|2-3 Wings in a shootout|
|Ryan Russell(2) from Derek Dorsett(5), Aaron Johnson(10)|
|Niklas Kronwall(10) from Valtteri Filppula(24), Jiri Hudler(17)|
|PPG Nikita Nikitin(2) from Antoine Vermette(13)|
|PPG Nicklas Lidstrom(10) from Niklas Kronwall(11)|
|Pavel Datsyuk: Miss|
|Rick Nash: Miss|
|Jiri Hudler: Miss|
|Derek Dorsett: Miss|
|Todd Bertuzzi: Miss|
|Derick Brassard: Miss|
|Valtteri Filppula: Goal|
|Ryan Johansen: Miss|
|Curtis Sanford: 29/31, .935SV%, 1.85GAA|
|Jimmy Howard: 17/19, .895SV%, 1.86GAA|
When the Wings played the Islanders and were completely spanked by that poor NYI team I commented on a tendency for the Wings to play to the level of their competition. With the exception of the blowout loss to Washington I think that has been the case this season. Games against good and really good teams tend to have a playoff feel to them. No inch is gained by either side in those games without some cost in blood or sweat. But when the Wings play against the bottom tier teams the Wings just seem so lack luster. Anthony made a good point during the game about the Wings looking ahead to bigger games when playing against weaker opponents and that got me to thinking.
What if the Wings really are just looking ahead to bigger games and are just letting these small fry games play out? Going in to Sunday morning the Wings will be the #1 team in the NHL and if they are playing this way this is kind of remarkable. With just the eyeball test, and unfortunately nothing else to justify this claim. I would say that the Wings were giving a team average of about 70% total effort per player against the Blue Jackets and they were able to scrape by with a shootout victory. If my estimate is true then the Wings are employing a strategy of rest through less severe exertion against weaker opponents while giving their all against stronger opponents and it’s working pretty well.
The only concern I have is the home record when compared to the away record. If the discrepancy between the two is an accurate representation of how the team plays in either situation then the Wings phoning it in at any point would spell playoff disaster. Home ice would be a requirement in this case – making every point they can potentially earn vital. I haven’t looked into it yet, but the one thing that would allay my concern would be if the Wings have played more weak teams on their home ice and this poor record is the result of them not showing up with 100% effort for those games.
But getting back to the BJ’s game I didn’t notice much other than the lack of effort and the obvious problems with the powerplay. According to Ken Daniels, Larry Murphy, and Micky Redmond the Wings already have some plan in place to attempt to improve the struggling PP.
Another, more random, point is something that happened before the game started. I’m a regular visitor of /r/hockey and there was a thread on there today where someone challenged other users to name who they thought was the dirtiest and cleanest player on their favorite team. One user nominated Jonathan Ericsson for dirtiest because “he didn’t like him much” and that initiated a mild circle-jerk of people ripping Ericsson. While I was all for letting Ericsson walk at the end of the last season I don’t think I could be doing more to mention how strong I think his play has been this year. Am I really the only one who thinks Rig is finally playing like a form of the defenseman they thought he could become? (minus some of the more physical parts of the game they hoped he would bring)