With just five games to go, the Detroit Red Wings are still on the outside looking in. Prior to tonight's game, they trail the Boston Bruins by 1 point (0 games in hand) and the Philadelphia Flyers by 2 points (Flyers have 2 games in hand). Unlike previous years, there's not a single part of the Red Wings game that inspires confidence. Would they be able to knock off the red-hot Minnesota Wild who are 11-4-1 in their last 16 games, or would the Wings suffer another debilitating loss? Here's how it went down.
The Wings start quick and hem the Wild in their own zone with a good sequence of play. However, the Wings were unable to sustain that initial offensive push and the Wild slowly started to push back. A horrendous turnover by Mike Green gave Minnesota's Jarrett Stoll a wide-open wrist shot from 20 feet but he put it off of the post.
Shortly thereafter, Kyle Quincey took a patented "Jonathan Ericsson" penalty (no further description needed) and the Wings went to the penalty kill. Minnesota's powerplay looked like a world-beater, keeping the Wings PK trapped in the zone for the first 1:45 of the kill before Riley Sheahan was finally able to clear the puck. However, the Wings did a good job of keeping Minnesota to the outside and staying in the shooting lanes for the most part.
Just a couple of minutes later, Darren Helm drew a penalty on Stoll for slashing. Stoll protested, but SHUT UP JARRETT. The Wings powerplay continued to look dangerous, generating a lot of shot attempts, but ultimately they were unable to cash in. Towards the end of the powerplay, Justin Abdelkader appeared to hurt his wrist after getting into a scrum with Minnesota's Ryan Suter. I imagine the conversation between the two went like this:
Suter: GET AWAY FROM MY GOALIE
Abby: Hey Ryan, remember this?
Suter: WHY YOU LITTLE-
Well Abdelkader went down the hall to the dressing room and didn't come back the rest of the period. Just a minute later, the Wild took another penalty, this time for tripping. Without Abdelkader available for the powerplay, the Wings put Sheahan on the top unit and just seconds later, Larkin fired a puck that took a weird bounce off of Suter and deflected into the net! Suter must be REALLY pissed now. Bet he's wishing he signed in Detroit (please).
Sheahan PP goal from Larkin with fail from Dubnyk. pic.twitter.com/N5wGwe1leB— Kyle WIIM (@KyleWIIM) April 2, 2016
That is Larkin's 23rd goal and 45th point on the season, passing Henrik Zetterberg's rookie totals of 22 goals and 44 points back in the 2002-2003 season.
In typical fashion, the Wings became sloppy once they had the lead as they are very uncomfortable with it and like to give it away. They would have if not for an incredible recovery by Danny DeKeyser on Erik Haula who was unable to bury his chance in the wide open net. Seconds later, Haula came down the right side and fired a shot that squeaked through Howard's fivehole but just ricocheted wide. Jimmy is living right tonight, folks.
Huge play by DeKeyser to stop Haula on an empty net. pic.twitter.com/SOHJQ4wTXh— Kyle WIIM (@KyleWIIM) April 2, 2016
The Wings survived to take the lead into the 2nd period!
Score: 1-0 Detroit
Shots: 11-5 Detroit
Strong Period: Dylan Larkin
Tough Period: Jonathan Ericsson, Mike Green, the numbers "2", and "5" (but 5 only in combination with 2, because Nick Lidstrom is still perfect)
Abdelkader is back to start the second period which is a good or bad thing depending on how much you value "grit" and "toughness" at a cost of $30 million over the next 7 years. The Wings come out blazing and score a gorgeous goal off of a brilliant "Kuznetsov-like" pass by Gustav Nyquist to Tomas Tatar.
Tatar's goal. Great play by Nyquist. pic.twitter.com/Cp33BuRxGM— Kyle WIIM (@KyleWIIM) April 2, 2016
Euro Twins 2.0 confirmed.
After the goal, the play started to drag as the Wings decided that trying to score a 3rd goal was far riskier than allowing Minnesota to shoot as many pucks as as they wanted to at Howard. But then in a flash, the rookie Anthony Mantha whips a blind pass to Luke Glendening. HE'S GOT AN OPEN NET ANDDDDDDD HE MISSED. Yep. He missed.
Glendening hits the crossbar off the feed from Mantha. #RedWings #MNWild pic.twitter.com/8YsCMyIp8C— Stefan Kubus (@StefanKubus) April 2, 2016
If you're only going to let Mantha and Andreas Athanasiou see the ice for 3 shifts a period AT LEAST LET THEM GO ON THE ICE WITH SOMEONE WHO CAN ACTUALLY FINISH THAT PLAY. I'm not mad. I promise.
