The Red Wings took on the Rangers tonight in Madison Square Garden and lost 5-1 to Henrik Lundqvist, Marian Gaborik, and the rest of the New York crew. Jimmy Howard took the loss in net tonight, giving up three goals in the first period, one on a power play and all on defensive breakdowns. The wings fell to 2-3 in their 8-game preseason schedule while the Rangers improved to 3-1.
Overall, the worry about the Wings starting games late that cropped up last season returned tonight with a vengeance. The Wings could not get on the same page for the opening 20 minutes and found themselves in a hole out of which they tried to crawl the remainder of the night. The 2nd period was a big improvement, as all four Wings lines started finding holes in the Rangers' defense and creating good scoring opportunities, tightening the gap to only two goals by the final horn of the long change. Unfortunately, they seemed to hit the snooze button on the alarm before sleepwalking through the third, giving up another two goals on bad defensive miscues.
Join us after the jump for the breakdown.
- A power play goal against is a bad way to start a game. Following it up by playing tentatively on the outside for the remainder of the period isn't much better. If this were a regular season game with the Wings playing the brand of uninspired, tentative hockey they exhibited in the first and third periods, I'd be dousing myself with gasoline right now.
- On a related note, if it really is Babcock's strategy to have them take it easy and focus on trying to get fundamentals and chemistry down, I really like that plan. You're going to get results like that in the games that don't count, but you're also working through the doldrums that come along with getting a bunch of new linemates working together early, so you don't have to worry about it in the regular season.
- Kronwall had a bad game. We can pussyfoot around that if you like, but he sucked tonight. He really needs a rock-solid guy paired with him to make up for when he pinches at a bad time or takes bad position in his own zone. The Rangers' third goal was partially on him for badly timed pinch and, on the Del Zotto goal in the third, he wasn't standing anywhere near the two spots on the ice he should have been standing, instead patrolling the area between cutting off the cross-ice pass from Frolov and getting in the way of the shot by the streaking defender. He was in no-man's land on the play, but at least he had the forethought to wave goodbye to the puck as it crossed in front of him on its way to be one-timed past a sprawling Howard.
- I thought Kindl and Smith both played admirably. Ericsson was also pretty decent, except he was the guy who turned the puck over on that bad Kronwall pinch in the first. Rafalski scored the Wings' only goal, so he's off the goat list for tonight too. Janik was mostly solid, but completely lost his man several times. The Wings' defense definitely missed Lidstrom, Stuart, and Salei as defensive stalwarts.
- Speaking of Janik, he had an opportunity to absolutely smear Gaborik into the boards in the second period with a Brad Stuart-esque hip check and he passed up on it. Being preseason, I'm glad he did. Also, Bertuzzi caught a Ranger coming across the center of the Wings zone with his head down and let him off the hook. It's like he got a soul or something. The easing-up of the physical play mostly went both ways except for my new least-favorite Staal brother, Marc, first taking Franzen out with what could be called a chop block in the first period and then later checking Mule from the blindside, causing him to hit his head on the boards and skate off slowly. Franzen returned none the worse for wear, but it was a scary moment.
- On the forward lines, the Franzen-Filppula-Bertuzzi line got off to a slow start like everybody else, but was by far the best Red Wings line (as they damn well should have been). They're developing their chemistry nicely and I thought Filppula was especially strong. Tatar almost scored one but took another penalty. Abdelkader played as a grinder tonight but was otherwise not noticeable, same as Drew Miller (who did have a couple decent scoring chances). The big worry was the little guy who came in from the cold. Jiri Hudler is not comfortable on the ice and it shows. He'll get there, but I expected more jump out of him. On the bright side for Hudler, he was in impeccable position to collect rebounds all game long. Jan Mursak killed 20 seconds of a penalty in the Rangers' zone all by himself and would have had the assist on the goal that Tatar almost scored. Those two need seasoning, but I liked their effort.
- Jimmy Howard's drinks are on his teammates tonight. It's only fair considering how long he got left out there to dry. Want to know more? Derek Boogaard got a small breakaway and another uncontested shot down low in the third. Derek. Freakin'. Boogaard.
- Despite the bad play, overall I still think the Wings look like a team with a purpose. I'm not reading too much into preseason losses at this point, especially if you can learn from them. That's it for tonight though. Join us again on Friday when we start the home-and-home with Toronto before finishing out the preseason against the Pittsburgh