Game 59: Red Wings-Montreal Enotes

This is why it’s so hard to win an NHL game, 1-0.

The Red Wings held the Montreal Canadiens at bay for 59:31 but still needed to go into overtime.

The 1-0 lead the Red Wings held since 14 minutes into the first period vanished during one of those scrums that occur when a desperate team has its goalie pulled and is throwing everything but the kitchen sink at the net.

But the Red Wings, who marshaled the Canadiens’ forwards all evening, washed away whatever bitterness they had when Brian Gionta tied the game with 29 seconds left, and stabbed the Habs with :28 left in OT to grab two huge points, 2-1.

Gustav Nyquist, cruising in from the left wing, banged home a rebound of a Danny DeKeyser shot at 4:32 of OT, and while a win over Montreal without the Canadiens getting any points would have been sweet, it was two points just the same.

Detroit (27-20-12) firmed its hold, though ever so slightly, on the final Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference.

The Red Wings are 7-3-2 in their past 12 games.

All night, the Red Wings got in the Canadiens’ way. It was like the Habs were trying to play regular billiards on a bumper pool table.

But alas, Gionta pounced on a loose puck to the left of Jimmy Howard at 19:31 of the third period and flipped a neat backhand into the upper left corner of the net to temporarily nullify all of Detroit’s fine checking.

Todd Bertuzzi, playing his first game after eight straight healthy scratches, scored Detroit’s first goal on the power play. Stationed at the right side of the crease, Bert took a nifty pass from Johan Franzen from behind the net and buried a short shot past Montreal goalie Peter Budaj.

Then, for the next 45:31, the Red Wings frustrated the Canadiens and annoyed the Bell Centre crowd, until Gionta’s goal briefly made everything loud and fun again.

BOX SCORE

BOTTOM LINE: This was one of the best games the Red Wings played all season from a checking standpoint.

THE WINGED WHEELER SAYS: It would have been brutal to have lost this game in extras, as the Red Wings outplayed Montreal for most of the night. Nyquist, who seems to have a knack for scoring big goals, provided poetic justice.

With Olympics in Rear View Mirror, Here’s a Reminder of What Should Worry Red Wings Fans

The Olympics were like a good vacation. You had fun, but you’re also glad when it’s over. It’s good to be back home.

“Back home,” when it comes to the NHL, means the resumption of the regular season schedule. Hockey played on the smaller ice surfaces, in arenas that have been darkened for over two weeks.

Pavel Datsyuk is no longer the enemy. Jonathan Quick is no longer a friend.

All is right in the hockey world again.

But for the Red Wings, all is not right—not even close.

They’ll be without their captain, Hank Zetterberg, for possibly the rest of the season—regular and playoffs, if there are to be any in Detroit, after Z had back surgery.

Datsyuk will play tonight in Montreal as the Red Wings’ push for a 23rd straight playoff berth continues after the just-completed Olympic break. But Pavs is hardly 100%; his left knee is still very sore, although he played very well on it in Sochi.

Johan Franzen is a question mark with post-concussion issues. He is deemed a game time decision tonight.

In case you forgot, here are some other annoyances to worry about for the 24-game home stretch.

1. Is Jimmy Howard truly back to his old self? He was getting into a groove, then the Olympics hit. Is his resurgence for real, or a mirage?

2. Will Stephen Weiss contribute this season at ALL? He seems to be ready to come back from a sports hernia, but he wasn’t exactly tearing it up before the injury.

3. The Red Wings were 6-3-2 in their 11 games prior to Sochi. Again, was this a legitimate de-hibernation? Or was any momentum the team had, negated by the Olympics?

4. Are the shootout woes in the past? The Red Wings have won three of their last four shootouts.

The Red Wings’ first two games, post-Olympics, are against the Montreal Canadiens and the Ottawa Senators—on back-to-back nights and both on the road. This is a litmus test right off the bat, post-Sochi. The Canadiens will be without goalie and Olympian Carey Price due to injury. The Habs hold the first Wild Card spot with 70 points. The Red Wings have 64 points and tentatively have the second Wild Card berth, and the Senators have 63 points, one of three teams that are a single point behind Detroit for the 8th seed.

So these are two doozies coming out of the second half gate.

Time to buckle up and put the trays in the upward position. There is sure to be some turbulence over the next six weeks or so.

