During game two in Anaheim, Damien Brunner played well enough to register on the scoresheet. A ripped wrist shot had eyes, handcuffing Jonas Hiller and extending the Detroit Red Wings’ first period lead.
Interestingly enough, that was the last we’d hear of Brunner in a positive light until Monday night in overtime. The first game back at Joe Louis Arena didn’t go so well, as Brunner missed the net with shots, looked out of place on the ice and contributed the game’s biggest mistake, a turnover which allowed Ryan Getzlaf to waltz in uncontested and score a backbreaking goal. Overall, he was -1 on a very tough night.
Then on Monday, Brunner and his linemates, including previous overtime hero Gustav Nyquist, were overshadowed early and often by Todd Bertuzzi’s line which led to less time on the ice for them. Brunner had only 17 shifts and 11:16 minutes of ice time total in the game. Despite all of that, it was this group which finally managed to break through and tie the series.
A heads up feed by Joakim Andersson led to a huge rush down the ice by Nyquist, who managed to chip the puck on Hiller, setting off a wild scramble to the left of the net. Brunner, skating well and following the play up responsibly, managed to find a wide open net and end the game, quickly going from forgotten man to series hero once more. In the moment, nobody remembered anything bad which happened on Saturday.
Brunner’s two similar yet different efforts in Detroit showcase his value to this Red Wings’ team during the series. When he’s skating well and hungry around the net, good things happen much like game two in Anaheim and in overtime on Monday. When he’s disengaged or struggling, the wheels tend to fall off for the Red Wings. Brunner, with his skating and playmaking ability, is a wild card as the series shifts back to California. Perhaps struggling, seeing his ice time usurped and getting punished a bit as a result will act as more motivation for Brunner. Scoring the winning goal on a hustle play shouldn’t hurt, either.
If Brunner is able to contribute and play responsible on the ice, the entire Red Wings’ team should benefit in a big way. He’s shown flashes of having the talent and ability of a Pavel Datsyuk or Henrik Zetterberg lite on a lower line. Consistency is key moving forward in the next two games, though.
The Red Wings will need much more of the game two and overtime Brunner to have a chance to take this hard fought series when all is said and done.
Best Play In Detroit: Pavel Datsyuk’s wicked wrist shot ties game four. Fans had been waiting for Datsyuk to do something on the scoresheet this series, and after a fantastic third period shift, it finally happened. In a flash, Datsyuk broke in and whipped a shot over Hiller which caught the water bottle and appeared to hit the post. It was under the crossbar, though, and had tied the game. If Datsyuk wakes up and continues to find the net, the Red Wings’ offense will have more scoring depth which is badly needed.
What Must Change In Anaheim: Starts. The Red Wings were scored on first twice in Detroit, and it nearly cost them in both games. Detroit did much better the second game in Anaheim building an early lead on the Ducks, which served them well through the middle periods. Getting the icebreaker in game five will be critical for the Red Wings, who have been scored on first in three of the four games in this series. A better first period effort will be vital to Detroit’s cause in a pivotal road game.
Stat To Watch: Shots. The Red Wings fired 49 at Hiller on Monday night in another overtime game, finally cracking him in the third period. The game before, Detroit only had 23. In both their losses, the Red Wings have had shot totals in the low 20′s, and in both wins, Detroit has had at least 10 more shots. Getting pucks on Hiller and finding a way to tap them home will be important as the series moves on, especially as players get tired and goaltenders get puck drunk. Whichever team does this better in Anaheim will win game five and take the next step toward advancing.
Max DeMara is a senior editor at The Detroit Sports Site. You can find him on Twitter @SportsGuyTheMax