Gave: Raise your glass to Glendening-Miller-Andersson today

BY foxsports • October 24, 2014

They'll gather around the water cooler today to celebrate another thrilling, early-season Detroit Red Wings victory -- this one a miraculous comeback from a two-goal deficit with less than three minutes remaining.

They'll talk about the blazing hot captain, of course, and how Henrik Zetterberg is on a streak not seen since Steve Yzerman in his prime 20 years ago.

They'll surely mention how nice it was to see somebody, anybody, step up and contribute a little offense, like defenseman Niklas Kronwall did with two goals and an assist.

And they'll rave about Justin Abdelkader picking the top-left corner from the right hash marks with 44 ticks of the clock left in overtime for a 4-3 overtime victory Thursday night over the Pittsburgh Penguins.

But if they're not talking about the absolutely splendid performance by Luke Glendening, Drew Miller and Joakim Andersson, then they missed something awfully special.

Coach Mike Babcock tinkered with his forward lines all night long, trying to coax some offense out of this team. But he left that line intact for the entire game.

Its mission: throw a blanket over one of the better players on the planet. Keep Sidney Crosby off the board, and your chances of winning the hockey game rise exponentially.

Mission accomplished.

Crosby faced a steady diet of the Glendening line until the third period, when Babcock threw the Zetterberg line out against Crosby.

Now Sid the Kid might be one of the most talented players in the league, but he's hardly one of its brightest. How else to explain the run he took at Zetterberg late in the third period with his team comfortably ahead by two goals?

Zetterberg's response?

With his net empty, he scored a beautiful a goal with 2:39 remaining in regulation to bring his team within a goal; he had an assist on Kronwell's second goal of the night exactly two minutes later; and he drew an assist on Abdelkader's third goal of the young season, in the final minute of OT.

That gave Zetterberg a hand in nine of his team's last 10 goals.

Those heroics wouldn't have been possible without the defensive efforts of the Glendening-Miller-Andersson trio, which is fast becoming Babcock's most reliable unit. Those three draw the toughest assignments night in and night out, and all they do is get the job done with precious little fanfare. But their teammates sure notice.

When asked about the shot Crosby gave him late in the game, Zetterberg shrugged it off. In previous years, his line would have seen a lot of time against Crosby, but not in this game.

"I don't think we saw each other that much today," Zetterberg said. "Just a few times in the third period."

That's because the Glendening line had the unenviable task of babysitting Crosby.

"Glenie and Andy and Miller did a really good job tonight with that line," Zetterberg said.

Understated, naturally, but so very true. Because of their good work, the Red Wings were able to steal two points in the waning moments against a tired Pens team that played the night before in Philadelphia.

The Wings looked overmatched by an ornery Pittsburgh squad that outshot them 16-9 in the first period. But after the Pens took a 3-1 lead early in the third, the Wings began to push back hard. The Penguins managed 10 shots in the final two periods, just four in the third and none in OT.

When you can roll four lines in almost any situation -- like the Red Wings can -- and you have a line that can defend the other team's top unit -- like the Wings do -- the few offensive players you have can concentrate on what you need most from them. Enter Zetterberg.

This city loves its offensive stars, but it also has a special place in its heart for the blue-collar guys who do so much of the dirty work. We loved the Grind Line with Kris Draper, Kirk Maltby and either Darren McCarty or Joe Kocur starting in the late 1990s on those Stanley Cup teams.

Pay attention, Detroit. We could be witnessing the start of something special here.

It might be a little early, but there's something awfully appealing about the play of the Glendening line. At the very least, they deserve a toast today at the water cooler.


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