Monday, December 21, 2009

NHL Recap 12-20-09: Wings blanked, Blues win

Passing of the torch?
Oh, that pesky regular season.

Detroit netminder Chris Osgood was one of his team's best players in the 2008 and 2009 postseasons, but he is in the midst of his second consecutive dreadful regular season. Ty Conklin saved Detroit's bacon to the tune of 25 wins last season, and now it's Jimmy Howard who's stepping to the forefront. But he's not doing it as a quality backup; Howard is becoming the No. 1 guy in Motown, if he's not already.

Performances like Sunday's won't help Osgood's cause. He gave up two, possibly three, soft goals in a 3-0 loss to Chicago in just his third appearance in December and has only one win since Nov. 7.

Of course, it doesn't help when his teammates don't score, and Cristobal Huet needed to stop just 20 shots for his third shutout of the season. Duncan Keith, Brian Campbell and Dustin Byfuglien scored for the Blackhawks.

Assuming Detroit makes the playoffs - the Wings are ninth currently, tied with Dallas in points but having played one more game, and once healthy, they should qualify - it will be interesting if Howard is the starter despite having no postseason experience, or if a switch or rotation of some kind will be in order. Remember, in 2008, Detroit started with Dominik Hasek before Osgood replaced him after four games, and Osgood backstopped the team to the Stanley Cup.

Road sweet road
Is St. Louis a bad town? Because the Blues play so much better on the road.

St. Louis continues to have the worst home record in the league, having earned only 14 points from 18 games, but once the Blues head on the road, look out. Following a 3-1 win at Vancouver Sunday, St. Louis is an impressive 9-3-3 away from Scottrade Center.

David Backes scored two goals, the second snapping a 1-1 tie, and teammate Keith Tkachuk followed with his eighth of the season 1:27 later to give St. Louis a two-goal advantage, and Ty Conklin slammed the door on the Canucks from there.

Shane O'Brien scored his first goal in 166 games for Vancouver, which failed to convert on two third-period power plays. Conklin made 29 saves.

Stat of the night
10 - Shots through two periods for Detroit

Quote of the night
"There's obviously a little vendetta. Maybe we should pretend every team kicked our dog before the game. I'm an animal advocate by the way."
Backes. St. Louis has out-scored Vancouver 9-2 in two meetings this season. The Canucks swept the Blues out of the playoffs in 2009.

Marquee matchup
Monday, Dec. 21 (11 games)
Fun week ahead in the NHL. It's all or nothing. Eleven games Monday, three Tuesday, 12 Wednesday, then the Christmas break Thursday and Friday, then 13 games Saturday. Monday's top game is New Jersey (25-8-1) at Pittsburgh (25-10-1), 7:30 p.m. ET. Winner gets top spot in the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference, currently held by the Devils.

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