Game 27: Red Wings-NY Islanders Enotes

Pavel who?

The Red Wings won their third straight game today—all without the injured Pavel Datsyuk—as they whitewashed the NY Islanders, 5-0, on Long Island.

Daniel Alfredsson and Darren Helm each scored twice, and Gustav Nyquist added a goal. Jimmy Howard made 29 saves.

Never has a player earned the No. 1 star quite like Helm did. His second goal was a shortie, and he was around the puck all game long.

The shorthanded goal was one of the most magnificent you’ll ever see.

Using his blazing speed, Helm outraced Radek Martinek to the puck at the Isles’ blue line, putting Helm on a collision course with NY goalie Kevin Poulin between the circles. Helm flipped into a partial somersault over Poulin’s right pad, tipping the puck in the process. The puck and Helm’s stick both ended up in the net.

It could have been a nightmare play, too. The way Helm’s legs hit Poulin’s pad was actually quite scary. And with Helm’s injury luck, you kind of held your breath. But he was fine, and the shortie gave the Red Wings a 2-0 lead at 16:49 of the second period.

Alfredsson’s first goal was a breakaway from the blue line, courtesy a nifty breakout pass from Brendan Smith that was threaded through sticks and skates from inside the Red Wings zone. Alfie buried a snap shot over Poulin’s left shoulder for a 3-0 lead 12 seconds into the third period.

Howard had to make a point blank stop with under a minute to play to salvage his shutout.

The line of Helm, Alfredsson and Johan Franzen was brilliant—combining for four goals and two assists.

The Red Wings (13-7-7) have their first three-game winning streak in a month.

BOX SCORE

BOTTOM LINE: Perhaps the Red Wings’ most complete game of the year. Hardly anything to complain about.

THE WINGED WHEELER SAYS: Coach Mike Babcock had a “doghouse” line of Stephen Weiss, Daniel Cleary and Mikael Samuelsson playing together. Cleary got an assist, on the Helm shortie. This was Red Wing hockey we all know and love: puck possession, hard on the puck in the attacking zone and strong goaltending when necessary—plus secondary scoring. Let’s see if this is the start of something good.

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Spotlight on the Opponent: Kyle Okposo

What: Detroit at NY Islanders
When: Friday, November 29, 4:00pm (TV: FSD)

Kyle Okposo

Kyle Okposo is only 25 years old, but he’s already a grizzled veteran.

Okposo is in his seventh NHL season, all with the NY Islanders. The RW was drafted 7th overall in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, and he made his NHL debut as a 19-year-old in the 2007-08 season.

He is the only NHL player, for sure, born to a Nigerian father and a Caucasian mother.

Okposo isn’t a goal scorer, but he’s a hard-nosed, gritty player who isn’t afraid to stick his nose where it doesn’t always belong. Okposo’s style of toughness isn’t necessarily reflected in his penalty minutes total, but there’s no question that he is well-respected around the league.

Okposo has scored just 78 goals in 344 NHL games, but 24 of those came in the 2011-12 season, easily his career high.

The trouble is, Okposo goes largely unnoticed because he plays for the Islanders, a team that hasn’t really been relevant often since their glory days of the early-1980s.

For example, even in his 24-goal campaign, Okposo was a minus-15.

Okposo fell back to four goals in 48 games in last year’s lockout-shortened season, but his worth to the Islanders is reflected in his $2.8 million/year salary, based on a five-year contract signed in spring 2011. His value to the team is also acknowledged in Okposo being one of the Isles’ alternate captains.

In 25 games this season, Okposo has six goals and 22 points.

Okposo has big ideas, i.e. qualifying for the 2014 Winter Olympics for Team USA.

US coach Dan Bylsma said on November 22 that Okposo is part of a group of about “six or seven” forwards that the coaching and executive staff, led by Predators general manager David Poile, are keeping a close eye on over the next few weeks. The deadline to select the final 25-man roster is Dec. 31.

Okposo wears no. 21 for the Islanders.