POSTGAME: NOT ON ZETTERBERG’S WATCH

Fresh off their shootout win against the Capitals, the Wings had a quick turnaround for their 3PM start in Pittsburgh against Sid and the Pens. The surprise win yesterday had the Wings riding high into this matinee but would the momentum hold up against one of the leagues best offences? 

This weekend means a lot to the club as it’s by far the hardest part of their year but with a rather easy March ahead of them, are they packing this one in or will front office choose to go all in on the streak? 

FIRST PERIOD

The Pens came out just as expected. They were skating hard, sending pucks to the net, bodies in deep and shots coming from everywhere. Mrazek had to be sharp early and got some help from his posts. The revitalization of Mrazek has been a welcome change as of late now that he’s finally being given consecutive starts and able to sting together some confidence-boosting outings. 

After spending a lot of their time in their own end, the Wings caught a break. Maybe Daley looked up and saw Abdelkader and Jensen and thought hey, this one ain’t a real threat. That was until Jensen decided to do his best 2004-2005 Datsyuk impression: 

Pump, fake, freeze, bury. Hell of a move from the 26 year-old who started the season in Grand Rapids. The period continued in much more the direction the Wings wanted to take things. Lots of whistles, clogging the neutral zone, never really allowing the Penguins to start skating. 

But then it happened. The Wings got a power-play. 

Now, to be fair it has been better lately but there have been stretches where the Wings looked better shorthanded. Before the Wings could even set up for their first zone entry, Kronwall gifts one of the most egregious giveaways right to Letang. A 2v1 ensues and Kuhnhackl makes no mistake burying the shorthanded tally:

But look out, because these Sunday games can get a little nutty. You see that Crosby and Letang are both on the ice and oh god, the Ott line is trapped out there. Please just get it deep you say, push it into the corner and run to your bench for a change. But that wouldn’t be the Steve Ott style. Instead Otter lays a beauty hit on Letang and circles the zone. After cutting off the outlet pass he grabs, waits around Crosby, waits around Murray and just buries the backhander like he borrowed Jensen’s time machine and settled on 2004 too:

The 6th round pick Ott was going to be traded for at the deadline just turned into a 4th. 

The Wings would close the period with a lead for the second game in a row while also outshooting the Pens 10-9. If these boys can stay off the power-play they might have a shot to win this one. 

SECOND PERIOD

You know you’re on the right path when you can get Crosby off his game. Mantha took matching penalties with Sid early in the second after Crosby couldn’t handle Mantha’s marshmallow-soft check in the corner. I’ll take that trade off all afternoon long. The Wings started getting some good zone time, lots of cycling but were still giving up some primo opportunities. Thankfully, Mrazek was on his game to start the second and didn’t crack under pressure:

The work didn’t stop there for Mrazek. With one highlight save in the bank Petr started trying to one up himself, his best on Bonino:

The Pens went on a crazy power-play that featured a Helm breakaway where he fell, probably 5 good scoring chances for the Penguins, went down the other way for a Wings 2v1 that proved Sheahan may never score ever this year after that grade A chance and finished with another great Pens rush resulting in a Wings penalty. This end-to-end game and special teams battle is exactly what the Wings want to avoid. They managed to survive both penalties though and quickly retreated to the slow down game they were playing masterfully before. 

The Wings survived the onslaught and left the period still up 2-1. They were outshot 10-6 and trailed the Penguins 19-16 overall in that department. This one can be chalked up to another stellar period by Mrazek. He was the difference going into the third. 

THIRD PERIOD

We saw last game the incredible chemistry between the reunited Tatar-Z-Mantha line and that didn’t let up Sunday either. Less than a minute in we seemed to have some deja vu. Great defence and stick by Tatar, quick, short passes between the three and Tatar once again playing trigger man:

This was a team playing to a game plan and sticking to it. No giving any player any room, force desperate long-bomb passes and profit off those turn overs. Quickly after the Tatar goal, Vanek continued to make his next contract even fatter:

He aint going to miss from there with that much time. 4-1 Wings. 

Just when the Wings started to pull away though, Crosby managed to bury a quick one off the face-off. 

Three goals on four shots in the first three minutes. 

The rest of the period managed to slow down a bit. Still more special teams battles than the Wings would have wanted but they were surviving. The key was simply frustration. They clogged up every zone and got under everyones skin. They had Crosby in the box, Hagelin taking a late penalty after drawing one to finish the game and Malkin looking completely disinterested at points. They had a plan, they executed beautifully, and it paid off in spades. 

With the goalie pulled Glendening managed to bury the finishing goal. 5-2 Wings. 

WHERE TO FROM HERE?

Make no mistake, Mrazek bailed them out big time and Zetterberg was arguably the best player this weekend for the team. He has put this team on his back and refuses to give in. Now they’re 6 points out looking in on that final wild card spot and things get difficult now. 

They seemed to be sellers for sure but now who knows what Holland will do. It seems safe to posit they’re still sellers but we know what this streak means to the front office. It honestly wouldn’t surprise me to see them make a push and not trade their assets. Not that it’s what I want to see, but if the past is any indication, this weekend may have diverted the tank. 

The difficulty is the Wings have what most would consider a very easy March. They have a week off after their game Tuesday vs the Islanders and 12 of their last 18 games are against teams that are not currently in a playoff spot including multiple matchups with the Avalanche, Hurricanes and a visit to the desert. 

All I’m saying is, right or wrong, don’t be surprised if they go for it.