There's a saying that it's not the size of the dog in a fight, it's the size of the fight in the dog.
Regardless of which way you choose to look at tonight's contest between the Red Wings and Senators, it was clear that the Sens were both bigger and more determined than the Wings, and they earned one of the most dominating 2-1 shootout victories you'll see.
The first period began with the Senators looking like the more desperate of the two teams. Wave after wave of Ottawa players entered the Red Wings' zone uncontested, and were it not for Petr Mrazek, the Wings would have been down by a lot. As it was, the Sens outshot the Wings 13-5, dominated play in terms of territory, and did everything except score.
The second period was more of the same. The Senators continued to press the Wings, getting shot after shot on Mrazek and the Wings. However, a turnover at the Wings' blueline led to a 2 on 2 rush, and Gustav Nyquist's wrist shot beat Andrew Hammond to give the Wings an inexplicable lead. That seemed to spark the Wings, who got a few shots on Hammond before the Senators and referees decided to give Ottawa back some momentum. However, the Wings' much-maligned penalty killers were up to the task through 40 minutes, not allowing the Sens to get many shots and even fewer scoring chances.
In what started to become a broken record, the Wings were unable to mount any kind of offensive attack, despite starting the period on the PP. In what was only a matter of time, the Sens tied the game with under 5 minutes to play in the third on a point shot by Clarke MacArthur. The Wings managed one shot on goal after that, a tipped shot that was saved easily by Hammond, and to OT we went.
Stop me if you've heard this: the Wings didn't get many shots in OT. In fact, they spent the first half of the extra period without a single shot on goal and only one real attempt. The end of the game appropriately ended with the Wings fanning on 3 straight shots, and it was time for the shootout.
Fuck the shootout.
If the pattern is good game/bad game/good game for Mrazek, then only allow him to play every other game but make each practice a scrimmage. After a weekend that saw him shut out the Lightning then get pulled against the Islanders, he was the only reason why the Wings were in this game from start to finish. He should have had the goal that was scored, and he was awful in the shootout, but he was the only reason the Wings got a single point out of what was yet another weak performance.
The absence of Pavel Datsyuk completely changes the complexion of the Wings, particularly offensively. Tonight the Wings were unable to get anything going against a team that ranked 25th in the NHL in SA/G. Yet through 65 minutes of play in which neither team had more than a 1-goal lead, the Wings didn't even manage to put up 20 shots on net. Ottawa, despite their recent run, is not that good of a team to allow less than 20 shots on goal, and the Wings looked either disinterested or overwhelmed, neither of which is a good thing when you're barely holding on to the last playoff spot in the division.
There was a very scary moment early in the first period when Drew Miller was inadvertently hit with a skate in the face. According to the Wings, he had 2 severe lacerations around his eye and obviously didn't return, but it didn't sound like his actual eye was affected, which is a relief for everyone.
This game felt like the Wings were playing for the extra point the minute they scored. The lack of offensive urgency was astounding, especially against a team as porous defensively as Ottawa. I'm not one to play the "heart" or "grit" card, because I think talent beats both those things all day every day, but there's something missing from this team lately, and it's something intangible. They've been beset by injuries lately, but they're still in relatively good health in comparison to the league, and yet they look lifeless so often. There's no spark in their play lately. Whatever good feelings were generated by the late Western road trip have long evaporated.
At the end of the day, the issues plaguing this team for the last several weeks hit them again; loose play in their own zone, nothing resembling an offensive attack, and an inability to finish any chances when presented. The goaltending was better, but it was just another example of the Wings being unable or unwilling to put all facets of the game together into one effort resulting in an easy win against a team they should beat.
So it's on to the next game against Boston, with the Wings holding a 2-point lead, but with Boston only 1 game down in the ROW department, the first tie-breaker. However, the Wings will have a game-in-hand remaining over the Bruins after the game, but this becomes the first official "must-win" game of the season for the Detroit. There's been a lot of anxiety for Wing fans over the past month, and with good reason. If the team was ever going to put those fears to rest and show us all that a playoff run is still a possibility, it has to begin with their best effort in months against a team that has owned them for the last 12 months.