With Jimmy Howard’s first shutout of the season (the 12th of his career, and 2nd against Nashville) in the Red Wings’ 4 - 0 victory, I’ve got the same phrase on my mind as I’m sure most of my fellow fans do; what a relief.
The Red Wings came out swinging in the first period, and didn’t let up for the entire 60 minutes. The forecheck looked great, Jimmy Howard was confident and stood firm in his cage. Drew Miller opened the scoring at 5:11 of the first period for his 2nd goal of this shortened season, with a net-front tap in off a rebounded shot from Niklas Kronwall. Patrick Eaves also picked up an assist on the goal. It’s exactly the type of play the Wings have been lacking for the last two seasons; a great net-front rebound pickup against a goalie that rarely lets any pucks off his body.
Only one minor defensive breakdown for the Red Wings in the period, allowing a breakaway chance by Nashville’s Matthew Halischuk, which was turned away spectacularly by Jimmy Howard. Nashville’s first power play came at 18:04 in the first for a hooking call on Niklas Kronwall, but the penalty kill, finally appearing to find their footing and some consistency, turned away the few shots on Howard, and was very effective at clearing the puck.
Opening the second period was the 2nd Red Wings goal by the impressive rookie Tomas Tatar, wristing in top-side his 3rd goal of the season off a smacked rebound by Joakim Andersson who picked up the assist. Then, near-tragedy struck, as Ian White was boarded by Rich Clune at 4:51, giving the Red Wings their first power play opportunity, that they failed to capitalize on. Ian White made his way gingerly to the bench after the whistle, but thankfully he ended up being merely shaken up by the hit. Halfway through the period, at 11:11, Nashville got their next power play chance on a holding call against Jonathan Ericsson, which was turned away by the Red Wings penalty kill.
Niklas Kronwall was then able to net his 2nd of the season and the Wings 3rd of the game off of a knucklepuck-slapshot at 15:33, off passes from Pavel Datsyuk and Justin Abdelkader. It was from that point till shortly past halfway in the 3rd that defense took over on both sides, along with some outstanding goaltending on both ends. Daniel Cleary was able to bang home the final goal of the game on a power play, their only conversion of the evening, on a penalty to Nashville’s Ryan Ellis for holding. Assists went to Niklas Kronwall and Pavel Datsyuk.
Maybe the shutout this evening will keep the Howard-haters away for just a short time, as he once again stands on his head in an outstanding performance in a game the Wings desperately needed to win. The team has proven that even with ⅓ of their roster out with plagued injuries, they can still put up the W’s in dire situations.
The Good: The Red Wings’ forecheck looked spectacular, and their passing plays are starting to tighten up marginally. Too many recent games there have been flubbed plays on textbook passes. It’s good to see that they’ve attended to it in practice. It’s also good to see the bottom forwards producing points again. And while they only got 2 power play chances this evening, it’s very encouraging to see them convert on one of them. They just need to do so on the road now.
The Bad: The Red Wings are still giving up turnovers in bad spots, namely in the corners at their own end. They need to address this or suffer more goals at bad times. Their line changes also need to be timed better, as they almost gave up a goal towards the end of the 3rd period on a badly timed line change. The Predators were also very tired heading into the 3rd, this being their 2nd game in two nights, with a hard-fought 1-0 loss against the Vancouver Canucks last night. We can only hope that this didn’t attribute too much to the Wing’s victory.
The Ugly: As much of a relief as it was for it not to be another Red Wings player, it’s never a joyous occasion when a player leaves a game injured. Hal Gill left the game in the 2nd period with a suspected injury, and was not back on the bench for the 3rd, reported to have an undisclosed lower-body injury.
With their 5-game losing streak finally snapped, we can now hope the team can get the “Columbus” out of their play, and start firing up like the Wings we’re used to seeing. Part of me wouldn’t be surprised to see the Monster in net tomorrow against the Canucks, with the game starting less than 22 hours after tonight’s victory. But for now, the 2 points feel pretty damn good.
- Nate’n Webb