Monday, April 22, 2013

One Down, Three to Go as Wings Shut Out Phoenix.

For the first time in a while, we can sleep the night after a game. The Wings leave the Joe tonight two points closer to keeping that streak alive, but still miles away. We’ll get to that in a bit, though.

Finally we saw signs of life. We saw Jimmy give his all for the Wings again, but we saw a team in front of him willing to hustle and play smart as well. Brunner looked great, Nyquist was taking up the role of Helm with some brilliant bursts of speed and forechecking. Franzen chipped in on defense and offense, and for once in a great while the Red Wings weren’t Howie and Pavel and a sack of Red and White weights tied to their legs to drag them back. Heck, even Fil scored. What changed?

Well the power play was obviously brilliant. Given the Coyotes were happily giving them to us all night, it was fantastic that we were able to convert. Brunner’s shot from the point, tipped in by Franzen, was the start of something special. For long stretches this season we have been abysmal on point play and the power play, and to break through so early on both really seemed to get the morale going.

Perhaps I shouldn’t be so quick to say that. As play continued post-goal, the Coyotes seemed to remember that they, too, had a season on the line and we went quite a while pinned back in our zone. As Pierre (yes, Pierre McGuire. You may file out now as this post has now lost all credibility) put it, the Red Wings needed “to stop messing around.”   For the first and hopefully last time in my life, I agreed. Yet the pressure continued, and there was a sort of sinking feeling that came to your stomach as you thought “No…is it going to be one of these games again?” Two stupid Brendan Smith penalties added to the feeling that we’d all been through this before.Thankfully it would not come to anything for the Coyotes. The second power play goal of the period, one that turned out to be a welcome surplus, came late and certainly helped ease the pressure.

In the second, Filppula stepped up for his first goal in eleven and a half centuries. I should note at this point Pierre McGuire also stepped up, reclaiming his place as the worst person ever to commentate on the NHL by repeatedly pronouncing Filppula as Fil-pewa-la, as if he’d just eaten a very peanut-buttery sandwich. (You can all come back, the author has regained her sanity and hates Pierre once more.) It was a pretty shot from a sharp angle and immediately had people wondering: Is this what gets Fil going for the year? We all sure hope so. That was a huge plus of the game. Any time Fil can be on the scoreboard this season, things are improving.

After his goal, the game was essentially over. The Coyotes went into pure desperation mode and that almighty pillar of class, Mr. Shane Doan, proved his real mettle as an NHL captain and put his team a man down with a stupid fight. Dinner and a show for Wings fans, insult to injury for those one or two unfortunate souls..erm…Coyotes fans still watching hockey in the desert. Jimmy would have his shutout, Franzen an empty net goal, and it ended 4-0 to the good guys. One down, three to go.

Brunner had the first star, Z the second and Jimmy very, very rightly the third (play wise I would almost elevate Jimmy to the second star).  Nyquist was another that impressed, he showed quite a bit of hustle and almost got what he deserved as a shot missed by inches and caught the post. Do the same thing next game, Gus, and you will be rewarded in due time. Franzen made some solid defensive plays as well and even Quincey, yes Quincey, made some smart moves that helped out a lot. Oh, and demolished a guy. Kyle Quincey demolished a human. A human on the other team (yes, I did feel the need to specify.) Let that sink in and make you happy. Ok, let's move on.

Of mild concern was that we were still showing some of the tendencies we have all season. Bad back passes, stupid early penalties, being pinned back for long stretches in our own zone. All in all, though, this game was a vast improvement over many of our recent ones and left a much better taste in the mouth.  It isn’t over yet, however, and that’s important to remember.  We have to come out hungry again against the Kings, and we have to come out smart again. Smith needs to stay out of the box, we still need to find a way to correct our tendency to make poor passing decisions, but this was a good start. Funny, to call it a good start with four games left in the season, but it was a good start all the same. It’s something we have to build on, improve and succeed or regress and fail. Those are our choices, and let’s hope this game inspired our guys to do the former. For now, we can celebrate and sleep tight, the Wings are safe for another day!