Game 74: Red Wings-Toronto Enotes

There is more than a subtle bittersweet feeling whenever you see Darren Helm excel on the ice.

You can’t help but wonder might have been.

What might have been, if Helm, the speedy Red Wings center, wasn’t so gosh darn injury-prone.

What might have been, if the Red Wings could insert Helm into the lineup with impunity, with any semblance of regularity.

Unfortunately, Helm has been injury-prone and he has missed a wealth of games over the past two seasons-plus.

There’s no use crying over spilled milk, but when Helm does what he did tonight in Toronto—score his first career hat trick, and in the manner that he did it—it’s hard not to wonder if the Red Wings’ place in the standings would be higher than it is now.

But for now, they are high enough.

Helm’s three goals led the Red Wings past Toronto, 4-2, as the Maple Leafs have picked a lousy time to go on an eight-game losing streak—all in regulation, by the way.

Helm scored in just about every way imaginable as he used his many tools.

First, he used his speed on the penalty kill to bust loose on a breakaway, then when that attempt failed, Helm stuck around in front of the Leafs net, batted down a pass in midair from Joakim Andersson, and flipped a backhand past Toronto goalie Jonathan Bernier to tie the game, 1-1, about three minutes into the second period.

For his next trick, Helm camped in front of Bernier and in a rare play, broke his stick deflecting Jakub Kindl’s slapshot past the Leafs netminder for a 3-1 Detroit lead as the Red Wings scored three times in a space of less than five minutes.

Finally, Helm showed his soft hands as he squirted free for another breakaway, using a nifty backhand-to-forehand move to deposit his third puck past Bernier to give the Red Wings a 4-2 lead at 8:38 of the third period.

The Air Canada Centre crowd booed the Leafs lustily as the final seconds ticked off the clock.

Toronto actually led 1-0 but the Leafs have scored the first goal of the game just twice in their past 10 contests, and neither time did they win. The Leafs are two points behind the Red Wings (34-26-14) for a wild card berth, but Detroit has two games in hand.

Jimmy Howard made 25 saves for Detroit, which snapped a three-game losing streak.

And while every victory these days is to be savored, it’s also OK to admire Helm and be wistful and imagine him healthy all year. Chances are, the Red Wings wouldn’t be scrambling for a playoff spot with eight games to play.

BOX SCORE

BOTTOM LINE: The Leafs are playing with hardly any confidence these days, and it showed tonight.

THE WINGED WHEELER SAYS: With eight games to play, it stands to reason that the Red Wings need at least 10 points to feel safe as far as the playoff race goes. That would give them 92 points, and it’s hard to imagine that not being enough to qualify.

Game 69: Red Wings-Pittsburgh Enotes

If the Red Wings manage to extend their playoff-making streak to 23 straight years at the end of this season, it will be easy to point to tonight’s dramatics against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Joe Louis Arena and call it the biggest win of the year.

In a game fraught with playoff pressure and wackiness, the Red Wings (32-24-13) picked up two huge points by beating the Pens, 5-4 in overtime—by scoring the winning goal with 0.4 seconds remaining.

The Red Wings’ ageless warrior, Daniel Alfredsson, got credit for the winner—his second goal of the night—when his wrist shot rebounded off Pittsburgh goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, who’s had much luckier nights, and bounced off even more unlucky defenseman Rob Scuderi and trickled over the goal line as time ran out.

After a brief confirmation with the folks in Toronto, the goal was affirmed and the Red Wings, with 77 points, are just one point out of the no. 8 seed.

BOX SCORE

It was far from easy, even after Detroit staked itself to a 2-0 lead.

Three Penguin goals within three minutes late in the second period put Pittsburgh ahead, 3-2, after 40 minutes.

The puck was bouncing off Penguins defenders into the net all night, to the tune of three goals.

The second of those three times gave Detroit a 4-3 lead with about seven minutes left in the third period. The goal was credited to Todd Bertuzzi, but it may be changed to Luke Glendening—it would be Glendening’s first career NHL goal—because replays seemed to indicate that Bertuzzi’s wrist shot deflected off Glendening before it bounced off a Pittsburgh defenseman and past Fleury.

