Tonight was the most important game to date for the Red Wings this season. It might have helped if they remembered that when the puck dropped.
I was at my daughter's soccer practice, so I was unable to catch most of the action, but from reading Twitter, the game thread, and a few highlights, it appears that this guy was the star of the period for the Red Wings:
The Wings gave up goals to the Flyers in quick succession, had to endure a 5-on-3 that nearly saw the Flyers increase their lead, and got outshot 23-3. And yet, the Wings were only down 2-0, as it could have been a hell of a lot worse. The Wings seemed to slightly unfuck themselves towards the end of the period, and we could only hope that it was because the Wings remembered that this game was kind of important and they needed to not be garbage, and not because the Flyers were tired from taking so many shots.
Score: 2-0 Flyers
Shots: 23-3 Flyers
Strong Period: No one deserved any praise
Tough Period: The entire franchise
Perhaps Jeff Blashill yelled or said mean things about the players' mothers, but whatever he said, it worked, as the Wings came out with purpose and fire in the second. Anthony Mantha had a great scoring chance but was foiled by a broken stick. The rookies made Blashill look smart for keeping them in the lineup when Andreas Athanasiou took a pass and beat Steve Mason with speed and a great move to cut the Flyers' lead to 1. Brendan Smith took a penalty that was killed, but not longer after that he lost Michael Raffl in front, who deposited a rebound up and over Petr Mrazek to give Philadelphia a 2-goal lead again. The goal seemed to energize the Flyers, who again took the play to Detroit. However, unlike my hair, the Wings refused to go away. Pavel Datsyuk scored to get the Wings back to within 1 goal again, and the Wings started to show signs of life. The Flyers, who not only controlled play but got some luck, went up by 2 again when Shayne Gostisbehere's pass deflected in off Danny DeKeyser's knee. The Wings ended the period on the penalty kill because they somehow turned Michael Raffl into Mario Lemieux.
Score: 4-2 Flyers
Shots: 36-16 Flyers
Strong Period: Pavel Datsyuk
Tough Period: The defense
The Red Wings looked like they kind of cared in the third, getting some quality chances. Mantha rang a shot off the post. The Wings really poured it on, earning their first power play of the night but doing exactly what you'd expect with it. Henrik Zetterberg, who can barely finish a thought these days, was robbed by Steve Mason, which was pretty much the best way to illustrate how far the Wings had fallen. The Flyers got on the power play but then Brayden Schenn tried to decapitate Mrazek and the Wings got a power play of their own, which they farted away. Tomas Tatar got the tease goal when he scored with just over 3 minutes to go. The Wings pressed at the end, but Gustav Nyquist took a very questionable slashing call and that was that.
Score: 4-3 Flyers
Strong Period: Anthony Mantha
Tough Period: The defense again
Player of the Game: Pavel Datsyuk
Points of Observation
When a team is outshot as badly as the Wings were, it's tough to pin a loss on a goalie. However, this was a game where Petr Mrazek was both outstanding and part of the problem. The 4th goal was a fluke, but the first 3 were all goals where he either made a move too soon or gave up a big rebound that ended up in the net. It was a very uneven performance from the Wings' netminder, and yet he was not the reason why they lost.
Anthony Mantha didn't look completely out of place in his first NHL game. He had a couple of very good scoring chances, including one that hit the post, and he looked pretty good with Tatar and Datsyuk. He was unafraid to face the big bad Flyers, who still feel like a tiny white rabbit but I guess they've grown some really sharp teeth.
I'm a big fan of Jeff Blashill, but some of his decisions are tougher to figure out than the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow. For the life of me, I will not understand his decision to limit Athanasiou's ice time, particularly when he scored a goal and injects speed into the lineup. Every forward on the team except AA and Darren Helm played at least 13 minutes, and Helm missed the first part of the third period. When the Wings were down by 2 goals and in need of offense, AA had a grand total of 3 shifts over 30 seconds. Considering how badly the 4th line got caved in tonight, more Athanasiou might have meant more time in the Philadelphia zone.
The Wings' defense certainly tried mightily, but for all of the effort they looked to be exerting, all I could hear was coconuts clip clopping. Every single defenseman looked off to some degree, with some of them making plays that you're taught in peewee to not do. If Kyle Quincey's agent wants to discuss getting a raise from the Wings, I hope Ken Holland plays the tape of the first goal and just sits there shaking his head.
What made this loss particularly tough to take is that they lost the game in the first period with their worst effort in a season full of bad starts. To call the first period a shitshow is an insult to shitshows. People will want to lay the blame on Blashill, but this has been an issue long before he took over. To me, this falls on the players just as much as the coaching staff. Every single player knew what this game meant, and for the team to be that bad in a crucial game makes me long for the days when the Wings were the team with the killer instinct, knowing when to put a team away.
The Wings are not quite dead yet, but the cart is coming up the road. The Wings are now only a single point up on the Flyers, who still have 2 games in hand. The Wings no longer control their own destiny, as the Flyers can pass them with a win of any kind in any of those 2 games. The Wings will get another shot at Philly in a couple of weeks, but this was the Wings' biggest game of the season and they came out as if it was an exhibition game.