By Christy Hammond
In a precursor to the Winter Classic on New Year’s, the Detroit Red Wings (24-7-5) defeated the Chicago Blackhawks (20-6-7) by a score of 4-0. It was the 700th meeting between these two historic rivals and the Wings’ win actually snapped a nine-game winning streak for the Blackhawks. Chicago is now six points behind Detroit in the Central Division standings, but they do have two games still in hand.
Thanks to the superb effort by Wings’ goaltender Ty Conklin, the Wings were able to stay in the game despite a rocky start in which they were outshot 12-1 in the first 9:21. Despite Chicago leading in shots (16-11) by the end of the first, it was Detroit who had the only goal in the game and a power-play goal at that.
15:51 into the first period, Pavel Datsyuk scored from the top of the left circle when he sent a wrist shot flying as Tomas Holmstrom screened Nikolai Khabibulin. Datsyuk also earned an assist on the Wings’ third goal of the game and won 14 of his 18 faceoffs. He also improved his point streak to eight games with seven goals and nine assists in that span.
6:58 into the second period, power forward Johan Franzen scored a power-play goal that I still can’t believe went in. He took the shot from below the right faceoff circle and beat Khabibulin on the short side, so much so that the puck somehow fit in between the inch or two of his helmet and the goalpost. Defensemen Brian Rafalski and Niklas Kronwall assisted on both Datsyuk and Franzen’s goals.
Franzen scored his second goal of the game and 17th of the season just 37 seconds into the third period when he banged the puck in behind Khabibulin. Tomas Kopecky earned just his second goal of the season 12:05 into the final period. Valtteri Filppula brought the puck up along the left side of the ice and then dished a pass to Kopecky just after entering the zone. Kopecky brought it up the slot and took a nice shot to solidify the Wings’ lead.
It was a fantastic game in front of a great crowd at the Joe that is hopefully an indicator of what we’ll see on Thursday. I especially enjoyed seeing the Wings play a very physical game as they outhit Chicago 33-23. On top of that, the Wings’ prowess in the faceoff circle seemed to help as they won 69% of the draws. What’s even more impressive about all of this is that the Wings did all this without their captain Nicklas Lidstrom, who was out with a swollen ankle.
Detroit’s next game is against Chicago at Wrigley Field for the Winter Classic at New Year’s. This once in a lifetime game will be one you certainly do not want to miss. Tune in to NBC at 1 p.m. EST for the action!