Craig Adams tied the game with 5:34 left.

The game winner happened when a Pittsburgh rush with 12 seconds left suddenly turned the other way, with Alfredsson leading a 3-on-1 break. Alfie skated down the right wing and fired the puck with three seconds left, triggering the pinball effect, sending JLA into a frenzy.

It was a big win, and maybe will be considered the biggest, coming against a powerful Penguins team with the Red Wings decimated by injuries.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Game 47: Red Wings-NY Rangers Enotes

The fans at Madison Square Garden went to a hockey game and a pitcher’s duel broke out.

Goalies Jimmy Howard of Detroit and Henrik Lundqvist of the Rangers engaged in a clinic on net minding, with the Rangers coming out on top, 1-0 with a goal late in the third period to win it.

Mats Zuccarello fluttered a puck past Howard at the 14:02 mark on an odd-man rush deep in the Detroit zone for the game’s only goal.

It started ominously for the shooters, as 33 shots were fired in the opening period alone (18 NY, 15 DET), but with goose eggs on the scoreboard.

The loss was the second straight 1-0 defeat for the Red Wings (20-17-10), who ended their five-game road trip through the Pacific and Atlantic coasts (with a pit stop in Detroit in between) with a 2-3 record.

Howard, though the losing goalie, surely must have regained some confidence with tonight’s performance.

The Red Wings, as usual, were playing with a patchwork lineup due to multiple injuries.

It was an important game, playoff race-wise, as the Rangers (25-21-3) and Red Wings are battling for the two at-large wild card berths.

This was a terrific hockey game, despite the lack of goal scoring throughout. There was lots of end-to-end action, and as stated, the goaltending was magnificent.

A tough loss for Detroit, but with the exception of the first half of the second period, the Red Wings matched the Rangers rush-for-rush.

BOX SCORE

BOTTOM LINE: A 2-3 road trip is disappointing, but it’s hard to be unhappy losing this game, as the short-handed Red Wings gave it all they had.

THE WINGED WHEELER SAYS: The road trip was big, but even bigger is the upcoming five-game home stand. As you know, the Red Wings have been brutal at home. There has been no more important home stand for the Red Wings in years than the one coming up now, with points at a premium.

 

2014 Winter Classic: A Look In the Rearview Mirror

Some random observations following the Red Wings’ 3-2 shootout loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 2014 Winter Classic:

  1. The ice. By all accounts, the folks who were in charge of the ice surface did a great job. It didn’t hurt that the temps were so frigid, but it’s not an easy task, no matter what. I saw very few instances where the ice quality played any role in the game itself.
  2. The snow. Kudos to the kids with the shovels. They did a great job as well. It snowed all day and once again, the snow wasn’t as much of a factor as it could have been. The one time where it was a factor—on Tomas Tatar’s shootout attempt—was more Tatar’s fault than anything. He stickhandled too much.
  3. The officiating. They got all the crucial calls right—including the Leafs’ second goal, when Tyler Bozak’s stick was correctly ruled not too high when he deflected Dion Phaneuf’s shot past Jimmy Howard. There were no ticky-tack calls and the linesmen did a good job on offsides and icing calls, impressive given the snow on the ice all day.
  4. Goaltending. Jonathan Bernier outplayed Howard, but the latter wasn’t bad—except in the shootout, sadly. After Joffrey Lupul went 5-hole in the shootout, Bozak didn’t try any dekes and just fired the puck along the ice past Howard for the game-winner.
  5. The Red Wings. I thought they actually played a pretty good game, the result be damned. They crashed the net, were strong on the puck and their defensemen displayed some smart sticks in their own zone. Frankly, both of Toronto’s regulation goals were of the fluky variety—both knocked from the air past Howard.
  6. Mike Babcock. He had his boys ready to play. It was another shootout loss but it was a point gotten when the team was trailing with less than six minutes to play.
  7. The Broadcast. Another strong effort here, although sometimes NBC was caught showing off all its cameras needlessly. Mike Emrick mentioned that NBC had 82 cameras on site. But for the most part, the director kept it simple, which is what you should do when covering hockey. (I used to direct sports on TV, so I pay attention to this more than most).
  8. The Rink. It’s funny how small the ice surface looks on television in an outdoor setting. When you watch a normal, indoors game on TV, the rink looks much bigger than when you’re watching a game played outdoors. As Norm Crosby might say, it was an “optical conclusion.”

