In 2013, there seems to have been a moment in just about every Red Wing game where I've uttered the phrase "uh oh".
Sometimes it's early when the team doesn't seem to have their legs. Other times it's when they've taken a penalty and I feel a power play goal against coming.
However, the point in time where I've uttered this phrase the most is when the Wings have a 1-goal lead late in the game. Because it's in that moment where I just know that something bad is about to happen.
That's how it's gone the last 2 games. Twice the Wings have held 2-1 leads in the third period in must-win games, and twice their opponent has tied it and gone on to win in a shootout. For those keeping score at home, that's 2 out of 4 points that have been lost late in games, points that are crucial to remaining in 8th and the final playoff spot.
The optimist in me says that the Red Wings played their last two opponents, especially the NHL-leading Blackhawks, very tough. This person points out that despite playing the second half of a back-to-back in a different city, the Red Wings were able to take Chicago to extra time, something they've done three out of the four times they've played this year. Detroit snapped Chicago's 19-straight penalty kill streak with Johan Franzen's power play goal, and they got some offense from the 4th line. Jimmy Howard was once again fantastic, especially in the first period when the Hawks were all over the Wings.
The pessmist in me says that they lost both games.
Overall the Wings didn't play a bad game tonight. They held Chicago to under 30 shots, scored on the power play, controlled play for good stretches of the game despite playing their second game in two nights, and generally looked like they could play with the Hawks. But as we've seen so often this year, one mistake and the puck ends up in the back of the Wings' net.
Whatever the outcome, the Wings' second straight SO loss leaves them 2 points ahead of Dallas for 8th in the West, with Dallas holding the first tiebreaker and a game in hand.
I don't have a ton of bullets tonight, but let's get to them, shall we?
- I did get to spend the evening watching the game with Red Wing fans at Hi Tops in Chicago. It was a lot of fun and I always forget how awesome it is to celebrate goals with other fans. I can tell you that not a single person in that bar likes Dan Cleary or Kyle Quincey.
- There is something horribly deflating about Pavel Datsyuk not scoring a shootout goal. The total loss of faith in good things happening after he fails to score must be what it feels like to wear the One Ring.
- I'll say it, even if no one else is thinking it; despite the team's struggles, Justin Abdelkader has impressed me with his play the last few games. Maybe it's the fact he's with Datsyuk and Zetterberg and therefore will look good by default, but he's been all over the ice throwing his body around, going to the net, and generally being a pain in the ass of the opponent's defense when he's on the ice.
- The flip side of that is Valtteri Filppula and his complete lack of offense. If this is a guy playing for a $5M contract next season, I'd hate to see what his performance would be if he thought he needed a pay cut to help the team out. For those keeping score at home, he's got 1 goal and no assists in the last 12 games. This is not what a $5M/year player does.
- It's really hard to fault Howard on the shootout goals tonight. Unlike last night against the Sharks where he couldn't keep his legs closed, Howard made good stops on Toews and Kane, but got beat by a wicked shot by Hossa and a fantastic move by Saad. Todd Bertuzzi, a lonely Red Wing nation turns its eyes to you. Woo woo woo.
- Tonight was the last time the Red Wings and Blackhawks will play as divisional rivals. Admittedly, the series between the two has been very lopsided recently, as the Wings haven't beaten the Hawks in regulation in the last 2 seasons. However, outside of the 7-1 Easter Sunday Debacle, every game has been decided by one goal. This is a first round series that absolutely needs to happen, because the entertainment value would be off the charts and the hockey played would be better than any other series.