Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Depleted Detroit D Earns Valuable Point VS Sharks

I'll admit it: I came into this game with low expectations.  I mean, come on, our top defensive pair had Kyle Quincey on it.

With Niklas Kronwall still out (playing it safe after a mild concussion), and Jonathan Ericsson returning to his wife's side as she delivered a baby girl last night, the Red Wings found themselves with a notably younger D-Corps than they would have liked against the sizzling San Jose Sharks on Monday evening.  Averaging over 4 goals and over 40 shots a game, it seemed like the match-up from hell for a Wings team that has been lax with the puck and giving up nearly as many shots on average per game.

The first period began, and things seemed to play out as you'd expect: We were hanging on but getting out-chanced, but 20 minutes came and went, and the game was still scoreless.  Then came the second period...and then the third, and all throughout, San Jose kept pressing, waiting for the big defensive gaffe that would give them a great chance to take the lead.

But it never came.

This young and still-developing group of defensemen, including prospect Xavier Ouellette who was making his NHL debut, held the line and did not relent in the face of one of the highest-powered offenses in the league--and while the defense kept things steady in our zone, the Detroit offense went to work applying pressure in San Jose's zone.  We didn't get as many chances as the Sharks, but we kept it close and soon we saw regulation time end, still with no score.

Overtime would come and go, with still no deciding goal.  The defense having done its job, it was up to a chosen three and Jimmy Howard to get it done in the shootout.  Datsyuk made the move to beat Antti Niemi, but fired his shot just wide.  Alfredsson's attempt was gobbled up easily by the Sharks netminder, which came from pretty much straight on.  Directly after Alfie's shot, Logan Couture beat Howard to give the Sharks the advantage and match point unless we converted in the 3rd round.  Todd Bertuzzi, however, got Niemi down and out the best.  Pump-faking a slapshot, then making a quick deke from backhand to forehand and trying to outwait Niemi, Todd stared at a gaping top half of the San Jose goal.  Bertuzzi got a little lift on his shot, but Niemi, showing an admittedly remarkable feat of athleticism, managed to kick his right pad up from on his stomach and just got his toe on the puck, kicking it away for the save and the win.

The effort was good, the determination was good, and the discipline was...well, pretty good. I won't say it was great because we again saw a penalty parade that started half a minute into the game, and gave San Jose way too many PP chances.  Our PK was perfect, sure, but we shouldn't be taking that risk.  All in all, a valuable point moving forward is better than nothing, as Detroit is currently in sole possession of 2nd in the East at 13 points, behind only Pittsburgh with 14.

The Red Wings will play next on Wednesday, and Daniel Alfredsson faces his old team for the first time, when Detroit takes on the Ottawa Senators at the JLA.