I said this game would be different than the Feb. 28 game but I didn't think it'd be this different! In easily one of their best defensive efforts of the entire season, the Wings shut down San Jose 4-0 last night at the Joe, continuing a streak of excellence that has got to have the rest of the League watching out (even with the loss Tuesday, they've been playing great) for the Red Machine.
I was completely wrong about the starting goalies for both teams: Manny Legace started for the Wings and Evgeni Nabokov was in net for the Sharks. Neither appeared to have much impact on the outcome of the game, however. The Wings were so tight defensively they could have put Darren McCarty in there and still have pitched a shutout while the Sharks were so unimpressive they would have lost no matter who was in net.
Now, I wasn't able to watch this game as intently as usual because I was distracted by a lot of noisy people around the TV but, even so, I should have noticed Joe Thornton and Jonathan Cheechoo a lot more than I did. The reason I didn't wasn't because of the chatter going on around me but because of the Draper-Zetterberg-Samuelsson line. Those three held one of the hottest duos in hockey to a mere 3 shots. They were amazing and were the real reason the Wings won last night, although Legace will get credit for the shootout.
As I've already said, San Jose was very unimpressive, not like I was expecting at all. The Wings controlled almost the entire game, with the Sharks putting on pressure only sporadically and not very convincingly. It was a combination of a very determined defensive effort by the Wings and a bad game by San Jose at a very bad time for them, I think. They're still a good team and this game shouldn't fool anyone into thinking they'd be a roll-over first round opponent.
Mikael Samuelsson played for the first time since March 1 and looked strong, scoring a nice goal in the third to cap off his return. Dan Cleary did not play, giving Mark Mowers another game to show his work ethic. He was on the ice with Franzen and Maltby covering Thornton and Cheechoo when Hank's line wasn't out there doing it. Needless to say, they did a good job as well.
The first period was scoreless. It took less than two minutes for the Wings to score in the second, though. Tomas Holmstrom tipped in Mathieu Schneider's point shot at 1:47, beating Nabokov to his left, just inside the post, after the puck deflected off his defenseman. After the goal, Nik Kronwall did his best Bobby Orr impression and took the puck about as far as the low slot, all by himself for a nice scoring chance.
My notes for the second period aren't very extensive, probably both because I was distracted and because the Wings controlled the play almost the whole period but in a very uneventful, steady way, it seemed. There was a moderate chance or two during the Sharks' late period power play but Manny Legace wasn't asleep and he made the necessary stops.
The third period opened with another Detroit goal, just over a minute in. IwoCPO
's description of the goal is too good not to quote:
R. Lang stepped off the bench and strolled along the right boards, glancing to the glass twice to make sure his hair was ok, then casually stepped in front of a McAuley pass. He slipped it to Jason Williams who fluttered it by Nabokov and it was pretty much over.
Ah, yes. Another seemingly lazy-but-actually-brilliant pass from Robert "Every third shift or so" Lang. Could you please do that more often, Robert? And Jason: nice goal. You could do that a little more often, as well. Thanks.
The Wings scored their third less than two minutes later while on the power play. Lidstrom's point shot was stopped by Nabokov, with Yzerman and Shanahan out front waiting for the rebound. When it came, The Captain picked it up and slammed it into the wide open net for his 688th goal. If, at this point of the season, a surging Steve Yzerman doesn't make you quake in your skates, Western Conference, I don't know what will. Shades of 2002, dare I say it? All that talk about a farewell tour seems really lame now, doesn't it? He's not along for the ride, he's in the driver's seat.
The fourth, and final goal, came from Mikael Samuelsson. I happened to be writing something down as the play developed but I looked up just in time to see Sammy sneak the puck in short side from the bottom of the left circle after taking the cross-ice pass from Zetterberg. Seriously, Mikael has got to have one of the best wrister/snap shots in the League.
Gotta love this quote from Ron Wilson:
“This was the opposite of the last game. They had five guys missing, and tonight it looked like we did, too. Five or six guys missing." (via. A2Y)
Good assessment, Ron.
An important win for the Wings, who sent another message to playoff-bound teams, reminding us just how good they are defensively while showing their strength offensively at the same time. (Let this be the team that shows up for the playoffs.... If you're going to have a slump, have it now, guys.)
Next up, we have Columbus at home tomorrow night at 7:30 ET. A should-win game and therefore one to worry about. (My efforts at keeping my hopes down have made me into a bit of a pessimist, I know.)
Abel to Yzerman game summary