Saturday, March 27, 2004

Wings 2, Avs 0

The Wings won a tight defensive battle today down at the Joe, shutting out the Avs 2-0. It was a much better effort then they gave Thursday night and they won as a team rather then because of Manny Legace's stellar play. The game was much less offense-oriented with both teams doing a good job of shutting down offensive chances by controlling their respective blue lines. The Wings were just able to capitalize on two of their chances and to keep the Avs from capitalizing on theirs. The Wings have basically won their race with the Avs and now have to focus on keeping a head of San Jose for 1st place in the Conference primarily before trying to keep stay in front of Tampa Bay in the neck-and-neck race for 1st place overall. First period The Wings came out strong, looking sharp on defense and coming just short on offense. There was a good pace to the game initially and there weren't a whole lot of stoppages. Both teams showed up to play. Jiri Fischer was goaded into a dumb penalty by Matthew Barnaby when Barnaby knocked him around and made it seem like he wanted to fight at 5:14. As soon as Fischer dropped his gloves, Barnaby skated away, leaving Fischer looking like a fool. He got two minutes for unsportsmanlike conduct and the Wings fortunately killed the penalty off without much trouble. Almost immediately after the power play, Steve Thomas had a huge chance down low on Tommy Salo but couldn't get the puck up high enough. Thomas has been a disappointment since returning from his knee surgery and rip injury and has just one goal in 20+ games. I miss the jump he had back in November and early December. The Wings started getting outplayed by the Avs after that power play but continued taking shots from all over the place, forcing Tommy Salo to keep coming up big. They played a physical first period and I saw a number of Avs players going flying when they came in contact with a player in red. That seemed to be the trend for the whole game and I wasn't too impressed with the Avs' quickness to fall in an effort to draw a penalty. The Wings got a power play of their own at 17:14 but aside from big chances by Brett Hull and Henrik Zetterberg, they really got nothing going. This was likely due to the fact that Brendan Shanahan got the shaft from the refs when they handed him a holding penalty for his proximity to Adam Foote, who happened to be holding on to Shanny's jersey himself. Luckily the Wings were able to kill off the ensuing power play, though. Shots were 12-11 Wings. Second Period The Wings came out strong again in the second period and played tight defense, as did the Avs, for much of the second 20 minutes. The Wings had good pressure on the forecheck, though, and made it even more difficult for Colorado to get anything going than their strong presence at the blue line did already. However, play was pretty sloppy offensively anyway and made it relatively easy for both teams to keep the chances down. The refs were quiet until 8:16 (just as I was writing in my notes about how they were letting a lot go) when they slapped two penalties on Derian Hatcher, one for roughing and another for high-sticking. Both were committed on Steve Konowalchuk. The Avs had four minutes to decide the game and unfortunately for them, the Wings played a nearly textbook penalty kill and they were unable to score, even with big, strong Rob Blake in front of the net. It was a defining four minutes of the game and the Avs' best chance to put it away. The best part about that penalty kill was that it wasn't all Manny Legace. The Wings as a penalty-killing unit kept the Avs off the board and that's a huge improvement over last game. The Wings had a power play chance of their own starting at 19:37. They won the initial faceoff in the offensive zone and forced Salo to freeze the puck again. Pavel Datsyuk won the next faceoff to Mathieu Schneider who passed it back to Nicklas Lidstrom, who got it to Hull who in turn one-timed it to Nick who got it to Schneider for the shot everyone was waiting for. It was a rocket that blasted past Salo to make it 1-0 with 10 seconds left in the period. A great goal by Schneider in just his second game back from a groin injury. Shots were 11-0 Avs. Third Period Right at the start of the third (1:34), Manny Legace made a save with the side of his head off a Chris Gratton shot. He looked a little dazed but was fortunately okay overall, though he had to get some work done on his helmet. Scary moment for Wings fans. A couple minutes later, Henrik Zetterberg had a great chance on goal but ran out of real estate after holding onto the puck too long. Almost immediately after, Pavel Datsyuk scored his 52nd career goal and 29th of the year after dishing the puck to Hull who one-timed it towards the net. The puck was deflected and Pavel picked it up and sent it over a prone Tommy Salo. He is on a five-game scoring streak with four goals and one assist in that span. The Wings are now 26-5-6-1 when he scores a point. Hopefully that will continue into the playoffs. Manny Legace came up big in the third when the game was on the line and earned a "Manny! Manny! Manny!" chant from the lucky fans at the Joe. He's allowed nine goals in the final five minutes of games all season but didn't allow one here as he stopped everything that came at him. The Wings did not allow a single shot from Joe Sakic or Peter Forsberg today, a remarkable achievement. They did allow five to Milan Hejduk, though, which is something they won't get away with very often if it happens in the playoffs. The Wings really shut down the Avs in the third, giving up only four shots. They only had six themselves but they were focusing on defense anyway. I was a little disappointed in Zetterberg for his decision to ice the puck twice in the final minute of the game with an empty net calling for him. The first one was accidental probably but he still could have scored that insurance goal. Good thing it didn't matter. Final shots were 27-26 Wings. Notes The Wings are 29-6-4-0 at home this season and, before today's game, averaged 3.53 goals at home. Both are league-leading stats ... The Avs have won just two games in their last 13 at home ... They have never beaten the Wings twice in a row at the Joe ... Teemu Selanne has one goal in his last 12 games against the Wings ... This is the Wings' 5th consecutive 100-point season, going back to '99 ... Rob Blake played in his 900th game today ... The Avs are just three points ahead of the Canucks, who have one game in hand ... The Wings are now five points ahead of San Jose with 103 for the Conference lead ... The Wings have just four games (four games!) left in the regular season ... They will play Minnesota next, on Monday at 7:00 EST in the Joe. Quote of the day I heard this one from Gary Thorne and Co.:
"He hit me with a bomb."
- Avs forward Matthew Barnaby concerning his fight with Darren McCarty during Thursday night's game where he received a nasty cut near his eye. Barnaby, by the way, looks like he's always about to cry. Poor guy got his face mashed into the boards by Chelios (I think it was) later in the game. That must have felt good. Here's the box score, faceoff comparison and shift chart. Lines (courtesy GWB) Maltby-Zetterberg-McCarty Shanahan-Mowers-Holmstrom Whitney-Yzerman-Williams Thomas-Datsyuk-Hull Shanahan-Yzerman-Whitney Zetterberg-Datsyuk-Hull Maltby-Mowers-McCarty Thomas-Mowers-Holmstrom Maltby-Yzerman-McCarty Lidstrom-Schneider Fischer-Rivers Hatcher-Chelios Hatcher-Schneider Fischer-Chelios Lidstrom-Chelios Hatcher-Rivers 4 on 4 Datsyuk-Yzerman Maltby-Zetterberg Datsyuk-Hull Lidstrom-Schneider PP Zetterberg-Datysuk-Hull Shanahan-Yzerman-Holmstrom Whitney-Lidstrom Schneider-Rivers Lidstrom-Schneider PK Zetterberg-Maltby Whitney-Shanahan Whitney-Yzerman Shanahan-Yzerman Whitney-McCarty Lidstrom-Chelios Hatcher-Schneider Lidstrom-Schneider Fischer-Schneider Net Manny Legace


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