GLENDALE, AZ - OCTOBER 22: Henrik Zetterberg #40 of the Detroit Red Wings watches from the bench during the NHL game against the Phoenix Coyotes at Jobing.com Arena on October 22, 2009 in Glendale, Arizona. The Coyotes defeated the Red Wings 3-2 in overtime. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Chris note: Twig will likely have a reflection on the game as a whole tomorrow morning, but Franklin has another guest post for us on the #1 star of the night, Henrik Zetterberg.
By Franklin Steele:
Henrik Zetterberg was raised for this. At least since he became a Detroit Red Wing.
I can't speak as to what kind of childhood Z had, but I'd assume it was doing tenacious things like sticking up for friends against Swedish bullies (do they have those?), hunting bears with his bare hands and yes, even leading his youth teams to a much needed victory by carrying them on his back.
That's exactly what Zetterberg—Captain Zetterberg to the likes of me—did tonight as the Wings downed their division rival St. Louis Blues in a 5-3 nail biter of a game that could have gone either way thanks to some shaky play at both ends. And the refs. But that's neither here nor there.
The man of the hour was involved in all five of Detroit's goals against the Blues in what boiled down to something pretty close to a must-win game this early in the season. If the Red Wings would have lost tonight, they would have yielded a seven point lead to St. Louis in the Central Division standings.
Hit the jump for more on Z:
If that doesn't sound sour enough to you, think about this. If Detroit would have lost tonight, they would have been tied with the Nashville Predators for third in the Central, with the Blue Jackets only one game behind them.
One game up on the Blue Jackets? Ouch.
The nightmare scenario could have easily played out too. Columbus beats Detroit tomorrow and actually leaps over them in the standings. Ending up in the division basement this early was just was not an option for this beat up, mildly deflated Red Wings club.
Zetterberg above all seemed to realize that.
I honestly got chills as I watched him fight off T.J. Oshie for this empty net goal. With a rather large player on his back, Z ends up on the ice and takes several swings at the puck as it rolls towards the empty net, as if he is trying to magically Aero-spell the puck into the net.
He outwilled Oshie, scored the hat trick goal, and finally allowed himself to smile as the hats rained down from the rafters at the Joe. The early season carnage that was the season opener against the Blues had been forgotten and erased, and Z's Red Wings were victorious because of his efforts.
If Zetterberg's performance tonight didn't give you immediate flashbacks to the likes of Steve Yzerman's always-heroic battles then I don't know what will.
And because of that effort, the Wings are now only three points behind the vaunted, Stanley Cup favorite Blues, and (barring a Blackhawks victory against the Canucks) four points behind Chicago for the division lead.