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Game 40: Red Wings-Florida Enotes

The Red Wings tried wearing their road whites at home on Monday night, but that didn’t fool the hockey gods.

Apparently, those white sweaters only hold their magic away from Detroit.

The Red Wings scored another win on the road tonight, in Florida. There hasn’t been a better traveling show on skates since the Ice Capades.

The Red Wings beat back the Panthers, 4-3, and Jonas Gustavsson made sure of it.

The Detroit goalie repelled one great Panthers scoring chance after another, particularly in the third period when Florida tried gamely to come back from a two-goal deficit for the second time in the contest.

Gustavsson was especially brilliant in the final minute, after Florida pulled goalie Scott Clemmensen. Why Gustavsson wasn’t named one of the game’s three stars is a mystery and a criminal act.

Henrik Zetterberg (welcome back, Z), Gustav Nyquist (eventual game-winner), Daniel Alfredsson and Brendan Smith scored for Detroit (18-13-9). It was the Red Wings’ 12th win away from home this season.

Detroit let the Panthers back into the game in the second period after taking a 2-0 lead in the first 20 minutes on power play goals from Zetterberg and Alfredsson. Florida tied it, 2-2, heading into the third period.

But Smith got the Red Wings the lead back, just 42 seconds into the third stanza. Nyquist added a goal just 38 seconds later to regain the two-goal cushion. Sean Bergenheim’s wrist shot through traffic beat Gustavsson at 4:27 to make for a hectic and frantic 15:33 for the Red Wings.

BOX SCORE

BOTTOM LINE: The night and day records and numbers for the Red Wings at home and on the road is surely one of the NHL’s weirdest storylines this season.

THE WINGED WHEELER SAYS: Gustavsson, whose play of late has tapered from his hot start, turned in a remarkable performance. He also got great support from his defensemen, especially Smith, who functioned as a second goalie during some crazy scrambles in front of the net. It was also great to see Zetterberg return from his back injury. His goal, a wicked wrister over Clemmensen’s shoulder, signaled that there was little if any rust after missing about three weeks or so.

Game 38: Red Wings-Toronto Enotes

Play 1221 as your four-digit.

The Red Wings won a shootout tonight. Beware; this may be one of the signs of the apocalypse.

In a thrilling game between two Original Sixers, the Red Wings forged a lead, blew it, fell behind, came back to tie it, then went 2-for-2 in the shootout, beating the Toronto Maple Leafs, 5-4 at the Air Canada Centre.

Daniel Alfredsson and Pavel Datsyuk scored in the shootout, while Jonas Gustavsson, who had an uneven night, denied the Leafs twice.

Datsyuk scored in regulation, and he was joined by a cast of young supporting players. Joakim Andersson, Tomas Jurco and Tomas Tatar all scored goals for Detroit.

The Red Wings led, 3-1, after 20 minutes but a bad second period enabled the Leafs to tie the game, 3-3.

Toronto went ahead in the third period when a good, old-fashioned net crashing shoved the puck by Gustavsson. David Clarkson was given credit for the goal at 8:32.

Tatar banged in a rebound of a Jurco shot from the point to tie the game, 4-4, at 13:44.

The Red Wings (17-12-9) got a much needed extra point from Toronto (18-16-4), who is behind Detroit in the Atlantic Division.

But more importantly, the Red Wings ended their shootout drought, which had extended to 12 attempts. You could tell that a huge weight was lifted from their shoulders as they all gathered around Datsyuk to celebrate his shootout winner. Lots of smiles.

BOX SCORE

BOTTOM LINE: An exciting, up-and-down hockey game. A little bit of everything. Nice to know these teams still have three more meetings—the next of which is the Winter Classic on New Year’s Day.

THE WINGED WHEELER SAYS: The Red Wings got tons of energy from the kids: Tatar, Jurco and Riley Sheahan were all terrific all night. They pressured the Leafs’ defense and generated countless scoring chances. It was an exciting glimpse into the future.