WINGS POSTGAME: BACK IN IT

When you come into a game like this there are always a few
butterflies as a fan. Your team is fighting for everything while the team
across from you, in reality, would likely benefit more from a loss. That’s not
just me supporting the tank; it’s not an accident that Garret Sparks was in net
tonight. But it almost feels worse as a fan when a team like Toronto, with
nothing to lose, really controls your fate. After the last meeting where
Detroit fell 1-0 to the Leafs, nothing is a for sure.

THE RUNDOWN

The first period was consistent with what we’ve seen lately
as Wings fans. After a plethora of bad starts, the Wings have seemed to come
out swinging as of late. They may not have been the hottest team right off the
hop, evident by a 3-1 shot count in favour of the Leafs after the first seven
minutes, but as the game settled down the Wings rose above. As Gardiner sat for tripping, the Wings much improved power play went to work. Once the bane
of every fan’s existence, Brad Richards managed to net a tight wrister to
extend the Wings power play streak to a goal in each of their last eight games.
That’s a stat even two weeks ago I would have died for. A nice little bonus to
this goal that we sadly don’t get to see in the highlight reel? Just how hard Mantha worked, 1 vs 2, to get that puck free and set
that play up. God bless Anthony, god bless:

So the Wings manage to score first again. Sadly, this hasn’t been as comforting lately as one would assume. Things start picking up though, and the Wings start controlling the play. The theme of the night started to make itself evident; give the puck to the point. I know what you’re thinking, why on earth would that be Detroit’s approach? Maybe, just maybe, Mike Babcock knows this defence-core pretty well. Maybe he even thinks these guys aren’t much of a threat back there which (most nights) I’d a agree with. But tonight, like a shooting star, or a four leaf clover, the defence really stepped up the offence. Before the period was over we got a dose of vintage Mike Green (who assisted on Richards PP goal as well by the way) as he blasted a perfectly placed clap-bomb and put the Wings up 2-0 going into the second:

My dad always used to say 2-0 was the worst score in hockey. How quickly a goal from the trailing team shifted momentum and changed the tempo. His words held true early in this one. In under three minutes the Leafs found themselves back in the game. Colin Greening, one of the pieces in the Dion Phaneuf trade, managed to outwork multiple Wings and muscle a loose puck into the net. Yes, you are seeing correctly, that’s a teenager out-muscling and out-working ten-year veteran Kyle Quincey:

Things weren’t all bad though. Yes, the Wings might have let the Leafs back into the game, but there were some positives in the second. Jimmy Howard was moving with a finesse and a confidence I hadn’t seen in a while. He was really seeing pucks, moving well east to west and controlling rebounds. He was positioned well, he was communicating and he was even playing the puck like a guy whose had some extra time to work on the little parts of his game. This is the kind of goaltending we need down the stretch. 

Going into the third period with a one goal lead I felt as though I had been here before. But the Wings came out fast as Larkin set up Abdelkader for a great chance on their first shift. But the Leafs swung back with Parenteau getting his own good look. The problem with playing the Leafs is you don’t want to get drawn into that sloppy play. You don’t want to exchange chances on the rush. That’s their game, Detroit needed to get back to what they do best. It only took four minutes for the bearded wonder and my personal hometown hero (Kitchener, Ontario) Kyle Quincey to blast home just his third goal of the year to put the Wings up 3-1. We all breathed a sigh of relief but this game was far from over. Thankfully, Detroit’s penalty kill came to play this evening. Looking at my notes here I just have “softest penalty on the planet 7:06” against Gus Nyquist as Toronto went to their final of their three power plays on the night. After another successful kill, the Leafs pulled Sparks with just under three minutes left as I thought to myself, “wow, I wish Babs was that liberal with the goalie pull when he was coaching the Wings”. Nylander managed to put home a beauty with just over a minute left and the pressure was back on. 

I don’t think they do it on purpose, I really don’t. But honestly, I don’t know how many more one goal games I can take. Is it too much to ask for a 4-1 lead with one minute left? Regardless, what counts is the Wings won. As of now, they’re in a playoff spot. It may last less than 24 hours depending on Boston’s game vs Chicago tomorrow but for now, they’re alive and that’s all I can ask for. 

THE STATS

Not a super hot game for the Wings:

chart-3

MOTOR CITY MVP

At times I loved the work Nyquist was doing. We really get to see his positive puck possession attributes shine through against sloppy teams but this one has to go to Mike Green. He’s rather quietly been one of Detroit’s best players (with the exception of last game) lately and it showed again tonight. Whether he was setting up Richard’s on the PP, netting his own goal, or finding himself a plus on Quincey’s game winner, the man came to play. More of what I saw tonight would be warmly welcomed in the Wings last three games here.

UP NEXT

Philly, Boston and the New York Rangers to close out the season. Time to see what this squad is really made of.