Sometimes, when the Wings lose, I just mute the game and start playing some Rush albums. I had Fly By Night on standby tonight, just in case the NBCSN crew started saying something really dumb and the Wings were getting buried by double digits again. And if things got really bad, I had Permanent Waves ready to cheer me up. But none of that came to pass. The Wings didn’t get the result they wanted, but at the very least we got an entertaining hockey game. The reffing standard wasn’t good, which favored the bruising Flyers. Detroit gave the game a full sixty minutes on the ugly side of a back-to-back, which was encouraging compared to what we’ve seen earlier this season.
(And stop judging me for my Rush albums. What else was a nerdy working class kid growing up so close to Canada supposed to listen to when he was a teenager? Don’t make me list every album in order from memory.)
Also, Valteri Filppula plays for the Flyers now? I totally lost track of him in recent years.
Nyquist got a great opportunity early off a sneaky change, but he couldn’t bury the puck past Brian Elliott. It was part of a series of good plays. In fact, in the early going the Wings looked very strong. Even Nick Jensen got a great chance by pressuring into the offensive zone. The Red Wings sure didn’t look like they played last night. Rather, the Flyers looked to be the sluggish ones, despite having Tuesday night off.
It’d be easy to say the success possession success came from the speed of the Detroit forwards, but the defense were making really crisp passes, and it goes to show what kind of team the Wings could be with reliable outlet passes and zone breakouts.
Howard wasn’t seriously tested until 7 minutes in, but he needed to make two dandies in quick repetition, but it was nothing like at exactly ten minutes in when Howard lost his stick, made a great stop, and then was given a hand by Trevor Daley, who got his stick in front of Sean Couturier before he could fire the rebound into a wide open net. It was great stuff by both players to keep the game knotted at 0.
As the period carried on, the Flyers got their sea legs back, but the Wings got their licks, too. One struggle that arose was the Flyers getting traffic in front of Howard; the Wings had consistent trouble clearing the crease. The Flyers made a habit of slamming shots from the top of the circle at Howard and just kind of seeing what happened.
But the first goal came about kind of just like that. Nolan Patrick won a faceoff and slid the puck back to Radko Gudas. Gudas unleashed a slapshot that ricocheted off the boards behind the net. Dale Weise collected the puck and wrapped it around the net, depositing it on Howard’s blind side to make it 1-0 Flyers at 15:19.
With a minute left in the period, Claude Giroux launched Dylan Larkin’s stick from his hands like he was trying to score a field goal, and the Red Wings were glad to have it to regain the momentum. The power play wasn’t making much happen, until Green collected the puck in the Wings’ end and shuttled the puck up to Larkin. Larkin then made an absolute beauty of a pass over Andy MacDonald’s stick to a streaking Marty Frk. Elliott barely had any time to react before Frk fired the puck past him with only one second left on the clock to tie the game 1-1.
The Red Wings’ between-period adjustments included an increased emphasis on a tight forecheck. It produced a solid chance early on, and then created a 4 minute man-advantage because Jordan Weal let an errant stick get up in Frans Nielsen’s face in tight quarters. Ivan Provorov took a slapshot to the mid-section and barreled over the Flyers’ bench, and you just feel bad for any player that goes through that. What an awful feeling.
Around the same time, Luke Glendening blocked a shot with his wrist and was seen icing it on the bench. He didn’t come back for the remainder of the period. Blashill didn’t have the line blender out this game, but this forced his hand. This is why Detroit signed a billion centers over the past several years.
Frk and Mantha got the best opportunities until the Red Wings cycled the puck around the net and kicked it back up top to Mike Green. Green didn’t hesitate and fired a one timer from way up high and center past Elliott to make it 2-1 Red Wings. It was the kind of power play you come to expect from this year’s Red Wings; it usually looks pretty harmless. It’s not the type of powerplay that makes the other teams’ fans constantly white knuckle their arm rests. But then the Wings set up just the perfect play, just the way they like it, and it ends up in the net for the Wings.
It wouldn’t take long, though, for the Flyers to get the opportunity to return the favor on their first powerplay opportunity of the year, a weird phantom penalty against Jonathan Ericsson (holding, I guess.) Giroux set up along the half boards, sent the puck cross ice to Voracek, who then sent it back over to Wayne Simmonds. Tic-tac-toe into the net, 2-2 tie game.
Zetterbeg wasn’t having any of it, though. He and Mantha went to work on the break away. neither of them made anything but a mess in the crease and behind the net, but a late-charging Gustav Nyquist drove the net, and despite getting checked to the ice, Goose drove home the loose puck to make it 3-2 Red Wings.
That goal really kicked the Flyers hornet nest. They came swarming back and you could tell they were getting tired of these upstart Red Wings. Athanasiou drifted towards the puck, leaving Robert Hagg wide open up high. The rifled off the slapshot, which deflected off Daley and past Howard to make the game a 3-3 tie. It was an unfortunate bounce, but damn if that one didn’t sting. Also, it was Robert Hagg’s first goal in the NHL, so good on him, but seriously, go score your first career goal on someone else, dude. We don’t have time for this.
The Red Wings didn’t buckle, though. The got the better of possession in the waning minutes of the period, but the game stayed knotted at three apiece.
Early in the third Radko Gudas drove Helm into the boards on a really nasty play that should have been called. Luckily, Helm seemed to be fine, but it was an ugly play, for sure. But pressing hard was the way Philadelphia wanted to play coming into the new period, so that’s the line they have to walk.
The Flyers hemmed the Wings into their own zone early, and you could tell that last night’s game might be catching up to Detroit. The Flyers made a nice smooth transition once the Wings finally pushed the puck back out to the neutral zone. Simmons and Giroux got the puck in front of the net with a ton of space because of a bad change, and Sean Couturier got not one, but two chances on Howard’s doorstep. Howard made a great stop on the first attempt, but there was no one to clear Couturier out of the way as he got his second goal of the game to make it 4-3 Flyers.
The Wings kept battling though, proving this game was going to be one of their best efforts of the season regardless of the outcome. One Wing consistently possessing the puck in the zone for Detroit was Tatar. It was like the puck just stuck on his stick. But oh man, could he not find an open player on the ice to pass to. Overskating it just a pinch, perhaps.
With six minutes left the game finally got a little punchy, and the temperature started rising. This came after Nyquist was being mauled on the ice repeatedly in front of the ref. After the scrum the Flyers absolutely hammered the Wings in their zone again. After the whistle, more scrums.
Another resounding theme in the third period was the Flyers resorting to dirtbagging it up to keep the Wings slowed down. Maybe those team cultures die harder than Kenny Holland thinks.
Jakub Voracek clotheslined Andreas Athanasiou to win a puck battle, but the best the Wings could get was an embelishment minor against Athanasiou to match Voracek’s high elbow. Because sure.
The Wings pulled Howard to make it a regular 5-on-4 power play, and despite a late slapper from the outside of the circle, the Wings couldn’t not it up. Final score, 4-3 Flyers.
The Wings battled really hard in this game and showed a lot of heart. You could tell in the third period that they were tired, and the Flyers capitalized. The Flyers also benefited from the looser reffing standard moreso than the Wings, which, you know, pisses me off, because I’m a Red Wings fan and kind of hate the Flyers more than a lot of teams. The second game in back to backs are harder to win than a lot of folks give credit for, so compared to the way the team has played during stretches, this was a positive sign. And it was an entertaining game, at least. Way better than most games the Wings have played against the Canadian teams this year. It’s hard to pick one player of the game for me, but Nielsen’s line was great, so I guess I’ll go with that.