Since the playoffs this past season the Sharks and the Wings have had this interesting brand of rivalry brewing, making for some really fun to watch, interesting, and generally close games. Tonight's mostly fit the bill on those first two points but missed the third by quite a bit.
The game started on a high note, as this afternoon Kris Draper signed a three-year contract extension that will wind up him up presumably retiring as a Red Wing. Considering his fourteen years of efforts and the start he's had to this season, I'm thrilled to see it.
Dominik Hasek was out with an "irritated hip", so Chris Osgood was in net, though he was slated to get the start tonight regardless. Jimmy Howard has been called up to back him up through the western Canada road trip, but Hasek will be traveling with the team as well, so hopefully it's only a minor setback. Osgood continued to look great tonight and had the crowd chanting his name.
Valtteri Filppula finally broke out, scoring not only the Wings' first goal of the game (a backhanded flip similar to his first NHL goal ever) but also added an assist to Andreas Lilja's goal, the second of the game. It was great not only to see him rack up some points, but also to listen to the announcers gush over him. At one point he lost his helmet and they went on about the fans getting a kick out of "watching that Finnish blonde hair in the wind". Later they referred to him as "Fine Finnish Filppula" - and on a more serious note, Mickey Redmond declared him the young Red Wing he thought was most likely remain with the team for a long time.
The Wings not only came out strong tonight, but also looked disciplined, taking far less penalties than they have been as of late. Aaron Downey was impressive again, in a similar vein, goading Rob Davison into instigating a fight - the Wings game recap proclaims that the two "threw more shots during their fight than San Jose managed to sent at the net through 40 minutes." Probably true, as the Sharks really started to deflate as the game progressed. At the beginning of the third, the Henrik Zetterberg/Pavel Datsyuk/Tomas Holmstrom line had more shots on net (9) than the entire Sharks roster (6).
Speaking of, Holmstrom scored the third game of the night, and Zetterberg continued his point streak, now at 11 games, by notching the fourth goal of the night. He would have had two, but the second was waived off, as Holmstrom who is currently the most penalized player in the league with 12 minors and 4 goals called off at his expense (enough to provoke the announcers to suggest the Holmstrom Hat Trick - a goal, an assist, and a goal called off). By that point in the game the Wings were clearly dominating and had so much momentum that it looked like most of the players on the ice were just laughing about the call-off. Datsyuk wasn't left out of the fun - the flashy Russian has apparently earned himself the moniker "Houdini", which he certainly proved tonight. His pass that set up Zetterberg's goal involved drawing three men to him and deking the puck around of them, and later on he slipped between Mike Grier and another Shark so quickly that the two actually bowled each other over while Datsyuk skated harmlessly away. Only the young Marc-Eduoard Vlasic, known as "Pickles", had any real luck holding him back, stopping what could have been a nice breakway for Datsyuk early on.
After the first four goals, the Sharks pulled goalie Evgeni Nabokov, whose evening did nothing to improve his already suffering stats against the Red Wings, and put in backup Dimitri Patzold who is, weirdly enough, from the exact same city as Nabokov. I only wish I were from a place named Kamenogorskorsk. The move did did little for the Sharks though, as Kirk Maltby scored on the Wings first shot against him.
The Sharks did manage to ruin the shut out when Alexei Semenov's shot from the point made it past Osgood, but it was the only success story for the Sharks all night. The Wings outshot them 39-11 and their goal differential is now an astonishing 138 - the highest in the league and the only in triple digits.
- The Oilers took a win over the Stars last night with help from Ales Hemsky, who tallied two goals. I was at the bar catching the Sox game, but I received no less than five text messages about it - thanks you guys and everyone else! He also picked up the win for the team in the shootout despite actually losing control of the puck at the last second. When asked about it later, he swears he didn't do it on purpose and that while it was ugly, "I'll take it!" The game also marked Ladislav Smid's return to the NHL.
- Speaking of Oilers, or ex-Oilers, Ryan Smyth scored 23 seconds into overtime to win the game in Calgary for the Avalanche. The colors still look terribly wrong, but it's nice to see him back in Alberta.
- Ex-Wing Danny Markov finally signed a contract - with Dynamo Russia. It's believed to be a two year, $4 million contract with an out-clause for next summer, which is less than he might have been able to receive here in the states.