The Wings won a bit of a wild one today, 4-3 over the Avalanche in Denver. The game was closely fought and exciting, with great goaltending on either side and fine offensive play by both teams as well. The rivalry may be different but these two teams still play good hockey against each other.
The Wings jumped right out with the lead, scoring 49 seconds. Brendan Shanahan, playing on a line with Kris Draper and Pavel Datsyuk, sent the puck from behind the net out front to Datsyuk, who one-timed it past David Aebischer to make it 1-0.
The Avs struck back less than a minute later when John-Michael Liles sent a floater from the point and Ian Laperriere got his stick on it to redirect it into the net. Manny didn't have much chance on it, being both screened and beaten by a deflection.
Quick goals aside, the opening minutes of the first period were pretty fast paced. Both teams skated hard and they were trading chances up and down the ice. Both goalies were solid during this stretch and so was the Red Wing penalty kill, which allowed just one shot on the Avs' first power play.
The Wings' passing was a little messy in their own zone but pretty tight in the offensive end. They held the puck in the Colorado zone for long stretches of play but couldn't convert until the game settled down a bit sometime after the mid-point of the period.
Mark Mowers, playing again in place of Henrik Zetterberg, connected with Tomas Holmstrom to make it 2-1 at 17:03. Mowers started out behind the net but came out front with the puck. He turned around, and in the process, sent the puck toward the far post. Tomas Holmstrom got his stick on it to Aebischer's right and redirected it into the net, giving the Wings the lead again.
Less than two minutes later, the Wings extended their lead and this time it came on the power play. With Antti Laaksonen in the box for hooking, the Detroit put on a great power play and forced David Aebischer to make some spectacular saves. He robbed the Wings on three straight rapid-fire shots by throwing himself around desperately and closing what had been an open net a split second earlier. With the Colorado crowd cheering, "Abby! Abby!" the Wings got their goal. But it wasn't "Abby's" fault. Mathieu Schneider took a low shot from the point and it deflected off a Colorado defenseman's skate out front and changed direction. It didn't hurt that both Steve Yzerman and Brendan Shanahan were in front of the net at the time. 3-1 Wings, at 18:51.
The Avs began the second on the power play (a carryover from the first period) and had trouble getting set up in the face of the aggressive Red Wing penalty killers. They did score, however, though with very little build up. Patrice Briesebois' shot from the point was redirected 12 feet in front of the net by Andrew Brunette and beat Legace to put the Avs within one, despite their crappy power play (1:29).
After that, the pace continued to be quick, with the teams playing fairly even hockey up and down the ice. The teams traded uneventful power plays once and then again, though this second time resulted in a 4-on-4 situation and a Colorado goal.
Rob Blake got off a blast from the point despite not having much space to do so and it hit Chris Chelios, who was trying to get out of the way, on the way to the net. On top of deflecting the shot, Cheli was probably screening Legace and because of it, he had no chance to stop the puck. 3-3 tie, at 13:23.
The Red Wings' half of the 4-on-4 expired first and the Avs went on the power play. Kirk Maltby then was called for boarding and the Avs got a 5-on-3 chance but the Wings did a great job of killing it off and stimying the Colorado momentum.
The Wings soon got their own 5-on-3 chance but they were able to capitalize on it, unlike Colorado. It took them less than 30 seconds to do it too. Pavel Datsyuk's pass through the crease connected with Robert Lang, who just barely got it over Aebischer's pad and into the net. The pass was made possible by Holmstrom's work keeping the Colorado defenseman out of the lane. The Wings were still on the power play after that but were unable to score again. 4-3 Wings, at 17:02.
The third period consisted of the Wings withstanding Colorado attacks and countering with attacks of their own. They had to hold off another 5-on-3 power play but did so because of Legace's strong goaltending and the skaters' ability with the puck. The last Colorado power play of the game was a nail-biter, with the Avs skating very fast and hard while the Wings' just held on and waited for the clock to run down. Colorado pulled their goalie late in the game and got some mileage out of it but not enough for their purposes and the Wings got the puck out of the zone enough to prevent a goal. Wings win 4-3.
I didn't enjoy this NBC broadcast as much but that's probably because I was getting awful reception in my room. The NBC "JV" squad wasn't so hot, either. Cuthbert was acceptable but I found myself considerably annoyed by McNab, the color commentator. Cammie Granato didn't pipe up as much as she could have though I must say, it wasn't "tonight," Cammie, especially in Denver. "This afternoon" would have been a bit more accurate. Anyway.
I did like the tidbit the crew related about Nick Lidstrom saying the Red Wings power play isn't pass-happy, that they go for the most direct and quick shot without looking necessarily for the best. Ahem. I have been watching Red Wing power plays for 10+ years now and it has always been a valid complaint to say they pass too much. I'd hate to think what other teams must be like, if the Wings' pass the least of any team on the power play. Scary.
Abel to Yzerman recap
UPDATE (22. Jan): The News reports that Niklas Kronwall got positive news yesterday and that it's now just a matter of conditioning and strength-building. Once he's worked his legs back to where they should be, he'll be back. It will be fairly soon.
The paper also says that Henrik Zetterberg is not expected to play until Tuesday for the second game against the Predators in as many nights. He is supposed to skate today and that will likely have bearing on whether or not he plays, though. (DetNews)
*compiled by Brian