Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Key Wings Victory over Blues

Coming into the game with only a two-point lead over Central Division rival St Louis Blues, who have six games in hand, the Wings beat the Blues 2-1 with Cujo getting the start against ex-Wing Chris Osgood. Dallas Drake, who has lately proven to be a Wing-killer, scored the first goal of the game on the powerplay for the Blues. And then the Wings, on their heels with another St Louis powerplay, got a brilliant individual performance from Pavel Datsyuk, who took a broken pass out and went on a breakaway. Pavel shot the puck at Ozzie, and in a remarkable situation, saw his own shot go in the net as a spectator from behind the net: the initial shot rode up off of Ozzie's stick, flew into the air, and came down right behind Ozzie. It was a shorthanded goal, and it was Datsyuk's first point in three games, after coming up short in two bogged-down, neutral zone games versus the Sharks and Predators. And with five minutes remaining in the game, Datsyuk gave a great forechecking effort on Alexander Khavanov, causing him to turn the puck over to Hull, who got it to Ray Whitney in front of the net for the goal. This play really underscored how Pavel has played hard all game for the Wings this season. With a 2-1 game, the Blues took it hard to Cujo in the remaining minute of the game, the puck trickling by the left post on one shot, but Cujo really stood on his head to secure the victory and ensure that the Blues not get even a point, which could be critical at the end of the season. Datsyuk's two points put him at tied for second in the league with Kovalchuck with 42 points, as Lang leads with 44. The Whitney goal also saved Draper from being the "goat of the game," as he missed a wide open net earlier in the game. But it won't save him from being ribbed by his friend Chris Osgood, as they have had a sort of on-ice rivalry after Chris was let go by the Wings and later played for the Islanders and now the Blues. The first period was, again, not the best effort by the Wings. The Blues led in shots 10 to 4, and the Wings' defensemen made a couple sloppy passes that almost led to goals. The Blues really came out flying, while the Wings finally came to life after the spectacular goal by Datsyuk. And, again, the powerplay was unsuccessful, as the Wings went 0 of 4 on the night. It's almost getting to the point where the Wings should ask to decline the powerplay, and just stick with even strength, because, lately, the powerplay has just been a waste of time and frustrating all together. But, I realize that a powerplay could be the difference in a playoff game, so the Wings really need to focus on cutting down the passes and stop trying to make Sportscenter. Speaking of passes, it appears that Nick Lidstrom has caught the Pavel Datsyuk pass-by-all-means bug, as, on a 3-on-2 rush, he had a perfect chance to one-time a shot from close range, but decided to pass it to a far wing to produce a lower probability scoring chance. I'm telling you, it's the powerplay problem all over again... Cujo was really solid for the Wings, making 24 saves on 25 shots, and keeping the Wings in the game during the first period, when the Wings were rather lackluster with their passes and defense. The Wings will get a three-day break before facing the Wild Friday night at the Joe. The Wings now hold a 4 point lead over the Blues in the Central, and, in fact, are the current NHL point leaders.


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