- Craig Custance
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It’s Bertuzzi’s trusted move. Helm and the rest of the Detroit bench leapt in celebration when the puck was back-handed past Smith to give the Red Wings a 3-2 shootout win over the Coyotes in Phoenix -- Detroit’s fifth in a row.
As good as the Red Wings have been at home, where they’re setting franchise records, the win pushed their road record to just 13-13. If they’re going to establish themselves as the team to beat in the West, they need to find consistent success away from Joe Louis Arena.
“We have to win those games,” Helm told ESPN.com after the game. “It’s crunch time... and it’s tough on the road. I think we’re trying to find a way to get wins and the last couple games we did a good job battling through.”
Detroit moves to the top of the Western Conference, but not by much. The Blues won again with a shutout win over the Oilers and sit just one point back of the Red Wings. The two play in Detroit on Monday. The Blackhawks are right there too, tied with the Blues with 62 points. Every point becomes crucial, and the Red Wings continue to pick up points in the shootout where they remain undefeated.
“It’s tough every night,” Helm said. “It doesn’t seem like too many teams lose hockey games in this division. Chicago is rolling. St. Louis is rolling. We’re doing a pretty good job. It’s going to be an 82-game season to make sure we get a good playoff spot.”
A few things that stood out in this game:
Johan Franzen took a shot off the right ankle and appeared to be in serious pain as he wobbled off the ice. He left the bench for the dressing room but eventually returned to the game. It’s an injury to watch. As good as Datsyuk has been this season, Franzen has been their most consistent goal-scorer and keeping him healthy in the second half of the season is crucial. He’s typically at his best in the postseason and the Red Wings need him with two healthy legs when the playoffs arrive.
It was a strong effort by the Coyotes, who played the night before in a 6-2 loss to the Ducks. Their best chance to win the game came in overtime when Datsyuk, missing a stick, was called for tripping, giving Phoenix a 4-on-3. They had scoring chances, including a couple good looks by Ray Whitney, but Jimmy Howard did enough to keep the game tied. The Phoenix penalty kill was perfect and it was tested thanks to three too-many-men penalties by the Coyotes. “Phoenix did a good job in the lane, blocking shots,” Helm said of the Coyotes' penalty kill.
Coyotes forward Daymond Langkow took a puck in the face during the first period and missed the rest of the game. According to a team source, he remains day-to-day and coach Dave Tippett told the Arizona Republic’s Sarah McLellan that “he wasn’t very good after the game.” The Coyotes aren’t exactly loaded with depth down the middle and there’s not much margin for error for Tippett’s group right now. An extended absence for Langkow would be a huge blow for Phoenix.
Overshadowed in the Red Wings' success has been a struggling power play. It went 0-for-5 in this game and has been particularly ineffective on the road. The Red Wings now sit at No. 14 in the league on the power play, converting at 18.1 percent. The power play is a weakness shared by division rival St. Louis, which is at just 13.3 percent. Mike Babcock’s patience is running thin with this group; expect him to make changes both in personnel and scheme if the struggles continue.
Red Wings forward Darren Helm saw teammate Todd Bertuzzi skating in wide on the shootout and called it from the bench. The spin-o-rama was coming. And why not?