Saturday, November 12, 2005

Wings 3, Wild 1

The Wings played a workmanlike game tonight and notched their 8th home win, beating Minnesota 3-1. It wasn't a terribly exciting game and long stretches of time were spend playing pretty uneventful hockey. Still, I'm not complaining because Detroit put on one of their best defensive performances of the year and the fact that there wasn't much excitement isn't necessarily a bad thing.

Manny Legace made the start for the Wings and looked sharper than he did Wednesday, though he only faced 17 shots. Manny Fernandez was in net for the Wild and was the sole reason the score was not much more lopsided. He was very good tonight and faced 37 shots, a number of which were of high quality.

First Period

The Wings' came out of the gates flying, with Draper's line creating some solid pressure in the Wild end for the entire first shift. This pressure only stopped when the whistle blew for an incidental offsides. Things evened out for the next few minutes, with a lot of up and down play until the Wild gained control at about the 4:30 mark. The pace was quick and both teams were skating hard.

Johan Franzen had a great chance on the far side at about 7:00, a backhand shot, but Fernandez made the save.

The Wild got the first power play of the game at 9:48. Draper had a nice shorthanded chance 20 seconds in, but Fernandez made the save and was forced to freeze the puck by Maltby, who got right in his face. The Wild had some good chances in the rest of the power play but Manny was sharp and made the necessary saves.

Around 13:00, Lang's line generated some solid pressure. Lang himself got off a great shot in close on Fernandez and his rebound went right to Williams but he couldn't get a handle on it. Fernandez was very good here. Despite instances such as this, there were not many quality scoring chances for either team, though there was a good pace, as previously stated.

The Wings got a power play of their own at 16:53. They got a good initial setup but fumbled the puck on the blue line not long after that and had to regroup. After a shot from the point, there was a flurry down low that resulted in a frozen puck and a scrum after the whistle. Holmstrom and Koivu were called for roughing and went the box. It remained 5-on-4, though, and the Wings continued their attempts to score. They got some pressure as the penalty expired but did not get the puck in the net.

The period pretty much just wound down after that. Shots were 11-6 Wings.

Second Period

Brendan Shanahan had a near-breakaway chance 20 seconds into the period but Nick Schultz made a great defensive play and knocked the puck off Shanny's stick from behind, without getting a penalty.

The Wings went back on the power play at 1:07 but didn't get much going. Mickey Redmond's word was "fractured" and I found it to be fairly apt. Definitely not the kind of power play you want from the league's most potent team with the man-advantage.

After the power play, the teams traded chances that started out pretty weak but got progressively better until Shanahan finally opened the scoring for the night at 7:28. His line had generated some serious pressure for their shift and it finally paid off after Shanahan knocked in the rebound from Fischer's point-shot. He banked it off Fernandez through a crowd and got his 10th of the season. 1-0 Wings.

Not long after that, the Wings got another power play, when Steve Yzerman was dumped while taking the puck in on a rush. This time, they did a beautiful job of cycling the puck and generated some serious pressure, which resulted in their second goal. This time it came from Jason Williams, who has to be the best bang-for-the-buck in hockey with his league-minimum salary. Zetterberg, on the far side of the net, sent the puck across to Williams, who was wide open down low and had all day to pick a spot. He put it right in the top right corner with a perfect shot and put the Wings ahead by two. A beautiful goal.

The Wings really came at the Wild after that goal and generated pressure on the next two shifts. They did give up a near-breakaway at about 12:30 but Datsyuk made a great defensive play and picked Matt Foy's pocket as he broke in on Legace. This play was just one example of many solid defensive plays the Wings made all over the ice. Another example came not long after, this time from Jiri Fischer on Koivu, who had picked up a loose puck low in the Wings' zone. Jiri used his long reach to poke it off Koivu's stick and saved Manny from having to make a tough save.

Williams got called for hooking at 14:30 but the Wings had more control of the puck than the Wild did on the ensuing Minnesota power play. Franzen and Cleary wrecked some havoc in the Wild zone and came close to scoring again. Those two look to be a great penalty killing pair, like Maltby and Draper. The next generation.

Both teams had chances in the final minutes of the period but neither put the puck in the net and score remained 2-0 Wings. Shots were 20-4 Wings (that's not a typo).

Third Period

I missed the first 6-7 minutes of the period due to a conversation with a friend who stopped by the lounge but no goals were scored in that span so I don't know that I missed much.

The Wild got on the board at 8:26, a a power play goal scored by Randy Robitaille. Daigle and Burns were along the end boards fighting for the puck and it was sent suddenly up ice a few feet to Robitaille, who sent it between Manny's legs before the Wings goalie had a chance to get set at the post. Not a great goal for the Wings' defense to give up. 2-1 Wings.

The Wild were charged by their goal and came back with some great chances by Rolston in particular. They seemed to be a different team for a while after that and looked to be back in it.

Johan Franzen put a damper on the Wild's hopes at 11:42, though, when he scored his fourth of the season. The play could hardly have been drawn up better. Chris Chelios started it out way back in the Wings' zone and sent it to Maltby, who got it to Samuelsson. Mikael got a shot off from the far side about 50 feet out and Fernandez made the kick save. However, he kicked the puck right to Franzen and put himself way out of position. He tried to cover the net but Franzen had plenty of open space to choose from and he scored to make it 3-1 Wings.

Detroit played very tight defensively for the rest of the period, being quick to close on Wild players who had offensive opportunities and really stifling any attempt at a comeback. They also generated their own offensive pressure and played defense by having a good offense. The period wound down without any real concerns for a surprise from Minnesota and the Wings got their 15th win of the season.

Shots in the period were 7-6 Wings, which should give you an idea of how tightly fought the defensive battle was. The Wild were good defensively as well, it wasn't just the Wings.


Pavel Datsyuk is on pace to score over 100 points this season. If he does so, he will be the first Red Wing to do it since another Russian got 107 points in 95-96 (which, incidentally, is the season [too] many people think could this season has the potential to measure up to). Who was that Russian? Sergei Fedorov. ... Jason Williams isn't a bad power play quarterback but he does seem to have trouble keeping the puck in the zone, especially along the boards, if he's the receiver of a hot pass. I remember Larry Murphy used to be pretty darn good at that. Oh well. ... Manny notched his 9th straight win tonight, increasing his season total to 11 ... Williams played in ahiscareer-high 18th straight game ...

Mike Babcock shouldn't have too much to complain about after a win like that. The Wings played a good game and seem to be on the right track in terms of getting their problems fixed. Their game on Sunday against the Canucks will be an even tougher test, despite Vancouver's current slide. They should be ready, though, after tonight.


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