At the Olympic Break: Atlantic Division/Playoff Standings, Red Wings Stats

(Monday a.m. 2-10-14)

Atlantic Division  GP W L OL PTS
Boston Bruins 57 37 16 4 78
Tampa Bay Lightning 58 33 20 5 71
Toronto Maple Leafs 60 32 22 6 70
Montreal Canadiens 59 32 21 6 70
Detroit Red Wings 58 26 20 12 64
Ottawa Senators 59 26 22 11 63
Florida Panthers 58 22 29 7 51
Buffalo Sabres 57 15 34 8 38

Playoff standings (top 3 teams in each division make playoffs, plus two at-large Wild Card teams from each conference)

Atlantic DIV GP W L OT P

Boston

A 57 37 16 4 78

Tampa Bay

A 58 33 20 5 71

Montréal

A 59 32 21 6 70
Metropolitan DIV GP W L OT P

Pittsburgh

M 58 40 15 3 83

NY Rangers

M 59 32 24 3 67

Philadelphia

M 59 30 23 6 66
Wild Card DIV GP W L OT P

Toronto

A 60 32 22 6 70

Detroit

A 58 26 20 12 64

Columbus

M 58 29 24 5 63

Ottawa

A 59 26 22 11 63

Washington

M 59 27 23 9 63

Carolina

M 57 26 22 9 61

New Jersey

M 59 24 22 13 61

NY Islanders

M 60 22 30 8 52

Florida

A 58 22 29 7 51

Buffalo

A 57 15 34 8 38

Red Wings stats (thru 58 games)

Player Pos GP G A PTS +/- PIM
Henrik Zetterberg LW 45 16 32 48 19 20
Niklas Kronwall D 56 6 30 36 3 38
Daniel Alfredsson RW 46 14 21 35 3 10
Pavel Datsyuk C 37 15 18 33 -4 6
Gustav Nyquist RW 33 14 10 24 4 8
Tomas Tatar LW 49 13 11 24 5 12
Johan Franzen C 31 9 14 23 6 22
Justin Abdelkader LW 53 8 15 23 7 27
Joakim Andersson C 52 7 6 13 -9 10
Brendan Smith D 47 1 12 13 -4 48
Darren Helm C 26 7 5 12 2 6
Danny DeKeyser D 42 3 9 12 4 24
Todd Bertuzzi RW 44 6 5 11 -16 34
Drew Miller LW 58 6 5 11 -5 21
Riley Sheahan C 18 3 8 11 2 0
Jakub Kindl D 50 1 10 11 -11 22
Kyle Quincey D 58 3 6 9 -8 66
Jonathan Ericsson D 38 1 8 9 9 30
Dan Cleary RW 52 4 4 8 -11 31
Tomas Jurco RW 19 3 4 7 0 10
Patrick Eaves RW 25 2 3 5 -4 2
Stephen Weiss C 26 2 2 4 -4 12
Brian Lashoff D 52 1 3 4 0 22
Luke Glendening C 33 0 4 4 -7 6
Mikael Samuelsson RW 26 1 2 3 -4 6
Cory Emmerton C 11 0 2 2 -1 4
Adam Almqvist D 2 1 0 1 -1 0
Jordin Tootoo RW 10 0 1 1 -3 5
Jonas Gustavsson G 22 0 0 0 0 0
Jimmy Howard G 34 0 0 0 0 4
Alexey Marchenko D 1 0 0 0 2 2
Petr Mrazek G 7 0 0 0 0 0
Xavier Ouellet D 3 0 0 0 0 0
Team Total   58 147 250 397 -26 508

Goaltending

Player GP W L T/O SV% GAA SO
Jonas Gustavsson 22 13 4 3 0.911 2.55 0
Jimmy Howard 34 12 13 9 0.914 2.65 2
Petr Mrazek 7 1 3 0 0.924 1.64 1
Team Total 58 26 20 12 0.913 2.52 3

“My Three Sons” Providing Jolts of Energy, Scoring for Red Wings

It all started with the Kraut Line.

That’s the first time that an NHL line was given a nickname.

It was Boston’s tag for Bruins forwards Woody Dumart, Milt Schmidt and Bobby Bauer, who played together for most of the 1940s.

The Production Line soon followed.

That was, of course, the identifier of the Red Wings’ trio of, from left to right, Ted Lindsay, Sid Abel and Gordie Howe, who first started playing together in the late-1940s.

Others followed, slowly but surely.

The GAG line (Goal a Game)—the Rangers’ line of the late-1960s, early-1970s: Vic Hadfield, Jean Ratelle and Rod Gilbert.

The Red Wings had the Production Line II: Frank Mahovlich, Alex Delvecchio and Howe, from 1968-1970.

The French Connection—Buffalo’s lethal 1970s threesome of Richard Martin, Gil Perreault and Rene Robert.

The Red Wings, in the 1990s, even had an entire quintet with a nickname—the Russian Five.

To name a few.

Lines don’t have nicknames as much anymore. Maybe because the modern NHL coach likes to shuffle trios like decks of cards on a nightly basis.

