The Blackhawks have inexplicably posed problems for the Red Wings all season long, but yesterday the Wings managed to conquer what was, despite the outcome and the not spectacular play of the Hawks, a sort of tense game as the Wings never managed to really get a strong lead.
Before the game started, it was reported that Dan Cleary signed a five year contract extension that will earn him $14 million in total, 2.8 million per year. This is great for the Red Wings, who have begun to really rely on Cleary's gritty, determined play. It isn't all that often that you find a player both offensively talented and as hard working as Cleary, so locking him up long-term is a strong move.
In the wake of this news, it was awesome to see the Wings go on to win their fourth game straight. Kirk Maltby scored early on to put the Wings up 1-0, but Rene Bourque tied it up soon afterward on a bit of a misplay by the Wings defensemen.
There was a dicey moment when Robert Lang had a bit of a breakaway and Brad Stuart hauled him down, resulting in a penalty shot. Fortunately, the former Wing shot the puck right into Chris Osgood's leg pad. Osgood continued to look strong for the rest of the night, making 19 saves on 20 shots, despite not having started the past four games.
Pavel Datsyuk scored the game winner, and Johan Franzen, who had a strong game even before his goal, the empty netter to result in the final 3-1 score. Mikael Samuelsson also had a good looking game, ringing one off the post and then spearing James Wisniewski, who retaliated with a crosscheck to Samuelsson's face which has earned him a one game suspension without pay.
The Hawks didn't look awesome but they somehow managed to keep the puck out of the net often enough - I was surprised at how strong goalie call up Corey Crawford looked, for someone I'd never even heard of. And yet, their struggle for a playoff spot continues, as the Wings took this game away from them.
- Toward the end of the game Jiri Hudler and Patrick Kane looked to be trying to start something - one of the commentators remarked that for once Hudler was picking on someone his own size, which made me laugh. Not so often you hear that when "his own size" means "tiny".
- The game was Dallas Drake's 1000th, and the Wings made a mention of this during the game. They showed his family in the crowd on the jumbotron and then switched the Drake, who was smiling on the bench at seeing his family - how cute. Afterward they took a team picture to commemorate the evening - I love Henrik Zetterberg draping himself all over his Eurotwin partner Datsyuk, but where is Nick Lidstrom looking?
- Tonight at the Joe they were handing out these posters of the current 8 Swedish players on the roster (Jon Ericsson was included) - the promotion was dubbed "IKEA Night" and the Swedish mega furniture store even sponsored it. UM. AWESOME.
- I've often said I LOVE the Joe's music guys and their abilities to match songs to the moment, but yesterday night was absolutely spectacular. In quick succession (seriously a time span of about five minutes) they played both Alice Cooper's "Eighteen (And I Like it)" and the Beatles' "Let it Be" after Kirk Maltby's goal, "Hooked on a Feeling" when Niklas Hjalmarsson hooked Zetterberg, and "Ice, Ice Baby" as the officials took care of some problems with the ice surface. Congrats, guys, you are awesome.