I’ve ripped into him in every shootout he’s been in this year so now I have to give him his due: Jimmy Howard played out of his mind in the shootout tonight. Whoever picked the three stars of the game got it wrong. You play 65 minutes of shutout hockey and then stop a ridiculous 91% of shooters in the shootout, you’re the first star.
On the offensive side, it took some amazing attempts to beat both Howard and Pekka Rinne.
Bertuzzi’s attempt… Does anyone have more confidence in the shootout than him? One second he’s damn near stopped at the blue line, the next he’s made 37 quick moves and is lifting a shot over Rinne, who’s sprawling out thinking “WTF? That puck was just here.”
Sullivan was fated to score. He’s been a Wing killer for long enough that it should just be expected. That said, his deke on Howard was so nice that I won’t blame Howard for falling for it, no matter how much I feel like I should.
Eleven rounds in – the longest the Wings have ever gone into the shootout – and Niklas Kronwall breaks the tie. Another confident move. Nothing fancy, just race on in and shove it down Rinne’s throat.
Of course that it went to a shootout at all hurts the Wings a bit in the playoff race. Nashville’s one point keeps Detroit from catching them but the gap is closer now, with the Red Wings one point back of the Predators with a game in hand.
As I write this, the Colorado Avalanche are down 5-2 to the Phoenix Coyotes. Should they go on to lose, the Avalanche will drop to eighth place in the conference, two points back of Detroit with a game in hand.
The Los Angeles Kings are up 1-0 after the first period of play against the Dallas Stars. A win or OT loss would put the Kings in sixth and the Wings in seventh, while the teams will be flipped if Dallas wins in regulation. Los Angeles also has a game in hand on Detroit.
Perhaps most importantly, the Calgary Flames dropped their second in a row earlier today, a 5-0 decision to the Boston Bruins. Combined with Detroit’s win, the ninth-place Flames now sit eight points back of the Red Wings with seven games remaining. This means that with three wins the Red Wings can clinch a playoff spot.