Welcome Back, Stevie. Howie Lookin’?

Holy James Tiberius Howard, what a game! Versus televising our Captain’s return home with his new team isn’t something I approve of, no, I’d rather hear Ken and Mick any night but especially on events like this, but as far as entertainment is concerned I think it was a huge hit. Amazing night, really. NBC Sports Network, formerly Versus, formerly Outdoor Life Network, formerly QVC had this one with the always enjoyable and hyper-intelligent Doc Emmerick and the unbearable Eddie Olczyck and likewise unbearable Pierre McGuire. And even though Edzo’s “they run interference” and Pierre’s “am I Irish or am I French, fellas?” nonsense made my ears bleed, this game gave viewers star power, energy, speed, scoring and a look at what many regard as a “non Elite NHL Goalie.”

Make the jump for the rest the recap.

Jim Howard was absolutely incredible. The breakaway for Gilroy was a huge opportunity late in the game for Tampa Bay to pull within one shot, and Howard made a flashy glove save that I think, and the VS/NBC crew thinks, makes a case for people needing to recognize this goalie. Especially his glove.

Other key notes I’ve observed, albeit from isolation down here in my fire-brick-lined fallout shelter:

  • Pavel Datsyuk is now in Pavmode. He is feeling confident, shooting, and best of all, having fun.
  • Darren Helm is beginning to “finish” his scoring chances.
  • Valtteri Filppula is absolutely owning the puck, and moving with great speed. He’s advancing to a “standout” level of Red Wing, even though he would be a standout on any other team 3 years ago. His rise also causes absolute hell for yammerheads like Milbury and Jonesy to try and pronounce his name without either sounding like they didn’t read it properly or are trying too hard to “sound native.”
  • Our breakouts and transition the last 3 games have been superb. Almost reminiscent of the 2007-08 season in which, any time a loose puck (or 50/50 puck, if you prefer that terminology, I don’t) was to be won, we had the confidence to send everyone on the attack and the nearest man would either win the puck and pull it to a neighbor who could move it out of the zone or chip it out and lead the charge. It’s great to see this again.
  • Homer is still the best on re-directions.
  • Nik Kronwall is becoming a feared scoring threat (like Mike Green!) as well as a feared defenseman (unlike Mike Green!)
  • Yak Kindl is playing great hockey. Great defensive hockey, no less. Rather than being a kid in our defensive corps whom we “just want to have play without noticing,” he’s being noticed for his stellar play. He skates well with the puck; is both patient and aware when moving it in his own zone against a super-aggressive forecheck; and even knows when to play the body. He’s really surprised me this year and I have to put his trading cards in that “I was wrong about you” pile along with Jimmy Howard, Johan Franzen, Henrik Zetterberg and Nik Kronwall’s cards. Yep, I’m a nerd like that.