Red Wings 6 – Lightning 2
In a game that was a measuring stick of sorts for the Lightning, they did not stack up well against the Red Wings. With players coming back in droves off of the injured reserve, the Wings have begun playing like the team we were treated to in the first two months of the season. Follow along after the jump for the breakdown.
Tonight it was old time Red Wings hockey, and it was a delight to watch. The Wings may have won by 4 goals, but it easily could have been much, much worse for the Lightning. Nicklas Lidstrom hit two posts on his own, and save for a stretch of 2:47 in the second period, the Wings completely dominated the Lightning from start to finish.
They opened up the scoring just 6:40 into the game, on the power play no less. Falling behind early and blowing chances on the power play haunted the Red Wings throughout January and early February, but in their three game winning streak, they have righted some of those wrongs.
8 minutes after Danny Cleary had opened the scoring by tipping in a Lidstrom blast, he picked up the assist when Pavel Datsyuk backhanded in his rebound.
Rebounds were a big story tonight, as Dwayne Roloson did himself no favors by constantly coughing up juicy ones to the Wings forwards, who were more than happy to deposit them behind him.
It was quite a different performance than his 4-3 OT win over the Wings on December 31st.
In total, he gave up 6 goals on 31 Red Wings shots, and even took a minor penalty himself for delay of game.
The only line for the Wings that was really held in check tonight was the Bertuzzi-Zetterberg-Franzen unit, going a combined -5. The only points registered by the trio came on a pair of power play assists from Henrik Zetterberg. The assists were Z’s 45th and 46th of the season, which is good for 3rd in the NHL behind only Henrik Sedin (55) and Martin St. Louis (48).
I was extremely impressed with the game of Brad Stuart tonight, who was +1 in 21:10 of ice time, in his first game in a month and a half. Numbers will never really tell the tale of Brad Stuart’s importance to the team. His physical presence is needed on a team that didn’t have an abundance of that on the blue line with him out of the picture. He looked like he hadn’t missed a beat, and if it weren’t for the bizarre half cage covering the bottom of his face, you wouldn’t be able to tell he’d been out so long. The only number regarding Stuart’s value to the team that matters to me is 8-6-1. That’s the record of the Red Wings without him in the lineup. 8-6-1 doesn’t get you far in a tightly contested Western Conference, so I am ecstatic that he is back.
Kudos are also in order for Kronwall and Ericsson, both of whom have been playing some very, very solid defensive hockey lately. Those two cutting down on the mental lapses will be vitally important to the Red Wings making any kind of significant playoff run. For his part, Jakub Kindl had an OK game. He took a bad penalty, a double minor for high sticking, in the first period, but the Wings were able to kill it off, and he made some good plays throughout the game. He’ll likely sit tomorrow as the Wings expect Ruslan Salei to be back from a trip to California to be with his pregnant wife.
The Wings PK really did a great job all game. Before the Kindl penalty, they had just killed off a Jiri Hudler hooking call. In all, they went 5/5 on the night. When you combine that with the PP going 2/3, it was a great night for the specialty units.
Lastly, I thought Jimmy Howard was solid in net, for the third straight game, and fourth out of five. The Victor Hedman goal came off of a Brian Rafalski turnover, and he had Vincent Lecavalier parked right in his line of sight. The Downie goal just 2:47 later was a result of the Red Wings getting caught running around in their own end. He stopped 37 of 39 Tampa shots, which is awesome.
Oh, this just in. Darren Helm CAN score on a breakaway. Who knew? That was a goal scorer’s goal all the way. Heads up, coasting in, picked his spot, nailed it. Sweet.
The Off Wing View’s Three Stars
3. Nicklas Lidstrom 2A, +1, 24:08 TOI – Lidstrom was the lead man in ice time tonight, and lead the charge for the Wings. His shot got the Wings on the board first and his near perfect defense kept them there.
2. Danny Cleary 1G, 2A, +2 – It was Cleary parked in front of Roloson to score the Wings first, Cleary’s rebound that Datsyuk cashed in for his first tally, and Cleary sending Hudler in alone that led to Datsyuk’s second goal. He makes things happen out there.
1. Pavel Datsyuk 2G, +2 – Just how much did the Red Wings miss the magician? He now has 4 goals and 3 assists since returning from his broken hand, and is a +5. He recorded a couple more takeaways, as he continues to chase down Joe Thornton for the league lead. Despite missing all of January, Datsyuk is right around the top 5 in the league in this category, and is second on the team with 46 points.