For the first part of the season, the Detroit Red Wings looked like Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Brunner, Filppula, Franzen, and Kronwall playing next to a bunch of AHLers. But on Thursday night, they were led to a convincing 5-1 victory by the efforts of the bottom two lines against the St. Louis Blues. Dan Cleary scored his first goal of the season to open the scoring, while Cory Emmerton had a goal and an assist and Drew Miller had two assists. Jakub Kindl, Damien Brunner, and Valtteri Filppula (with an absolutely SICK breakaway move) also added goals for Detroit, who improved to 5-4-1, now only a point behind St. Louis in the standings.
Petr Mrazek made his first NHL start and performed amazingly, stopping 26 of 27 shots and earning his first win. He played with poise and confidence well beyond his years (he’ll turn 21 on Valentine’s Day), and provided a strong presence in net even despite an extremely porous defense. Hopefully Babcock sees fit to trust him long term, as this could provide Howard with the ability to rest for more than one game at a time, or even see the Wings with a 1-A/1-B goaltending situation similar to Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliot in St. Louis.
The Blues’ lone goal was scored by Alex Pietrangelo, the 4th overall pick in the 2008 NHL entry draft. The Wings were once again unable to provide a strong presence on the penalty kill, and Pietrangelo was able to capitalize, scoring from the center of a circle completely devoid of coverage. If Detroit doesn’t shore up their special teams play, their hopes of holding a record over .500 for more than two games at a time will never come to fruition.
- Petr Mrazek looks awesome. With all due respect to Jimmy Howard, this is the goalie of the Red Wings’ future. He’ll fit into the role of a franchise goaltender much more comfortably than Howard has.
- Finally, some scoring depth. Cory Emmerton is showing flashes of the offensive potential Detroit saw in him when they used a second round pick to select him in 2006. Drew Miller looks like the player that lit up the Great British Elite League during the lockout and scored 14 goals in the NHL last season. Jordin Tootoo is starting to return to 30 point form. And Dan Cleary doesn’t look like a floating log anymore. Still, I really miss Darren Helm.
- Filppula is starting to develop into a first-line calibre center. Holland needs to lock him up long term, and soon, because other teams challenged down the middle (cough-Buffalo-cough) are going to poach him right out from under us come off-season time.
- Team defense. Still. Sucks. The lapse during the second period of this tilt was especially bad – the game could have easily turned around back there if it wasn’t for Mrazek.
- Kindl scored, and is showing some offense awareness, but the guy is hopeless away from the puck. His time will be up soon, and if he doesn’t reach his slowly shrinking ceiling soon, he’ll lose a regular spot on the team. The Wings have four solid prospects in Ryan Sproul, Xavier Ouellet, Matthias Backman, and Alexei Marchenko making their way to North American professional hockey soon, just itching to take Kindl’s job.
- Franzen’s spear near the end of the game was pointless and stupid. He’s prone to cheap retaliation calls every once in awhile, but it is imperative that he avoids these while Detroit’s special teams are still struggling.
- David Backes. In a Blues jersey, anyway. He’s just the kind of physical, gritty, get-under-your-skin type player that you hate when he’s on any team but your own. Too bad St. Louis would have to be Brian Burke stupid to move him, especially within their own division.
The Wings are hoping to ride the momentum from this win into Saturday’s game against Edmonton, one of the most exciting young teams in hockey. The Western Conference is still tight as far as standings go (excluding Chicago…sigh), so a few wins in a row could mean a lot.
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