It may have been ugly. It may have been gritty. It may have been boring.
But it was a win, dammit. And at this point in the season, I’ll take those where I can get ‘em.
Sunday night’s game in Anaheim against the Ducks was nothing like Friday night’s game. There was no offensive onslaught, no Justin Abdelkader hat trick, no duck goalie chased out of the net. There were four bright spots from the Wings’ perspective in this game:
1) Goal #1. Another road powerplay goal – do I even need to designate them like that anymore? I think they’re starting to become a regular thing.
I just jinxed it, didn’t I? Ugh.
Anyway, the goal was a beauty. A great powerplay ended with a beautiful tip in by Daniel Cleary off of Jakub Kindl‘s shot from the point. Both players were very much maligned to start the season (by myself more than anyone), but both did their jobs exceedingly well during this shift, and put the Wings up 1-0. If they can stay solid
2) Goal #2. Miller was looking great on the top line, so it’s kind of funny that he scored playing with Emmerton and Tootoo. He was Johnny on the spot, getting the rebound from Ian White‘s point shot and putting it between Jonas Hiller‘s legs to give Detroit a 2-0 lead. The team really benefited from Miller’s unique blend of skill and grit in the bottom six last season, and have really been missing that this year – made all the worse by the lack of Darren Helm. Hopefully Miller can keep this good play up and prepare for his favorite center to come back to the ice.
For the sake of keeping things in chronological order, I’m going to describe the horrors of the rest of the game before I touch on the other two bright spots. Sorry, but it’s easier this way, and you guys will feel better walking away from this article with a feeling of love toward your team, instead of the spiteful loathing I’m about to instill in you.
A few minutes before Miller scored Detroit’s second goal, Jordin Tootoo and Matt Belleskey dropped the gloves and fought. It was a great fight – huge punches were traded, Tootoo held his own against a much bigger opponent (as usual), and there wasn’t really a clear winner. In short, it was the perfect hockey fight.
Yeah, the Ducks must’ve thought so too, because they turned up the power on the attack and never turned it back down. Detroit was on it’s heels from the second half of the first period onward – at first, it didn’t look too bad. They played some solid defensive hockey, and kept a majority of Anaheim’s chances to the outside. But as the game went on, they got tired, and it showed. Getzlaf scored with 45 seconds left in the second period off of a beautiful shot, and if it wasn’t for the amazing play of Jimmy Howard (see bright spot #3), there’s no way Detroit would’ve won this game. He single-handedly kept them in the third period, which was all Ducks. Detroit had 5 shots to Anaheim’s 12, and the play looked even more one-sided than that. In fact, Anaheim probably would’ve tied the score if the refs hadn’t made a horrible tripping call on Ryan Getzlaf with under a minute to go. Watching him, Perry, and Selanne get 10 minute misconducts was fun, but the call was horrible. I don’t care that it helped my team, it was bad officiating, and it ruined the spirit of the game. But hey, we won, so yay!
Back to the bright spots:
3) Jimmy Howard. Wow. I’ve always thought he was one of the best goalies in the league, and it seems that recently he’s been doing his best to prove me right. Some of the saves he made were incredible – one with only a handful of seconds remaining in the third period may have saved the game (but then again, so did many others). I hopped on the Mrazek bandwagon earlier in the season and said Howard wasn’t a franchise netminder. I was more wrong here than I was about Abdelkader.
4) Jakub Kindl. He’s plus sixteen. +16. The best on the team. He’s eighth on the team in scoring, despite playing nine less games than everyone else. Defensively he was near perfect tonight, and he’s playing with confidence – something we haven’t seen since he was drafted in 2005. He’s finally starting to look like the highest pick Detroit has had since 1992 should. If this continues, Detroit’s problems on the blue line could end up a thing of the past.
A few random notes:
– Calle Jarnkrok, also known as “Ironhook” or “Zetterberg’s clone” in his native Swedish Elite League, flew to Detroit tonight, and is slated to join the Grand Rapids Griffins this week. He ended the season 8th in the league in scoring, and is a finalist for the league’s MVP award. He’s already won his league’s version of the Conn Smythe trophy, and the 21-year old center, a second round pick in the 2010 entry draft, looks poised for success here in North America too. Hopefully he’ll be ready to step into an NHL top six role in 2014-15, after *sniff* Datsyuk leaves. *sob*
– What happened to Ian White? He started off the season playing big minutes and looking great, and then just…nothing. At all. If Detroit can manage to sign blue-chip prospect Danny Dekeyser from Western Michigan, then he becomes expendable, and they should move him at the deadline. He has the potential to be a very good top four defenseman, so Ken Holland should be able to get at least a decent asset for him.
As always, thanks for reading! You can follow me on twitter here: @dzkefalas