In Detroit, it's nearing the end of the year, and hundreds of thousands of people are flocking to the area to check out all the cool and exciting events taking place as we lead up to the Winter Classic. Today saw the Grand Rapids Griffins take on the Toronto Marlies, while tomorrow will feature two Alumni games followed by the main event on Wednesday afternoon.
I'm sure the Red Wings are anxious to take part in these festivities, but they had one more game against their former division opponents, the Nashville Predators. Unfortunately, someone forgot to tell the Wings that they had to play the entire game, because they didn't look remotely interested in being part of the game tonight, allowing the Predators to walk all over them up and down the ice en route to what looked like it was going to be an easy victory, had the Wings not tried so hard to tie it up.
Let's get right to it, shall we?
- Let's get the obvious out of the way early: Jimmy Howard was absolutely terrible tonight. He had 3 very soft goals allowed, and if he stops at least one of them this game is in overtime and the Wings have a shot at winning. You can blame defense or lack of offense, but when your goaltender allows 3 unscreened wrist shots to beat him (two of them short side), the majority of the blame will fall on his shoulders. That's the way it goes.
- Having said that, this was his first game back from injury, so let's hold off on the "bench Howard forever" routine until he gets a few more games under his belt. I'm not willing to forget the fact that he's had a SV% over .920 3 of the 4 years he's been a starter and throw that all away based on 21 games this year. If it's a week or two from now and he's still letting in goals like he did tonight, then we'll talk.
- This is just the weirdest thing ever:
- I mean, look at all those flat lines for both teams, but especially the red after scoring the goal to make it 3-2. The Predators didn't have a single shot attempt after scoring to go up 5-3, yet there were stretches where the Wings didn't either. That's a team that's not got their heads in the game.
- Well there you go:
- On the flip side, the line of Justin Abdelkader, Darren Helm and Patrick Eaves was downright ridiculous tonight. Eaves ended the night with a +32 in Corsi events and +15 in Fenwick events, and contributed 2 of the Wings' 4 goals tonight (Eaves' marker coming on the PP). They consistently drove possession and spent a considerable amount of time in the Predator's zone.
- The same can not be said of Pavel Datsyuk. The Magic Man was uncharacteristically quiet tonight, his goal notwithstanding. While he ended up positive in terms of possession numbers, a lot of that came after the Preds had built their two goal lead and the Wings were trying to come back. It's not often that Pavel looks so invisible, but he had an off night.
- Brendan Smith had a shift he'd like to forget on the Preds' 4th goal. After turning the puck over at the blueline and allowing the Nashville to gain the zone, he had an opportunity for an easy clear but fanned on the attempt, allowing the Predators to maintain control and ultimately score to restore their two goal lead. Smith has been better since returning from injury, but that shift was a sign that he is still struggling with his consistency.
- Kyle Quincey made a huge save in the first to prevent the Wings from falling further behind. Let that thought swim around your brain for a second.
- I was disappointed in all of the rookies tonight. The group of Gustav Nyquist/Tomas Tatar/Tomas Jurco were all negative in possession numbers, and never seemed to have any kind of impact on the game at any point in time. It's only one game, to be sure, but one can't help but think they might have been looking past the Preds to Wednesday more than the veterans.
- Todd, next time Tatar lays a pass like that, bury the puck. Seriously. Just score goals. Because if you're not scoring, I'm starting to wonder what you do on the team that justifies your spot on the top line. Score points. Please.
Babcock said Howard will start in the Winter Classic.— Ansar Khan (@AnsarKhanMLive) December 31, 2013