Ducks don’t have an AHL affiliate, not because he sucks like those Ferraro twins).

MEMBA ME?!
Todd Bertuzzi and Brad May were teammates in Anaheim, but – as far as we know – didn’t conspire together to commit attempted murder. New waiver acquisition Drew Miller was a back-and-forth Duck, winning a Cup in ’07, as did May.

DID YOU KNOW…
The Red Wings are 4-0-1 in games when Henrik Zetterberg scores (5-0-1 if you count shootout goals).

THEIR LAST GAMES
–Detroit played the second of back-to-back games on Thursday, defeating Vancouver 3-1. They’ve outscored their opponents 12-2 this week. Jimmy Howard is 2-0. Hell is reporting record low temperatures.
–Anaheim played last night, losing 3-2 in a shootout to the Blue Jackets. Sorta disgruntled, yet fully French-sounding Jean-Sebastien Giguere got the nod, meaning it’s probably Hiller Time in Motown (see what I did there?).

RECORDS
Detroit Red Wings :: 9-5-3 (3rd in Central, 8th in West) :: 6-1-1 at home
Disney’s Los Angeles Mighty Duck Angels of Anaheim :: 6-8-3 (last in Pacific and Conference) :: 2-2-3 on the road

EXPECTED LINEUP
At the time of this writing, there was no word on how Kirk Maltby is feeling, so I’ll plug Miller in for now. All we know about the goaltending situation is that Daniel Larsson was sent back down to Grand Rapids. He may be called up again in time for the game if Ozzie’s still under the weather, but smart money would be on riding the hot hand and giving Jimmy Howard his third straight start.

Bertuzzi — Datsyuk — Holmstrom
Leino — Zetterberg — Cleary
Draper — Helm — Eaves
May — Abdelkader — Miller

Lidstrom — Rafalski
Kronwall — Stuart
Ericsson — Lebda

Howard ?
Osgood ?

QUICK THOUGHTS
1. I just hate the Ducks so much. Even with Pronger, there are plenty of guys worth hating, with Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan leading the pack.
2. Brad May is having a rough couple of weeks. Perhaps he should avoid dropping mitts with George Parros.
3. After an inspired game against Columbus, Ville re-entered the Leino Lounge with a rather invisible outing on Thursday.
4. If we’re ready to jump off cliffs thanks to Detroit’s slow start, how do you think Anaheim “fans” are feeling right now? Dead last in the conference, losing to a team the Wings just bushwhacked 9-1.
5. So has Brian Rafalski officially became the new whipping boy? Just want to be on the same page as all of you…

WHAT WE LEARNED vs. the Canucks
All of a sudden, Jimmy Howard is a reliable goaltender. With Chris Osgood struggling again (not to mention, suffering from the flu), it’s nice to have a Plan B. If you told me in October that Howard would play back-to-back games in November allowing a total of two goals against, I would have kicked you in the groin for being a damn, dirty liar.

Drew Miller stepped in rather immediately and fairly impressively. He got some penalty kill time, and in true Babcockian fashion, had his strong game rewarded by playing in the final minutes. He didn’t stick out the way you’d expect a guy who hadn’t even practiced with his teammates yet, and he was a valuable cog. Once again, Ken Holland shoves a pacifier in the mouth of all who doubt him, and finds a perfect 13th forward-type player. For free. In a trash heap.

If Henrik Zetterberg keeps playing games like he did against Vancouver, we have nothing to worry about for the remaining 65 games. Pavel Datsyuk is the best player in the world when the puck is on his stick, and he’s pretty damn good without it. If those two continue to click, the Wings are headed for greener pastures.

DUCK WE COVET
Rob said it better than I could: Ryan Getzlaf.