Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Wings 4, Blackhawks 2

After questionable efforts in the previous Chicago games this season, the Wings brought their 'A' game tonight in a 4-2 victory. And it could've easily been 7-2. It was a great way for the Wings to close out the season series and follow up two poor losses to the Bruins that featured a deflated version of the Wings. Manny Legace got the start. In the first period, the Wings set the pace of the game. Opening with the scoring was Jason Woolley at 13:33, assisted by Brett Hull (our new Larionov replacement with all his assists lately) and Henrik Zetterberg, the one-timer coming from the top of the circle on a rush with Hull. 1-0 Wings. Later, Ray Whitney got a powerplay goal at 18:35, from Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk. Whitney got a neat pass from Zetterberg to the short side, and he threaded the needle just deflecting the puck off of Steve Passmore's glove. 2-0 Wings. Then the Wings got caught sitting back with seconds left in the period. Particularly, Jiri Fischer, who should've cleared the puck out of the zone. Instead, he goofed and the Hawks got a goal with 4 seconds left in the first from Kyle Calder. 2-1 Wings. Shots were 12-11 Wings. In the second period, the Wings really took it to Chicago. At 14:25, Niklas Kronvall got his first NHL goal on a neat shot from the point. Mathieu Dandenault and Boyd Devereaux got the assists, Dandenault being heads up to find an open Kronvall who was calling madly for the puck. Kronvall pumped his first and carried off the puck in his glove. He'll remember that goal forever. 3-1 Wings. The Wings owned the shots 14-3. In the third period, Nicklas Lidstrom scored at 7:30 on a booming shot from the point. It beat Passmore undeflected, assisted by Steve Yzerman and Kris Draper. Vintage Lidstrom. He's admitted to having a slow start, and promised to get in on the offense. I look forward to more games like tonight from him. 4-1 Wings. Tyler Arnason scored for the Hawks to make it 4-2 Wings at 10:38. This made for a pivotal point in the game, with Chicago still hanging in with 10 minutes left to score two goals. The Wings broke their habit of letting bad teams back in the game and shut the Hawks down to secure victory. Final shots were 34-24 Wings. The Wings went 1 of 7 on the powerplay, courtesy of Whitney's laser-guided shooting abilities. He needs to do that more!! Legace was pretty solid tonight, certainly allowing the Wings the chance to win. Hull is still coming up empty in the goal column on the scoring sheet, with his last goal on Dec. 8. He even was on the ice with the puck in the final minute of the game, with Passmore pulled and an empty net, and failed to score. But it is unlike Hull to try to score empty-net goals. He usually passes the puck in that situation. Bobby Hull, commissioner of the new World Hockey Association, was in attendance at tonight's game at the Joe, and even came into the locker room pregame to talk with the guys (maybe to ask them to join the WHA in the case of an extended lockout) and give Brett a few words of encouragement. The goal drought is at 17 games now... It was a scary moment in the second period when the puck flew towards Barry Smith's head on the bench. Smith was not paying attention to the play at the moment, as he was talking to guys on the bench. Woosh!! The puck skimmed his hair, literally missing by centimeters. He looked shell-shocked for a couple seconds, then laughed. At intermission, the Fox Sports crew showed him the video clip during an interview with Smith, and asked him if he'd be wearing a helmet or visor after the experience (He said "no"). I guess it's something coaches and players alike are used to facing when on the bench. It's not as safe of a place as it might appear on television. Players get checked over the short boards occasionally, and pucks fly into the bench area every game. Heads up, guys!! We saw a "Datsyukian Deke" (coined by Ken Daniels, Fox Sports commentator) tonight with Pavel one-on-one coming in on Passmore. Schneider was absent from tonight's game, serving the first of his two-game suspension. He will also miss Friday's game versus the Coyotes. The Wings are at 60 pts now, first in the league, with the Canucks and the Leafs trailing with 59 each. We're definitely seeing the effects of playing so many games in the first "half" of the season. Hopefully, the Wings can maintain their division, conference, and league lead as teams start to catch up with the Wings in games-played.


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