The Malik Report
by George Malik on 04/24/13 at 09:24 PM ET
The Detroit Red Wings may have made their biggest "statement" of the season when they needed it the most. They may have played the best playoff hockey they have in over a year, defeating the Los Angeles Kings 3-1 on a night that the team desperately needed to remain in control of its fate.
But it didn't start out "pretty," at least as far as finishing was concerned.
The Wings dominated the 1st period and out-shot LA 13-4, but they couldn't QUITE put the puck past Jonathan Quick, and as usual, Detroit got burned as the Kings shook off their road legs in the 2nd.
It was kinda classic stuff--Kings ground the puck down into the Wings' right half boards, Joakim Andersson over-committed, Damien Brunner was mushy in terms of his defense, Brendan Smith let the puck whiffle through his legs, Kyle Quincey went to his customary, "I shall stand at the left goalpost and stare as the puck goes into my own net" spot, and Jarret Stoll and Trevor Lewis mucked the puck out front, and after Howard got caught down and out, Clifford flicked it through Howard.
Wings fans, myself included, started going for the antacid...
But we were rewarded for our patience. Jonathan Ericsson made his ever-dangerous pinch up the right wing boards...And it worked! Datsyuk and Zetterberg ground the puck out down low, swept it back out front, and Ericsson made a GORGEOUS cross-ice pass to Datsyuk, who chipped the even-up goal past Quick 32 seconds after the game's halfway point:
The Wings continued to press--led in no small part by absolutely wonderful games from Gustav Nyquist and Joakim Andersson, as well as great hockey from Danny DeKeyser, someone who played like he knows his time in Detroit is up unless he plays balls-out amazing in Daniel Cleary, and, as per usual, the Wings went into the 3rd tied 1-1.
Most of the time thus far, they've whiffed on 1-1 games. This time around, the Wings got an early goal from an unexpected set of sources. Off a superb transition play, Smith assuaged for his shaky play on the first goal against, pinching to hold the puck in and passing the puck to Patrick Eaves--who shot the puck like nobody's business all night long--and Mr. "I ate raw beluga and caribou last night," Jordin Tootoo, tipped Eaves' shot down below Quick (much to the chagrin of one Eddie Olczyk):
And despite the fact that the game was a grind-and-muck-and-clutch-and-grab-and-grope fest, especially whenever Pavel Datsyuk was on the ice and the Kings attempted to remove his jock strap without taking off his hockey pants, Jimmy Howard made some amazing saves when the refs took their whistles and stuffed 'em where the sun don't shine...
And when the Wings finally did get a power play, the Mule is alive and then some. Despite sending far too many blind passes or pass-when-I-should-have-shot passes into empty space, Henrik Zetterberg and Datsyuk ground the puck out down low and won one-on-one battles along the boards masterfully, and on a rare power play, Datsyuk and Zetterberg worked the "to the half boards and back three or four times!" play on the right wing, Johan Franzen pissed off Matt Greene in front of the net, got free and jabbed a Zetterberg pass past Jonathan Quick for an insurance marker:
Regrettably, as I'm writing this, I heard Babcock state that Franzen was taken off the ice by the trainers at the end of the game, and after Babcock confirmed that Howard's going in another must-win game against the Predators (who watched the game along with a boatload of scouts), he thanked the fans and said that Johan Franzen's status would be determined tomorrow.
Anyway, I'm thrilled with this win but know that it's just one of two more the Wings want to get and at least one more that the Wings have to get with Columbus (1 point behind) and Dallas (4 points behind) breathing down the Wings' necks, playing against each other tomorrow...
And as we all know, the Predators want nothing more than to play the spoiler tomorrow.
So this was awesome and wonderful and beautiful to play, and when Henrik Zetterberg told Pierre McGuire that the Wings are, "Finding the pieces as we go along," my goodness, was he speaking the truth, but...The Wings are gonna enjoy this one and prepare for a game that will be just as hard as this one was under 21 hours from now.
Update: Here's the Franzen stuff--97.1 still hasn't lifted its Tigers blackout on its online streams, so I heard Babcock kinda mumble through my radio at home...
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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.