I’d like to change that, with today’s Red Wings.

How does My Three Sons grab you?

The Red Wings have an exciting line going now of LW Tomas Tatar, C Riley Sheahan and RW Gustav Nyquist. Coach Mike Babcock has been granting ice time to this young line (average age of 23) at a more liberal rate, and the coach has been rewarded with hard work, nifty passing, quality scoring chances and a trio that is hard to play against.

How long Babcock chooses to keep the kids together is anyone’s guess, but on a team where injuries have hit hard and goal scoring is at a premium, My Three Sons have been carrying their share of the water lately, and then some.

TatarIIRiley SheahanNyquist

(from top to bottom: Tatar, Sheahan, Nyquist—My Three Sons)

Sheahan is the newest of the three, having played in just 16 games this season. But the team’s no. 1 draft pick of 2010 has already chipped in with three goals and seven assists, mostly playing with Tatar (13/11/24) and Nyquist (13/10/23).

It’s been fun watching these youngsters skate circles around opponents, dig pucks out of the corner, and set each other up for goals and near goals.

As an opposing coach, you now have a decision to make. Do you match MTS with your fourth line, or do you grant the Red Wings’ young trio more respect than that?

Going further, the line’s speed, skill and puck instinct makes for a headache as well. All three players seem to exhibit a pretty high hockey IQ.

Nyquist, for one, has eight goals in his last seven games. Many have been assisted by either Tatar or Sheahan.

The silver lining to the cloud of injuries and unexpected lack of production from many of the Red Wings’ veteran forwards is that more ice time has been available to so many Grand Rapids Griffins.

But so many of the Griffins-turned-Red Wings are proving that they’re not borderline NHLers—they’re legitimate and are to be reckoned with.

My Three Sons.

What do you think?

Spotlight on the Opponent: John Tortorella

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What: Vancouver at Detroit
When: Monday, February 3, 7:30pm (TV: FSD)

Hockey players and coaches are typically known for their humility, their “aww, shucks” demeanor and for being approachable.

Reasons for this are varied, though the one I’ve often clung to is that so many of them hail from tiny towns in North America and even Europe. Their upbringings have mostly been unassuming and not filled with money and largess—for the most part.

Then there’s Vancouver Canucks coach John Tortorella.

“Torts,” as they call him, is no wallflower. In a sport where the coaches are known for changing expressions as often as we change the oil in our car, Tortorella doesn’t leave anyone guessing as to what his emotions are at any given moment.

Tortorella mixes it up with officials, the media and even other coaches.

So it was no surprise, really, that Torts was the NHL coach who blew his top a couple weeks ago and ended up getting suspended (without pay) for 15 days.

The incident occurred after the Calgary Flames and coach Bob Hartley put out a fourth line of players of ill repute to start their game against the Canucks on January 18.

You know what happened. Mere seconds after the puck was dropped, all 10 skaters on the ice squared off in a line brawl.

Torts didn’t like it.

He took his displeasure out on Hartley verbally, jawing at the Flames coach over the glass partition separating the two benches.

But Tortorella didn’t stop there. Hence the suspension.

After the first period, Tortorella tried to bull his way into the Flames locker room. It’s unclear what he intended to do, once he got in there.

It didn’t matter, as Torts was forcibly shoved away from the locker room door, though Flames goalie coach Clint Malarchuk, who nearly lost his life as a player when his jugular vein was cut by a skate, did emerge, annoyed at Tortorella’s antics. But Malarchuk didn’t come near Tortorella as the Canucks coach was driven back. Security cameras stationed in the hallway captured the action.

For the ill-advised attempt at locker room invasion, the league suspended Tortorella for 15 days.

That suspension ended just in time for the Canucks’ visit to Detroit tonight. Torts will be behind the Vancouver bench.

To hear him tell it, Tortorella has learned his lesson.

“It hasn’t been a great two weeks,” Tortorella said Monday morning on ESPN.com. “It’s been very embarrassing for my family, myself and more importantly everybody else around me that I’m supposed to represent.”

But that isn’t to say that Torts is suddenly going to become the second coming of steel-jawed, expression-less Scotty Bowman behind the bench, either. But he does acknowledge a need to channel his passion better.

Can he do it? Leopards don’t change their spots, as they say. But maybe they can be less…mean.

“I let a lot of people down,” Tortorella said. “I have to make amends here by getting back at this. I’m going to be who I am. I just can’t go off the rails as I did.

“Off the rails? I was off the country.”

If you’re going to the game tonight at the Joe, don’t expect to see a muted version of Tortorella. That’s not who he is, nor is it what he will ever be.

Only time will tell if the incident against the Flames will have any long-term effect on how Torts conducts himself and whether he is able to harness that passion.