The Red Wings are halfway through their 5-game homestand, a crucial stretch as they try to turn around their fortunes at home while solidifying their chances at a 25th straight playoff appearance. After wins in their first 2 games against the Islanders and Panthers, the Wings welcomed the Senators and their new guy, Dion Phaneuf, in a game that could have large playoff implications. The Senators aren't out of the race yet, but Detroit's 3-1 victory puts a pretty big dent in their hopes.
The Senators hit the post in the first 10 seconds of the game, and one can't help but wondering if this was foreshadowing or another example of the Red Wings' recent puck luck that had eluded them in Florida. The Wings struck first early in the period. Gustav Nyquist's speed through the offensive zone allowed him to get to a loose puck behind the Senators' net, and he fed it to Danny DeKeyser in front, who took a flubber that hit Craig Anderson on the shoulder and went in. The Senators controlled the shots early, but Nyquist nearly made it 2-0 after he went around newly acquired Dion Phaneuf, who fell down like Ottawa's playoff hopes. Brendan Smith hit the post midway through the first period, and drew a penalty to give the Wings their first power play. Shockingly, they did nothing with it, disappointing in that they were playing the NHL's worst penalty killing team. The Wings looked to get out of the period unscathed, but an interference penalty to Alexey Marchenko meant the Wings would begin the second period shorthanded.
Score: 1-0 Red Wings
Shots: 13-10 Red Wings
Strong period: Gustav Nyquist
Tough period: Me because my damn wiener kids wouldn't let me watch the start of the game
The Wings began the period still down a man thanks to Marchenko's penalty, but killed it without giving up a shot. The teams combined for only 2 shots in the first 5 minutes of the period. Both teams seemed content to spend time in the opposing zone, but not generate too many offensive chances. Dylan Larkin had a solid chance midway through the period but Anderson denied D-Boss. Petr Mrazek came up big on Zach Smith a few minutes later after a botched defensive coverage. Riley Sheahan denied the Senators almost a sure goal when he slashed the stick of Mika Zibanejed before a shot could get off. Immediately after that, Darren Helm was called for hooking after Bobby Ryan grabbed Helm's stick but fell down because Helm asked him to spell "cat" while skating. The Wings killed it off, thanks in large part to Mrazek, who was phenomenal in the 2nd half of the period. For the 2nd straight period the Wings took a penalty in the last minute, this time it was Luke Glendening going off for tripping.
Score: 1-0 Red Wings
Shots: 21-18 Red Wings
Strong period: Petr Mrazek
Tough period: Brendan Smith for having a great scoring chance and not converting proving that he's terrible right all you internet people?
The Wings received a scare early in the third when DeKeyser was hurt blocking a shot from Dion Phaneuf. The puck seemed to get him in that awkward spot below the pants but above the shin pad. He skated gingerly off the ice, and the Wings killed the penalty. Kyle Quincey negated a quality chance by lifting Kyle Turris' stick right before he could tie the game, and moments later Henrik Zetterberg made Phaneuf look like the pylon that he is when he went around him and roofed a shot by Anderson. The Wings were given a power play right after and looked to take a commanding 3-0 lead, but they couldn't generate any offense and with 6 seconds left they took a too many men penalty, their league-leading 54th such penalty of the season. Quincey took an interference penalty with about 30 seconds left in the first penalty, and it was also a garbage call. The Wings were strong on the PK in the absence of superstar Drew Miller and were able to get the game back to even strength. The Wings took a penalty late in the third, putting Ottawa on their 7th power play of the night. Jonathan Ericsson did what Jonathan Ericsson does, which is screw up by failing to clear the puck. The Sens made him pay as Zach Smith tipped Mike Hoffman's point shot past Mrazek to ruin the shutout and make it 2-1. Darren Helm added an empty net goal to seal the victory, the 3rd straight for the Wings, who now sit 2 points clear of the Lightning for 2nd place in the Atlantic.
Score: 3-1 Red Wings
Shots: 28-23 Red Wings
Strong period: Brendan Smith
Tough period: Jonathan Ericsson
Points of Observation:
Of utmost concern to the Wings is the extent of the injury to Danny DeKeyser. After blocking the shot by Phaneuf, he returned for a 15 second shift but immediately left the ice and went back down the tunnel. The fact he was able to at least attempt a shift is encouraging, but his inability to finish the game is not. We're all hoping that it's nothing serious and he can be ready for Friday's game against Colorado.
Actually, since it's only the Avalanche, the Wings can afford to let DeKeyser rest, since he'll barely break a sweat against them anyway.
Update: DeKeyser has a bruise and is day-to-day:
Coach Blashill says DK is bruised up after taking a slap shot to the knee. Considered day-to-day. #RedWings— Detroit Red Wings (@DetroitRedWings) February 11, 2016
Brendan Smith had one of his best games of the year, stepping up his play when DeKeyser went down. The last few weeks have seen the Smith haters shrink from view, or at least become less vocal, because he's played a calm, solid, dependable game. He had a few quality scoring chances (2 of them high danger, tied for the team lead tonight) and finished the game with a 72.73 CF% at even strength, an absurd number.
Gustav Nyquist had a strong first period, earning an assist on DeKeyser's goal and looking very strong in the offensive zone. The line of Nyquist, Andreas Athanasiou and Tomas Jurco looked good for the 2nd straight game in the first period, but match ups led them to having the worst CF% among forwards on the team.
Petr Mrazek is still amazing. Less than 3 minutes away from earning his 2nd straight shutout, Mrazek was the difference in the 2nd period as the Wings had it the momentum sapped away. It's entirely possible that the lead Braden Holtby has built up for the Vezina will vanish as Mrazek plays enough games to get back in the race.
There was a highlights package of Dylan Larkin burning Erik Karlsson for goals on multiple occasions this season, as if voters needed another reason to just hand Larkin the Calder he so richly deserves.
The total lack of discipline displayed by the Red Wings led the Senators to get 7 power plays, a completely unacceptable number. Only Ottawa's ineptitude and inability to recognize that Karlsson and only Karlsson should touch the puck meant that the Wings ended the night with a nearly perfect sheet, minus one inopportune tip by Zach Smith. Against a good team, and without Drew Miller, the Wings are probably in deep trouble.