17 January 2007

Holmer's Odyssey? Maybe so.

With the race for the top of the NHL drawing much closer thanks to losing skids on Buffalo's part and injuries on Anaheim's, tonights Wings/Preds matchup was a far more important game than any of the two teams' previous matchups. Had Nashville won it, they would have clinched the top spot, at least for the time being (though Anaheim and Buffalo would have trailed by mere points) - but instead, Detroit pulled off a beautiful third period and snatched the lead 5-3.

I didn't watch it close enough for a full recap, but the Eurotwins of course played beautifully - that whole line has extended some ridiculous points streaks. Pavel had a beautiful play, faking a drop back and kicking the puck back up to his stick before passing it off to Holmstrom. Dom let in quite a few early, but stood strong in net for the rest of the game, getting a chance Vokoun certainly didn't.

And then Jiri Hudler. I've been backing the kid since the season started, despite a lot of people considering Filppula and Kopecky the more promising prospects, and he's starting to shine these last couple days, pulling off the game winning goals in both of the last two games. The kid's got something. Take his current stats up against Filppula's. Hudler's got 8 goals now, 1 assist, and Filppy's at 6 and 2 - not bad for a couple rookies at all, and not enough to determine either more valuable, but I'd say it at least discredits some of that rabble about Hudler's streaky, skittering play. In the post game interview they were talking about how he likes to go in high, but couldn't do it on Vokoun, who knows how he plays. The second Mason, a lefty, gets in there though, he pulls out that beautiful top shelf shot that's done so well for him so far.

Hudler aside though, that fourth line in general, now Hudler-Filppula-Williams, is just as capable of scoring as any other line on that team - give them an opportunity and they'll pull it off. Hudler's got the least playing time of anyone in the last two games and yet a goal in each. And it's things like this that are pulling the Wings back from what everyone thought was going to be a worrisome season. They're finally, after losing so many veterans that they counted on for so long, learning how to use their youth - and look at what it's doing for them. A line like this backing up their beast of a first, and the definitely skilled second and third, and the Wings have got a damn good shot.

Maybe this is what we need to stop choking in the playoffs; we'll see. Now if only Edmonton started working some similar magic.

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