Three Questions: Wings-Blackhawks
DRW.com's Michael Caples analyzes the Wings' 36th game
The Red Wings posted four goals in their Winter Classic preview game against the Blackhawks, but goaltender Ty Conklin earned the game puck. Conklin stopped 36 shots against Chicago, a team that had won nine straight games, to notch his third shutout of the season. Conklin, who has been in net since Chris Osgood went down with an injury, has been making the most of his opportunity. Tonight, he helped the Wings go six-for-six on the penalty kill, shutting down one of the game’s top offensive units. Now the debate begins – who starts on New Year’s Day? Conklin won the game for Pittsburgh in last year’s Winter Classic, and he will obviously be arriving in Chicago tomorrow feeling very confident.
How did Johan Franzen score that one?
The goal of the night was tallied by Johan Franzen, who recorded his 16th goal of the season at the seven-minute mark of the second period. ‘The Mule’ took a fake-shot feed from defenseman Brian Rafalski at the bottom of the circle on the powerplay, and turned and roofed the puck over goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin for the man-advantage goal. Franzen’s rifle of a wrist shot sent Khabibulin’s water bottle flying, and left the losing goaltender wondering how he snuck one past him. I don’t blame Khabibulin; he was hugging the post the way he should, and nobody in the arena but Franzen thought there was any room to get the puck in short-side. He showed his impressive strength on his second goal, but his first was one for the highlights.
What was scary about the game?
It was great to watch these two teams square off tonight, but there was an obvious concern for injuries with the Winter Classic just two days away. Those concerns nearly became a reality for both teams, with both athletic trainers having some activity during the Wings’ 4-0 win. Detroit’s Tomas Holmstrom was struck in the face during the second period, caught while he was manning his usual position in front of the opposition’s crease. He was slow to get off, but he returned. The Blackhawk’s young star Patrick Kane also missed some time, after bending his knee awkwardly on a check from Dan Cleary during the first period. He hobbled off the ice, but was back for the second period. The injury focus will be back on Detroit captain Nicklas Lidstrom, who will hopefully be ready to go for the big game at Wrigley Field.