Monday, March 01, 2004

Wings 4, Flyers 2

The Wings got a lot of help from their newest player, Robert Lang, last night in their 4-2 win over the Eastern Conference-leading (tied with Ottawa) Philadelphia Flyers. The newly acquired center notched three assists and played a solid game overall, as did the rest of his teammates. Manna Legace got the start and played well, as usual. Nicklas Lidstrom played his 1,000th game last night, something only 199 players have done in the history of the NHL. In his first two years, he saw two other players play their 1,000th game, Brad Marsh and Brad McCrimmon. They were both 33. "I thought, 'I'm never going to reach that milestone. Those guys are a lot older than I am. There's no chance.'" Now he's has done it. And he's 33. Of the 199 players accomplished this feat, Nick has played the highest percentage of possible games, a whopping .983. No one in the League has played more games than Nick since 91-92 and the majority of the 17 games he has missed were merely rest periods before the playoffs. It's a testament to his endurance and his obvious ability early on in his career that he has been able to last playing so much. His style of play is another factor. He is almost always in control when he's playing and doesn't wear himself out by overplaying things. Very few of those games were missed because of injury, another result of his style of play. He is just the sixth Swede to play 1,000+ games: Borje Salming (1,148), Calle Johansson (1,101), Ulf Samuelsson (1,080), Mats Sundin (1,070) and Fredrik Olausson (1,022) are the only others who have done it. Scott Stevens has the record for most games played by a defenseman with 1,635 but may not be able to continue if his concussion problems persist. If Nick keeps on his current pace and the League doesn't shut down, he hit 1,635 games when he's 41 years old. He says
"I don't know," Lidstrom said. "That's quite an accomplishment. I don't think I'll be able to stay in the league that long or be able to play at such a high level for so long. . . . "I still can't see myself playing at the age of 40. But I never thought I was going to reach 1,000 games, either."
When Budd Lynch announced the accomplishment to the Joe Louis crowd during the first period, they roared in appreciation for the best and most durable defenseman in hockey. Even if he's having a sub-par year this year, according to the super-human standard he's set over the years. (Freep, News) Robert Lang was fairly impressive in his first game for the Red-and-White. He played between Steve Yzerman and Ray Whitney, a line I would expect to remain together considering the results it put out. I would say that his first assist was much more a result of his being involved in the play than the others but he earned all three for sure. His assist on the first goal was a classic offensive zone faceoff win, right to a waiting Schneider who ripped it by Burke, who honestly should have made the save. He made a good pass to Yzerman who in turn shot it past Burke for the second goal of the game for the Wings and was involved in the scrum which got the puck to Shanahan when he scored his goal (finally!). He obviously didn't get that goal hat trick Brian mentioned but I'd almost rather have him get an assist hat trick because that implies chemistry is already building between his teammates and himself. Although, I did see a lot of his passes go awry and not arrive at their intended destination. It's to be expected, I guess. He has now tied his career high for assists with 48 and is back on top the NHL scoring list with 77 points. He did in fact wear #20, the number formally worn by Marc Mowers, Luc Robataille before him, Martin Lapointe before he ran away to Boston and current Wings color-commentator Mickey Redmond back in his days with the Wings (Here's an interesting factoid: He was the team's first 50-goal scorer). He was +1 on the night over 19 shifts and 16:17 minutes of playing time. He got 4:14 on the power play and had one shot on net. He was 8-for-18 (44%) in the faceoff, something I'd like to see some improvement on. Overall, I was happy with his performance and I hope this continues for the next three years after the initial emotional rush has burned off. (Freep, News) Mark Mowers didn't even have to be asked to give up his #20, he gave it up freely and took #44. Lang said "That was nice. I owe him big-time." Mowers made a joke out of it and said laughingly: "I let him know that like lobster and I've never been to the Bahamas. I'll leave it in his hands and see what happens." Kind of a high price to pay for a number, Marc. Mowers was a healthy scratch last night along with Jason Williams (haven't seen much of him this year) and Boyd "Devoid" Devereaux (sorry Boyd). (Freep) Anders Myrvold again filled in for injured defenseman Chris Chelios (shoulder). He got his first point as a Red Wing when he assisted on Steve Yzerman's goal in the second. He has looked solid in the two games he's played. Lewis said Cheli might return for the game Wednesday against the Flames. Brendan Shanahan finally got a goal, his first in nine and second in 22+ games. It's about time, Shanny. Kirk Maltby capitalized on some rare power play time when he redirected a shot from the point right in to the net. The initial shot probably wasn't even on net but he got enough on it to change it's direction and make Sean Burke look like a fool. The Wings now lead the NHL with 85 points, just one a head of Philly and Ottawa and just three ahead of the next best team in the West, Colorado. They are 12 points in front of Nashville for the lead in the Central Division. The Blues lost again last night, 1-0 to the Sharks. They are ninth in the Conference and four points out of a playoff spot with 68. Next up: vs. Calgary, Wednesday, 7:00 EST ESPN | Box Score Lines (courtesy GWB)- Maltby-Draper-McCarty Whitney-Lang(#20)-Yzerman Thomas-Datsyuk-Hull Shanahan-Zetterberg-Holmstrom Lidstrom-Schneider Fischer-Dandenault Myrvold-Rivers PP- Shanahan-Lang-Holmstrom Zetterberg-Datsyuk-Hull Maltby-Draper-McCarty Lidstrom-Yzerman Whitney-Schneider Lidstrom-Schneider PK- Draper-Yzerman Whitney-Zetterberg Maltby-Draper Shanahan-Lang Lidstrom-Schneider Fischer-Dandenault 4 on 3PK- Draper-Yzerman Shanahan-Zetterberg Lidstrom Net- Manny Legace


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