Despite missing three high-impact players in Datsyuk, Bertuzzi, and Dekeyser, the Detroit Red Wings managed to prove that their recent streak (2-3-5 in the previous ten games) is not indicative of what they can accomplish. They absolutely dominated the Boston Bruins Wednesday night at Joe Louis Arena. Numerous players stepped up to fill the void left by the walking wounded; Johan Franzen and Gustav Nyquist shone brightly flanking Henrik Zetterberg, and the Abdelkader-Helm-Alfredsson line served as a top-tier shutdown line while providing more than competent offensive firepower. Jonas Gustavsson continued to challenge Jimmy Howard for the starter job, adding to his undefeated resume and only giving up one goal.
While the individual efforts of these players stood out, solid team defense is what really won the game for the Wings. They limited the Bruins to 17 shots over sixty minutes, and didn’t allow a shot against in the third until a full eight minutes had passed. The fourth line of Cleary-Weiss-Samuelsson, filled with players much maligned by Detroit fans throughout the season, played a gritty game, and the third line of Miller-Andersson-Tatar provided a little bit of everything. While no single defenseman stood out, all six played great defensively and moved the puck well – even Brian Lashoff got in on the offense with an assist.
The scoring opened about halfway through the first period when Johan Franzen, fresh out of the penalty box, looped through the neutral zone and fed Justin Abdelkader for a one-timer that sneaked past Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask. Detroit never looked back from there, amping up play to a three-goal second period courtesy of Tatar, Zetterberg, and Kronwall. They capped it off in the third with a goal each from Miller and Nyquist, during which they also surrendered their only goal against to Jarome Iginla. It was a small blemish on an otherwise great night, however, and hopefully the team can ride this momentum into the next few games.
– When Franzen plays mean, he looks like Ovechkin. He had three assists tonight, and absolutely dominated puck possession when he was on the ice. He’d score fifty goals if he wasn’t so streaky.
– Gustav Nyquist plays like Datsyuk. He was a takeaway machine tonight, and just wouldn’t give up the puck to the other team. His vision is impeccable, and his chemistry with Hank and Mule is undeniable – even when Pavel gets back, this line shouldn’t be broken up.
– Where did Darren Helm get all of this offensive ability? He looks like a legitimate second-line center in the league now, and is finally displaying the patience and calm that was the only lacking facet of his game beforehand.
– 6 Wings (Nyquist, Andersson, Zetterberg, Franzen, Kronwall, and Tatar) had multi-point games tonight, and only Daniel Alfredsson was a minus.
– Jonas Gustavsson is really doing well. REALLY doing well. He hasn’t lost a game in regulation, and his save percentage and goals against average are superhuman. While I’d like to see Howard given another chance to keep the starter’s job, especially with the Olympics so close, the team needs to do what gets them wins. And playing Howard three games for every one that Gustavsson does isn’t getting the job done.
– When Datsyuk and Bertuzzi come back, where do we put them? The new top line can’t be split up, but there’s very little room to give everyone the ice time they deserve. I’d like to see something like this…
…but Babcock and I hardly ever see eye to eye, so I’m not too hopeful. Putting Datsyuk on Weiss’s flank might revitalize the highly talented pivot, but more likely we’ll see him scratched. Which, aside from his 4.9 mil cap hit, I wouldn’t mind so much. It’d be pretty hard to trade him, but maybe a team that struggles offensively instead of on the back end (do those even exist anymore?) could use him. I know Philly is looking to shake things up – I wouldn’t mind taking back Andrej Mezaros or Luke Schenn in a deal.
Thanks for reading! @rollin_on_D