Red Wings: 2 Blue Jackets: 1
It wasn’t pretty, but they got it done. The Wings grinded out a 2-1 win over the Blue Jackets tonight at the Joe. Todd Bertuzzi netted both goals, probably due to the fact that his #1 fan, Mike P. from The Production Line, was in attendance. Valtteri Filppula returned from his wrist injury and had a decent game. Pavel Datsyuk was better than he’s been recently, assisting on Bertuzzi’s first goal. Jimmy Howard played another strong game, adding more fuel to the goalie controversy fire. Overall, the Wings played a strong game and came away with the win.
The game itself wasn’t very exciting, other than the win. Fil’s return was obviously the biggest story, and rightfully so. If he was out of shape or practice in any way, it didn’t show. He was easily one of the best players on the ice tonight, controlling the puck well. Other than fanning on a one-timer in the second period, I didn’t see too much to complain about from him. His presence is going to be huge for this team going forward. They’re lacking scoring firepower right now, and Fil brings back some much needed offensive talent. He’s going to be asked to carry a line, something he hasn’t had to do before. The next few weeks will show just how much Fil has progressed as a hockey player. If he can help provide some offense without breaking up the Homer-Dangle-Kaczynski line, I think the Wings will start to put some wins together.
As far as the goaltender controversy goes, I still don’t think there is one. We said all the same things last year that we’re saying this year. I might be playing with fire by doing this, but here goes:
via The Chief, Feb. 19th, 2009:
Somebody pointed this out yesterday and it’s brilliant: Chris Osgood has exactly one more game of less than 3 goals allowed than Ty Conklin does shutouts. Think about that. Have a ballcap Chris. Keep it on for a while. Like ‘til mid June or so.
The Chief, Dec. 18th, 2009:
Jimmy Howard’s your starter. Yes he is. Yep. Don’t start your sputtering and tip tapping. He is and you know it.
These games are important. Every one. And there he is. The roster is decimated and Uncle Mike needs strength in net every single game…and there he is. Four days between games? Howard. One night between games? Howard.
Just to set the record straight, I’m not wearing a fedora, hyperextending my pinky, or drinking some puss-ass beer with a Rosby-like “My daddy was naughty with me” grin on my face. It’s just an example of what most fans are saying. What’s my point? Wait until April. I understand that the December games mean a lot more this year. The Wings are in a dog fight for a playoff spot for the first time since… hell, I don’t even remember. But they’re still within striking distance, and don’t pretend that Ozzie doesn’t know that. He might not be as bat-shit crazy as The Dominator was, but he just doesn’t have it in December and January.
Jimmy Howard is the hot goaltender right now, and he’s playing the minutes he deserves. He should (and probably will) start on Monday in Columbus, and he should (and probably will) start on Thursday against Colorado. But does anyone really trust him to lead this team on to the ice in Game 1? I sure as hell don’t. This is the same guy that we considered a place-holder for Thomas McCollum just a few months ago. Look 200 miles south, to the same BJs that we beat today. Last year, Steve Mason was the heir-apparent to the NHL goaltending throne. This year?
Goaltender Steve Mason, last season’s Calder Trophy winner as rookie of the year, ranks 46th in the league in both goals-against average (3.40) and save percentage (.887).
My point is this: Howard is still a rookie. Ride the kid while he’s hot now, but the playoffs are a different animal. Say thanks, give him a gas card when he turns 16 (seriously, grow a beard or something Jimmy), and hand him a faceoff chart. Ozzie proved last season that he’s got a switch, and he knows when to flip it. He’s been there before, and he can do it again. Jimmy may be the goalie of the future, but as long as the #30 remains out of the rafters? Ozzie’s your man.
As long as this team keeps getting healthy, I think the Wings will make some big time noise in the playoffs regardless of where they’re seeded. No one in their right mind would ask for this team in a 7-game series right now, let alone when Hank, Cleary, Franzen, and the rest of the Dead Wings come back. Jimmy Howard? Carry the load until we get to the pearly gates, but once 87’s baby daddy opens the door? Hit the back of the bus kid, and let Ozzie have the wheel.
The Wings are back in action on Monday. The Pistons are on the road tomorrow and will be back at the Palace on Tuesday, where I’ll be in the nosebleeds knocking back $8 brews. I love free tickets.