OK, so my penalty for not doing this last night, instead of today, is that everybody else got to the whole Jason/Friday the 13th bit before I did. My bad . . . However, to hear the Red Wings talk after last night's 3 - 2 loss to the CBJ, the Jasons (Chimera and Williams) aside, Steve Mason is enough to give them nightmares for awhile.
Because of other commitments, I couldn't be on hand in person last night -- only the second time this year that I've missed -- but caught the end of the second on the radio and all of the third on the tube. The difference in Mason is stark and mind-numbing. Compared to the NW Canada trip, when he was unknowingly suffering from Mono, he is now much smoother, much more aggressively dominant in the crease. His athleticism was fully apparent last night, and the team reacted to it.
After every game, and on the days in between, I scour the Canadian websites and catch NHL On The Fly on the NHL Network, as well as any other broadcasts I can get my hands on. After last night's game, NHL Network was wrapping up the Calder and mailing it to Mason's house. Now, what about the Vezina? LIkely will take 30 wins and continued statistical dominance for him to earn it, given the league prejudice in favor of "established" players. How beautiful would it be, though, for him to win the Calder and Vezina, and then let the league explain why he wasn't an All Star?
Since I don't do the +/- deal when I haven't personally seen the whole game, I'll make just a few observations. First, gotta love that Chimera, Williams, Voracek line. Wow! Voracek was huge last night, all over the ice, Chimmer scores a classic Chimera-style goal, and Williams plays sniper with the game winner. What's not to like?
Strongly disagree with those who are dissing Nash right now. First of all, my bet is that he has played through a bout with the flu. Secondly, he is doing tons of the dirty, nasty stuff that is making things possible for other guys. Watch him in the corners, moving the puck, being a force at the blue line on the PK. Missed another breakaway, but he had been on a real roll, and the fact that we are winning with Nash and Huselius in a bit of a scoring lull is really good. When Nash is on defense, on the PK or otherwise, other teams are having to change their passing up high, as with his long stick and reach, he is always a threat to go deep. That sort of influence doesn't show up on the scoresheet.
All the credit in the world goes out to Backman, who is looking more and more comfortable and in charge at both ends. He has taken a load of crap this year, much of it deserved, but has refused to simply go through the motions. That, folks, is character.
Total team effort last night, and another big psychological step by taking the tying goal in the 3rd, and simply stuffing it back at them. At the beginning of the season, we are looking at that three game stretch of San Jose, Colorado, Detroit and hoping for 3 points. We get 6. Wow!
Mase is back, the team is playing well, and big things are ahead. 18 days to the trade deadline, and Howson has more magic up his sleeves, I am sure. First things first -- Carolina preview is next!