"He's a Happy Hudler Now"
It's been a rough path for Jiri Hudler this season. He was a healthy scratch for 3 games in late October and early November because he was not scoring at all. He then returned to the lineup and saw his drought continue for four more games. It's definitely not easy to return to the NHL after a season over in Russia. Just ask Nikolay Zherdev of the Philadelphia Flyers. The two leagues are entirely different. Hudler needed to realize that. The NHL is more about two way hockey, and Mike Babcock had to send Hudler that message. It looks like the message finally got through last night. Jiri and Red Wings fans everywhere let out a collective sigh of relief and a huge smile when Jiri Hudler finally put a goal up on the board.
Hudler had a breakaway coming out of the penalty box, but failed to capitalize on the break. But Hudler showed that if you don't give up on the play, good things can happen. The puck followed him behind the net and he was able to bank the puck off the back of Budaj's pad and into the net. Just like that the drought is over. All you had to do was look at Hudler's face to see how amazing it felt to finally put the puck on the net. If that wasn't enough to put the excitement and relief into prospective, then I'm sure that his interview after the game did.
You all know as well as I do that it takes just one goal to sprout confidence in a player. I'm sure that Hudler is feeling it now. The confidence that that goal gave him last night is going to lead to even more production. Hockey is a mental game. You can bet that Hudler was feeling terrible in his first 12 games. When you feel bad, you're going to play bad. A negative attitude shows on the ice, but thankfully a positive attitude does too. And I would look for that from Hudler this week.
Last night wasn't just about Jiri Hudler finally putting one in the net. The Red Wings continued their hot streak with a 3-1 win over the Colorado Avalanche. Todd Bertuzzi got the scoring started in the first period on the power play to get his third of the season. He showed that he does have a great shot, and coach Babcock expressed his desire to see that shot from Bertuzzi more often. The Hudler goal made it 2-0 just 30 second into the second period. And Dan Cleary continued his fantastic hot streak of his own with a goal to make it 3-0. The bid for the shutout was ruined by John-Michael Liles as he made it 3-1, but that was all the offense the Avs would see as the Wings walked away with yet another victory.
The Wings have now gone 6-1-0 in their last 7 games. Their next game isn't until Wednesday night when they face-off against the St. Louis Blues as the Wings will try to make it 9-1-1 at home at The Joe.