The Detroit Red Wings got a much needed win beating the Buffalo Sabres 4-0 Saturday night. Between power play goals and Michael Rasmussen potting one on a breakaway, it was a much needed shot to the arm for a team that had looked lethargic and at times, lost.
Onto the observations:
1. I wrote before that Tyler Bertuzzi has earned every damn penny of his contract this season. He showed it again Saturday with a goal and an assist. Bertuzzi has the uncanny ability of being in the right place at the right time, but he also just continues to tally up goals and points. He’s currently a point-per-game player (18-13) and is assuredly going to nail the 20-goal mark for the third time in four seasons–which if not for an injury last year, might have done it even in a shortened season. (He had five in nine games). Bertuzzi is a critical piece on this team and will not only hit that 20-goal mark, but most likely set a career high this year.
2. Right behind him is captain Dylan Larkin, who is also at a point-per-game rate with 34 (16-18). His feed to Lucas Raymond sprung the Swedish rookie from his goal slump. But Larkin does a little bit of everything these days, and a nice raise with a contract extension will get done probably much sooner than later. Larkin and Bertuzzi are the heartbeat of the team’s core .
3. Rasmussen zipped a shot past Sabres netminder Aaron Dell which was certainly a good sign, but took three (!) penalties in the game. You have to like the snarl, but he can’t do that in tighter games where the Wings have not been as good at closing them out.
4. Filip Zadina had an assist on Bertuzzi’s goal but had one of his visual yell-at-myself sessions after having a shot partially blocked. He just seems utterly frustrated beyond belief, and if there’s anyone who needs a goal to relieve stress, it’s him. Jakub Vrana can’t return soon enough.
5. Alex Nedeljkovic is showing again why Steve Yzerman is a genius. A third round pick and Jonathan Bernier on an expiring contract was all it took. “Ned” is becoming a fan favorite with every game, and if there is ever a guy who could steal a game when playoffs are a legitimate option, it’s him.
6. That struggling Red Wings power play got a couple goals early, and hopefully that gets things moving. Possession was stronger and the first period was dominated because of it. Hopefully a step in the right direction.
7. But the penalty filled second period was not something to take lightly. Against a better team (no disrespect Buffalo), that bites the Red Wings in the rear. They spent the half of the first 12 minutes of the middle period in the penalty box. Alls well that ends well, but it was only 2-0 at that point and it felt like those were the chances that could burn what had been a great start.
8. The Red Wings still need another shot at a top pick in the coming draft, but it’s certainly a more pleasurable viewing experience when they’re winning–and well–versus the other offerings from evening’s past. You can see the growth occurring and a victory last night cements that perception. But offensively, they’re still a few key pieces away from really doing something. It’ll be interesting to see how Yzerman addresses that in the next few months–and years.