Crosby-McDavid tonight was all anyone in the NHL could talk about and personally, I couldn’t wait to watch it on TV. But you know who was on NBCSN tonight? You got it, the Wings and Sabres baby! While we know the Sabres are looking ahead to their HUGE Wednesday Night “Rivalry” matchup with Columbus tomorrow (seriously, what is NBC doing anymore?), the Red Wings looked to end their 4-game losing streak. Here’s how it played out.
Zetterberg vs. Eichel line to start off the game. You know how you kind of expect a Sabres-Red Wings game to go? Well that’s how the first few minutes went with Darren Helm unable to cash in on a chance in front (shocking). Up to the first TV timeout the Red Wings had a step on Buffalo, but not a big one by any means.
Dylan Larkin drew the first penalty about 8 minutes in for slashing Jack Eichel. Now’s the time to let everyone know that those two were roommates with the USNTDP, because I’m sure you didn’t know. The Red Wings actually generated a few changes shorthanded and the Sabres PP received some boo’s from the crowd at First Niagara Center, er, KeyBank Center. No dice on PP as it remained 0-0 at the second TV timeout.
A 3-on-2 for the Sabres developed and if Buffalo’s forwards knew how to hit the net, they’d be up 1-0 as back-to-back great chances in front hit the glass. The Sabres began buzzing and Howard made a couple nice saves soon thereafter. A hand-pass brings us to the final TV timeout in an absolute thriller of a game so far (yawns).
With 2 minutes left in the period, Buffalo nearly capitalized off an offensive zone faceoff. Evander Kane rifled one in the high slot off Howard’s low pad before Marco Scandella picked up the rebound and fired it right into a well-positioned Howard. Buffalo continued to swarm Howard with chances in the final minute, but nothing doing as the 1st Period ended.
Shots: 12-10 BUF (Red Wings led 9-2 early on)
Interesting line from Blashill to start the 2nd Period as Mantha-Z-Helm started things off and actually generated a few decent looks. 3 minutes in, the Sabres developed a 2-on-1 after some really bad pinches by the Red Wings. Johan Larsson rifled a slap shot right into Howard after Kronwall did a nice job taking away the passing lane. The Red Wings created a 2-on-1 with Mantha and Nielsen thanks to a nice takeaway at center by Mantha. However, similar to the Sabres chance, Mantha had to shoot the puck and was denied with the low pad of Robin Lehner.
Still in first 5 minutes, the pace finally picked up and Larkin took another slashing penalty. 2nd PP of game for Buffalo. After a few really good Sabres chances, Nielsen was dragged down trying to clear it and 4-on-4 ensued. The Red Wings really controlled the 4-on-4 before Jensen almost gifted Evander Kane a breakaway only for Nyquist to actually end up with a scoring chance. Lehner made the save and we hit the first TV timeout.
The Red Wings had a chance on the PP and to everyone’s surprise, they didn’t get set up in the whole 1:15 they had the man advantage. Detroit was able to maintain possession for the next few minutes before Benoit Pouliot took a juicy rebound from Jimmy Howard and wrapped it around the net for the first goal of the game, 1-0 Sabres. Second TV timeout rolled around and the Red Wings still looked sluggish for long portions of this game.
Interesting note coming out of the break, Blashill seemed like his voice was gone during his interview, have to assume it was for not-so-good reasons. No one has looked motivated at all wearing the winged wheel, just a real lackluster performance again. Larkin has been the best player so far and he saw a chance in the high slot go wide. Final TV timeout of the period, game has gone back to a stalemate it seems.
Detroit continued to shuffle lines looking for something, anything offensively. Larkin almost sparked a goal after a great feed in front to Frk from behind the net. A Kane-Eichel rush went back the other way and guess who got called for a penalty after he took down Eichel? Yup, Larkin took his 3rd penalty of the game. Sabres PP looked deadly so far, but scoreless today. Howard looked really good up to this point as well. Larkin and Mantha were on a line at the end of the period and looked good, but still nothing for the Red Wings. 1-0 after the 2nd.
Score: 1-0 BUF
Shots: 25-20 BUF
3rd Period started with another reminder of the Larkin-Eichel friendship in case you had already forgotten they played together on the USNTDP. Tatar-Z-Gus now the Red Wings top line. Frk-Larkin-Mantha back together next and this line is my bet to get the equalizer. Shortly after, I ate my words as Mantha got called for holding as another possible Kane-Eichel 2-on-1 developed, those two are good. Nielsen AGAIN drew a penalty shorthanded, he’s awesome on the PK. Eichel was the guilty party and 4-on-4 once more for 1:25. Larkin looked really good on the PP, but as the whole night has gone, nothing going for the Red Wings.
Not even 5 minutes into the 3rd and the Sabres nearly scored again as the puck bounced off Howard and just wide of the post. Red Wings looked better this period so far, but still have only had about 3-4 really good chances throughout the game. First TV timeout of the 3rd, my money is still on Mantha-Larkin-Frk to tie this one.
Almost on cue, Frk and Larkin swarmed the net and somehow the puck didn’t go in. The line continued to create havoc and Lehner had to cover the puck. It seemed like this line along with Tatar-Z-Gus would be out there pretty much the rest of the game. Red Wings started to click, second TV timeout.
Scott Wilson almost picked up his first as a Wing on a wrap around attempt after LGD couldn’t finish in front. Still 1-0 Sabres with about 8 minutes left. Red Wings have dominated this game of late, if they don’t score, it will be a real shame. Sabres fired back with a few chances, but we hit the final TV timeout. Crunch time coming up.
Out of the break, 4-on-4 hockey after O’Reilly and Z got mixed up behind the play. After a Green turnover at the blue line, Evander Kane had a sure breakaway, until Green caught up to him and made one of the more impressive back checks you’ll see denying the Sabres forward.
Howard out with 2:15 to go and an offensive zone draw. Wings won it and had about three different chances to score in a 30 second span before Lehner covered it. Ugh. After losing the draw and having to retreat, the Red Wings iced it with 1:31 to go so back out went Howard. Nyquist dumped it on Lehner and he was forced to cover. Wings couldn’t even get set up and O’Reilly’s hail mary attempt just went wide for a Sabres icing with 47 seconds left.
After the Red Wings won the faceoff, Green made a bonehead pass and the Sabres should’ve scored but got caught up at the Red Wings blue line. Detroit had one more chance and couldn’t score. Game over. Unbelievable.
Score: 1-0 BUF
Honestly, I don’t know what to say. The Red Wings didn’t show up until they needed to and it was too little too late. I know it’s early and we all freaked out when they started 4-1, but this doesn’t look promising and I don’t think it will be long until people begin questioning if Blashill has lost the team. The Red Wings head to Tampa Bay Thursday night to face a red-hot Lightning team before hopefully welcoming Andreas Athanasiou back Saturday in Sunrise against the Panthers.