Chris Osgood took, perhaps, a step toward taking over the #1 goaltending job in Detroit and the defense stifled a Ducks team that needed to win, as the Wings beat the Ducks 3-1 last night at the Joe.
Osgood, who made 25 saves, has won his last four games, a stretch that includes two shutouts (including one against the Ducks earlier this month) and one single-goal game. He has not allowed more than three goals since December 13th, when he gave up four to Atlanta after relieving Jimmy Howard in the Thrashers' 7-6 victory
over the Wings in Georgia. He looked good last night, making some very sharp saves when necessary, and very nearly, I think, had a shutout. The goal he allowed on Selanne was absolutely the fault of his defense, who left the Finn wide open to his left. Osgood was way over on the other side of the net and very nearly got over and set in time to make the save. I actually thought for a second that he had and was a little surprised when the goal light went on.
I'm not part of the Osgood hating camp and because of this, I would like to see more of Osgood as the Wings head down the stretch. He is a goalie that gets better the more he plays and when he is "on," he is very good, providing a good reason to play him more. I know Babcock has named Legace his playoff goalie but he can obviously change his mind. Unless Manny gets it together and gets it together fast, I want Chris Osgood in the net for the postseason, if for no other reason than that he has experience and a very heavy ring to go along with it.
This game was fairly closely contested and, based on that, I am not very interested in facing the Ducks in the first round of the playoffs. They are not a bad team at all and could very easily, I think, pull off a major upset in the playoffs once again. I'd just as soon the Wings not be the team they beat.
It was the first time I've seen Cory Cross in the Winged Wheel and I was satisfied with his play. He was hammered in the corner early in the first but came right back with a strong, if messy, defensive play to disrupt a strong Ducks scoring chance, somehow without taking a penalty (though Kronwall was called on the same play). I didn't notice any glaring mistakes and wasn't conscious of his presence on the ice most of the time. For a player like him, that is a good thing. I don't want to be noticing him often because that means it's more likely to be due to a mistake rather than doing something right.
Henrik Zetterberg had another good game. His first period goal was impressive and he was solid, as usual, throughout the rest of the game. He has better offensive forays by himself than another other Red Wing and very often makes something out of great individual efforts, such as he did last night. He was aided by Jeff Friesen's stumbling and losing coverage but Hank's quick shot is what beat an unprepared JS Giguere. The goal came as a bit of a surprise, just a minute into the game, despite what we've all seen Zetterberg do all season. It didn't seem like a very harmless play and that shot is one goalies generally stop. Nice to see him continue his tear.
Pavel Datsyuk was not as impressive last night, finally having his point streak broken.
Nicklas Lidstrom assisted on all three Red Wing goals and continues to put himself well ahead of any competition for the Norris Trophy. It is a contract year for Nick, though, and that could mean this is his last season in Detroit. Fortunately, it was reported last week
that Lidstrom and the Wings are in talks. Update (17. Mar 06 - 12:13 PM)
: IwoCPO has posted news from a Swedish report
that is a little disturbing: "According to the article, Lidstrom’s agent Tom Meehan is reportedly asking Detroit for the league maximum which could turn out to be between 8.9 and 9.2 million." It does sound like Nick would be willing to sign before the summer, though, and wants to stay two more years.
The only guy, I think, who could perhaps challenge his claim to it would be his teammate and frequent defensive partner, Mathieu Schneider. He scored his 21st goal last night, a career high, on the power play with the sort of inevitability that comes with a Schneider shot these days. The Ducks were foolish enough to give he and Lidstrom about half the offensive zone to operate and he had a completely clear lane down which to send the puck and plenty of room to use for stepping into it. Of course, it helped that Tomas Holmstrom was screening Giguere but it was Schneider's goal the whole way into the top left corner of the net. He leads all defensemen in goals scored (Bryan McCabe is next with 19) and his 31 assists aren't bad either. Good thing it's not a contract year! The Wings'll have #23 for one more year
I thought The Captain looked good out there last night. He had decent jump and showed some flashes of his old ability on a few occasions. He certainly wasn't a dead weight on his line. In the first period, he pulled his classic move (skating down the wing with the puck, then slamming on the brakes and looking to the slot for a pass or shot) and centered the puck to a streaking Jason Williams. The puck flew wide of the net though but it was still a good chance and something we'll hopefully see more often as the playoffs get closer.
Mark Mowers continues to fill in well for the injured Mikael Samuelsson, who may be back this weekend after missing six games with a mysterious sore wrist. It's unfortunate that Mower is only a replacement player for now because he has shown an impressive work ethic recently and also has some decent skill, which comes out every once and a while
It was good to see Draper finally score a goal. It was just his 6th and though it was an empty netter, he has to feel a bit better now. Maybe that'll get him going again.
The Ducks now have just two games in hand on Edmonton and three on Vancouver. Both teams are just two points ahead of Anaheim, meaning fans and players alike were definitely glad the Wings won
last night since it will make it that much harder for the Ducks to catch either of them.
According to James Mirtle
, the Wings have clinched a playoff berth now, having reached the 95 points threshold. Woo hoo. Now, who will they face first?
It's likely that it'll be one of the two teams they face in back-to-back games this weekend: Edmonton on Saturday and Vancouver on Sunday. Even better, the games are away, which completes the playoff simulation. The Wings will need to win in Western Canada if they want to do anything in the playoffs and this weekend is a great time to start (Okay, they could just go to seven games and win all four at home but that's not advisable for a team with such old legs. Or for the hearts of Red Wings fans.).