Tomas Tatar Beyond Hot and the Return of Stephen Weiss

Stephen Weiss has returned to the Red Wings with a flourish.

Stephen Weiss has returned to the Red Wings with a flourish.

The Detroit Red Wings have come into Thanksgiving week feeling pretty darn good about themselves. They have won three of their last four and look to be clicking on all cylinders offensively.

Last Tuesday in Columbus was a horror show for the Bluejackets and a lovely stroll in the park for the Wings as they delivered a 5-0 beatdown to the bruised Bluejackets. Going into that matchup Detroit had been embarrassed by the Canadiens which was surprising to most as they had just decimated the rival Blackhawks by the same 4-1 score days earlier. Howard stopped all 28 Columbus shots in his 300th NHL game and earned his 19th shutout. Goals scored by Nyquist, Tatar, Helm, Jurco, Sheahan, and Helm gave reasons for further joy as the scoresheet essentially read like a Griffins roster of old. This is very reassuring as the play of the youth as remained at a consistently high level and the fear around the team and fan base was that it could have been a fluke. Well, the kids are doing their part to prove everyone wrong. Also Jurco’s goal was the first of his struggling season, and his play could be crucial with the absence of Datsyuk to injury and the the waiver claim of Nestrasil by the Carolina Hurricanes.

Thursday night in Winnipeg was a heartstopper and it really did not need to be. Jimmy Howard gave way to Petr Mrazek who was recently called up from Grand Rapids so he could make his season debut between the pipes. Mrazek gave up 2 goals in the first 10 minutes of the second period and it started to look like it was going to be a long and anguishing night for the Wings. Tatar struck that notion down by scoring less than 30 seconds after the second Jets goal and Johan Franzen soon followed with another to knot the score up. But those pesky underrated Jets came back to take a 3-2 lead going into the final frame. Justin Abdelkader tied the game again with 7 minutes left. Less than 3 minutes later the red hot Tomas Tatar secured the victory by simply driving to the net with his stick on the ice as Abdelkader fed him a picture perfect pass to bury past Pavelec. Tatar spurred the comeback for the Wings and Mrazek eventually did shut the door. Babcock had some praise for the young goaltender, “He’s a good goalie there’s no doubt about that. He’s totally relaxed and just think that he is going to win, no matter what.”

Detroit was featured on Hockey Night in Canada Saturday night but apparently nobody told them because their finishing touch around the goal was definitely not as strong as it was the previous few games. They looked dead tired from the previous few games. Jonathan Bernier simply had their number yet again stopping all but one shot, scored by none other than Tomas Tatar. The Wings outplayed Toronto in almost every facet of the game until they gave up a shorthanded goal on a bad play by the usually reliable Kronwall to Tyler Bozak in the final period, which eventually led to the opening of the proverbial floodgates. They outshot them through the entirety of the game other than the third period, they won the face-off game, they hardly had any giveaways in comparison to the Leafs. They simply just got beat, which as we all know can happen to any NHL team on any night. This was the type of game that would boggle the minds of advanced stats gurus who take every number literally. It just seems that Bernier has gotten into the Wings head and they are going to have to find a way to get past that. The Leafs were also out to prove a point to their fans after they had suffered a 9-0 drubbing and had seen fans throw their jerseys onto the ice in protest. You cannot win them all, and that is perfectly fine. But this one was winnable, and Nyquist and Tatar both past up golden scoring opportunities in favor of passing which leads to the frustration felt by Wings fans after this game.

The Wings did not stay down for long as their homestand this week against the Ottawa Senators, another divisional foe who they need to secure as many points as possible from. With Pavel Datsyuk out of the lineup, and Andrej Nestrasil out of the picture, the Wings were able to call up Stephen Weiss from Grand Rapids who was actually in good health for a change. And boy did he make his presence felt. The Wings gave up an early 5 on 3 to Ottawa and Kyle Turris made them pay. Soon after Nyquist noted the game up and scored his 10th of the season to become the first double digit goal scorer of the season for the Wings. Then Riley Sheahan would put home a juicy rebound from a Tatar shot and then from there it was the Stephen Weiss show. Yes, you read that correctly. Weiss would go to score the next two goals of the game and give the Wings a comfortable two goal leads. Both of his goals came off rebounds but he finished them with confidence and authority and that is what the Wings brass has to be looking at from him, besides staying out of the medical room. For all the trashing of Weiss, he looked like a demon out there. His backchecking and forechecking was supreme and you could tell he was playing with a chip on his shoulder. There were a few instances when you had to question where he was getting this speed from as that is not something that he has been known for the past few seasons. Regardless, it was a welcomed site and hopefully he keeps up the play and fans will come around and embrace him. The Sens would come as close to 4-3 on a goal by Erik Karlsson, and almost tied it up with minimal time remaining before Jimmy Howard said ‘NO WAY’ and made and incredible save to put the game away and secure all possible points for the Wings.

After having a pathetic power play to start the season, Detroit is now 15 for their last 56 (26%) and it is safe to say Coach Babcock has to be a lot happier about that stat. With a huge run of home games coming up for the Wings, they need to win as many as possible before Christmas grows nearer. This is where teams separate themselves and Detroit can further cement themselves into playoff position by winning as many of these upcoming contests as possible. With Philly at home the day before Thanksgiving, let’s all be thankful for that last second save by Howard against Ottawa, Weiss’s great return, and Tomas Tatar’s hot streak. And while we are at it, #1 wish on the Christmas list is a quick return from Datsyuk for the homestretch. There is nothing wrong with being greedy from time to time.