The Wings continue to let Minnesota shoot the puck instead of trying to shoot it themselves. The Wings give up a breakaway, but the puck just gets away from the Minnesota forward and he only gets off a bad angle shot.
Play continues to carry along until Abdelkader throws a big hit on Marco Scandella. Of course you can't have a big, legal hit made in the NHL without someone from the opposition attacking the hitter. Matt Dumba came over and started shoving Abdellkader so naturally the ref takes them both. Wut. Oh well, the Wings and Wild will play 4-on-4. The Wings dominated the time spent at 4-on-4 and DeKeyser had a glorious chance but was robbed by Dubnyk.
Sidebar, the Tatar-Sheahan-Nyquist line is absolutely dominating this game. Good thing that Luke Glendening has more ice time than Tatar! The Wings lackadaisical play continued outside of that line and boom, there is a horrendous giveaway by Abdelkader and Jonas Brodin fires one by Howard. 2-1 Wings. This is a dumbass play by Abdelkader and he gets to keep his ice time because he has a "resume". If Athanasiou makes that play, he doesn't see the ice for the rest of the season. GOOD THING WE CAN TRUST OUR "VETERANS" TO MAKE "SMART" PLAYS AT "CRUCIAL" TIMES. DID I USE ENOUGH QUOTATION MARKS?
Just before the Brodin goal, Howard made a tremendous point-blank stop on Parise. #RedWings #MNWild pic.twitter.com/kV0TKpuzVq— Stefan Kubus (@StefanKubus) April 2, 2016
Of course the Wings have to unravel when they give up a goal. Minnesota continued to take it to the Wings but thankfully the horn sounded.
Score: 2-1 Detroit
Shots: 19-17 Detroit
Strong Period: Zetterberg, Larkin, Mantha, Howard, Kyle Quincey, Alexey Marchenko,
Tough Period: Abdelkader
The third period started with a missed high stick on Datsyuk by Nino Niederreiter. Datsyuk's cut pretty nicely above the right eye and he has to go down to the dressing room for repairs. This of course provides more time for the Tatar-Sheahan-Nyquist line!
The Tatar-Sheahan-Nyquist line continued to dominate and Sheahan SCORES! That's Sheahan's 13th goal of the season, which believe it or not actually ties him with Zetterberg for the season. It's also Sheahan's 4th goal in his last 5 games, making him Detroit's hottest shooter.
Riley Sheahan makes it 3-1 with his 4th goal in the past 5 games. pic.twitter.com/X34b6VtO1G— Kyle WIIM (@KyleWIIM) April 2, 2016
At this point I'm furiously scarfing down cold ones anticipating the collapse. And for good reason as the Wings decide to let Mikael Granlund get a grade A scoring chance and he buried it. 3-2 Detroit.
The rest of this period was me holding my breath in pure terror of what might happen. The Wings managed to hold off Minnesota and hang on for a 3-2 win. The weird part is that the first emotion I experience is relief.
Score: 3-2 Detroit
Shots: 29-22 Detroit
- Player of the Game: Riley Sheahan. 4 goals in the last 6 games, 13 goals on the season which is tied for Henrik Zetterberg and is only 3 back of Pavel Datsyuk. The Wings need him to step up and he's playing big time hockey.
- The Wings played a strong first period, started the second period strong, but as soon as they went up 2-0, they sat back. I can't stand this concept. Coaches would rather try to protect a lead instead of extending one. When you have the forward talent that the Red Wings do, it's infuriating.
- I swear that I'm going to bash my head into a wall if I see Luke Glendening replace Pavel Datsyuk, Tomas Tatar, or Dylan Larkin on an offensive zone faceoff. It is inexcusable to take someone as talented as those three players off the ice in favor of having a second center on the ice. Datsyuk and Larkin are both centers and Datsyuk is one of the best in the game at faceoffs.
- I thought DeKeyser did a great job of joining the offense in today's game. I've always felt that he tends to get stuck between pinching and not pinching and today he pinched. He's such a good skater that I feel like he should take more offensive chances, and today showed what he can do.
- The third line in general was phenomenal. Tatar, Nyquist, and Sheahan were all buzzing tonight and could've scored 5 goals. If this line heats up, I hope Blashill rewards them with the ice time to keep it going. They can be flat out dominant when they are on their game.
- At the time of this publication, Boston is up 5-2 at the end of the second. The Wings are in a playoff position right now but will probably fall back to 9th in about 30 minutes. They are putting pressure on Boston. That game against Boston is going to be do or die.