Friday, November 25, 2011

Thanksgiving Showdown A Success

In case you missed it, the first ever Thanksgiving Showdown was a success on NBC. And boy, did they choose wisely featuring the Original Six Red Wings and defending champion Bruins in Beantown.

In what amounted to a clinic on how the game should be played, Detroit bested Boston 3-2 in a shootout- putting a halt to the Bruins' 10-game win streak. The game's best player, Pavel Datsyuk scored in the skill competition with the B's Nathan Horton forcing last licks. Vet Todd Bertuzzi ended it with a tricky deke and forehand finish just off Tuukka Rask's glove, giving the Wings a well earned win.

The teams combined for four goals during at times, a spectacular back and forth contest that saw each take turns controlling. Despite an off first, Detroit was in front on Valtteri Filppula's goal from Henrik Zetterberg and Ian White. However, some hard work from ex-Sabre Daniel Paille paid dividends when he and Horton forced Jimmy Howard into a turnover, allowing Paille to pull off a backhand deke into an open side for the equalizer.

Before the Bruin faithful could be seated, there was that guy Datsyuk turning a Bertuzzi backhand pass into a highlight reel go-ahead goal 35 seconds later. I've raved about #Datsyukian for years on how I believe he's the best player in the game. Sorry Sid. Nobody pays as much attention to detail and he's every bit as dangerous. On the goal, he skated around two players and then kicked the puck to his stick before finishing off a forehand deke past Rask. The artistry and imagination made it possible. Doc and Pierre raved about another shift where he again used his skates to move a puck. A third sequence occurred when he wisely kicked the puck out of harm's way with powerhouse Milan Lucic on the hunt. The hockey sense of Datsyuk is off the charts. It's why he's always up for the Selke. It was nice to see Pierre McGuire pay some accolades by mentioning the skilled Russian for MVP. In Mike Babcock's system, he'll never have the numbers of a Crosby, Malkin or even Kessel if he can maintain his unbelievable pace. Pavel doesn't need to. He simply never takes a shift off and doesn't quit defensively. The man can force a turnover that quickly and transition.

Enough about my favorite player. There were quite a few of them, including the ageless Nick Lidstrom actively using his stick to stifle Boston chances. Patrice Bergeron also was stellar, notching the tying goal at 7:52 of the third after super soph Tyler Seguin forced Henrik Zetterberg into a turnover. Again. Good on McGuire mentioning how great all around Bergy is. He really should be up for the Selke but never will have the numbers to qualify. There are many great two-way players including last year's deserving winner Ryan Kesler, the Kings' Mike Richards and Anze Kopitar to name a few. Tomas Plekanec is another player who goes unnoticed. Aside from Carey Price, the man is the Canadiens.

Thanks to splendid goalkeeping from darkhorse Vezina candidate Howard on a day I didn't start him, the contest needed a shootout. All the University Of Maine alum did was make 41 saves, including highway robbery late with the game up for grabs. He really is tremendous and bares watching while Vezina incumbent Tim Thomas and certain candidates Pekka Rinne and Henrik Lundqvist get all the credit. The goaltending is out of this world. Rask wasn't too shabby either, finishing with 29 saves.

There are plenty of games going on including Devils-Islanders, Rangers-Caps and Sabres-Jackets. Blake Comeau was waived by the Islanders and picked up by the Flames. I know he stunk this year and fell out of favor. But giving up on a former second rounder who had 24 goals the year before and was a PK fixture just seems a bit perplexing. Especially when they took a flyer on vet Brian Rolston. I don't get it. We'll have more tomorrow on the games.

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