After a slow start in Thursday's matchup with the San Jose Sharks, the Detroit Red Wings battled to a 2-1 shootout victory, snapping the Sharks' six game winning streak. Henrik Zetterberg had both the Wings' lone regulation goal and the shootout winner. Nik Lidstrom and Darren Helm had assists on Zetterberg's score at 5:38 of the third period to send the game into overtime.
Chris Osgood stopped 33 shots in regulation and overtime, as well as both Sharks shootout attempts. Anyone doubting Osgood's play this season should have watched the last two games he's played. The only goal he's given up in those 125 minutes was the result of his defense literally falling apart in front of him.
Joe Callahan and Logan Couture found themselves in front of the net in a sort of two on one due to Jonathan Ericcson falling down on the play. A nice pass from Callahan caught Osgood out of position to log Couture's first NHL goal at 5:19 of the 2nd period.
Evgeni Nabokov also had a strong outing, logging 35 saves in the losing effort. But the Wings came through in the shootout, with Datsyuk and Zetterberg scoring. Nabokov did stop Jason Williams' shootout attempt, but it wasn't enough. Osgood shut down Dan Boyle and Ryan Clowe on their attempts, showing that he still knows how to keep his team in these close games.
The younger players are starting to contribute more to the game, even if it isn't showing up on the score sheet. Darren Helm, Justin Abdelkader, and Jonathan Ericcson all had strong games. Sure, they're going to make some young guy mistakes, like Ericcson dropping the ball on Couture's goal, but they're applying pressure and playing aggressive, physical hockey.
By doing so, they're allowing Coach Mike Babcock to effectively roll all four offensive and all three defensive lines during games. This helps keep the shifts short, and the veterans fresh.
The Red Wings are starting to show some signs of life in November, with Thursday's win putting them in a tie for the Central Division lead. Detroit is trying to prove that they can still be a Cup contender this year, but that might prove to be too tall an order. The free-agent market and the KHL ravaged the team's roster during the off-season, as well as losing Filppula, Lilja, and Franzen to long-term injuries early in the season.
But these young players, along with a remaining solid veteran core, led by names like Lidstrom, Osgood, and Holmstrom are showing that they can still be a strong supporting cast to the likes of Zetterberg and Datsyuk. How far this cast will take them remains to be seen.