The Wings came out of the Christmas break looking way up in the standings at the playoff picture and looking across the sheet at the Metropolitan Division-leading New Jersey Devils, a suddenly fun squad put together with some old parts, some shiny new parts, and a few pieces other teams viewed as expendable enough to send their way.
In keeping with the theme of the season, I’m not sure what to expect from this game, but instead of recapping, Peter is in attendance, so maybe I shouldn’t have my hopes up too high.
FIRST PERIOD SUMMARY
The game starts with the Devils all too happy to give Jeff Blashill his top line to match up against the Frans Nielsen line and the first shot of the game ends up on Jimmy Howard. From there, the start is kind of choppy for both teams as it looks like each squad is remembering that ice is slippery. Marcus Johansson gets the first truly dangerous chance almost five minutes in as he takes Daley wide and almost jams a wraparound past Howard.
It took 10:26 before the Wings got their first shot on net in this period. They had a few looks go wide prior to that, but Tatar sliding a puck into Schneider’s pad off an imperfect centering pass was the first one with a real chance to go in.
It took until 15:16 to score, but the Devils started warming up and really taking the play to the Wings a few minutes prior, but the goal comes off a tipped point shot from Santini that Hischier got his stick on right in front of a screened Jimmy Howard to make it 1-0 New Jersey
On the following shift, the Wings end up with a power play on a hold in the Devils’ zone by the goalscorer Hischier. Almost immediately, Larkin gets a great chance on net that Schneider stops. Detroit spends most of the rest of the power play unable to get set up, allowing the penalty to expire with three shots on net.
Less than 30 seconds later, Darren Helm turns the puck over in the Wings’ zone and Hischier takes a feed from Taylor Hall to blast a one-timer from the dot past Howard to make it 2-0 Devils.
The rest of the period finishes with the Wings trying to get one back, but unable to get a real good chance.
The Period Summed Up in One Sentence: This feels like how the ‘95 Cup Final should have gone, except the teams are switched.
Score: 2-0 Devils
Shots: 13-7 Devils
Standout Players: Tyler Bertuzzi, Anthony Mantha
Sitdown Players: Henrik Zetterberg, Trevor Daley, Darren Helm, Gustav Nyquist
SECOND PERIOD SUMMARY
The second starts pretty much as shaky as the first ended, with the Devils’ structure giving the Wings fits. Taylor Hall and Sami Vatanen are both playing well so far. The Wings get a good set of chances after Mantha blocks a shot and heads up ice, but they can’t solve Schneider and continue to allow the Devils to get up ice with speed.
Howard has to make a two-pad stack save about five minutes in as Johansson and Zajac break in on Daley and set up a great chance.
Tyler Bertuzzi earns his first NHL point at 8:09 into the period as a good shift squeezes the Devils’ defense in before Lil’ Bert makes a pass to Abdelkader who turns at the circle and snaps it past a screened Schneider to make it 2-1 Devils. Still feeling it a minut later, Abdelkader gets another good shot on net off a one-timer from near the same spot that Hischier scored from in the first. This feeds another good shift for the Wings as AA tips a chance on net and Booth just misses the put-back opportunity.
At 10:35, the Wings get the second power play of the game as Hischier finds himself back in the box for taking down Darren Helm. Blake Coleman makes himself the star of the first minute of this man advantage, putting pressure on the Wings in their zone while shorthanded. The second minute doesn’t go any better for Detroit either.
We go about six more minutes of pretty good play by the Wings before they end up on yet another power play after Larkin gets high-sticked in front of the net. The Zetterberg unit comes out and moves the puck around well, creating a few good shots and retrieving well, but unable to solve Schneider. The Larkin unit comes on after and also creates a bit of good havoc, making it look like a real power play, but have nothing doing either.
The Period Summed Up in One Sentence: The process was better, but offense remains elusive.
Score: 2-1 Devils
Shots: 14-10 Detroit (23-21 Devils overall)
Standout Players: Tyler Bertuzzi, Justin Abdelkader
Sitdown Players: Trevor Daley, Nick Jensen
THIRD PERIOD SUMMARY
The third starts out even before the Wings got their fourth power play on a puck-over-glass penalty. Schneider stops a Frk blast and AA can’t pop the rebound in right off the hop before Jersey gets a clear and the Wings take more than a minute off the penalty trying to get something going back in the zone. Tatar gets the final chance on a rush shot from above the slot, but the Wings end up 0-for-4 on the PP to this point.
On the next shift, Hall has the most dangerous chance for the Devils since the first period as he gets a step on Daley to create a chance on net that Howard stops. Shortly after, Larkin feeds Athanasiou for a rush chance up the left wing side that Schneider swallows up.
Detroit ends up with PP #5 on the night with just over 13 minutes to go as the Devils get caught with too many men. The Z unit starts out buzzing all over the zone, winning puck battles and putting rubber on Schneider, taking up so much time that it’s only 15 seconds left for Larkin’s unit after a New Jersey clear. Sometime during this power play, the Red Wings overtake the lead on the shot counter. #MoralVictories.
The Wings finally take the penalty they’re due as Larkin takes down his man trying to take a puck away in the offensive zone with just over 12 minutes gone in the final period. 40 seconds into this penalty, Nielsen creates rush up ice and Abdelkader cuts to the middle for a good chance gloved down by Schneider. The Wings do a good job harassing Hall and keeping the Devils from getting anything set up before Larkin steps out of the bin.
With 4:09 left, the Wings end up shorthanded again as Trevor Daley goes to the box for holding the stick while trying to slow down Miles Wood on a dump-in. New Jersey looks much better on this one, but the Wings’ PK keeps them to the outside for two minutes and Daley steps out of the box with no harm done except for the time lost on the kill.
There was 1:22 left on the clock by the time the Wings could get Howard off the ice and just about 50 before they could get possession in the zone. Then it was under 23 seconds when a broken stick on an Athanasiou chance gives the Devils a shot from their own zone after a Nyquist turnover that turns it into a 3-1 game for the Devils.
The Period Summed Up in One Sentence: Blah blah blah
Score: 3-1 Devils
Standout Players: Justin Abdelkader
Sitdown Players: Mike Green, Darren Helm, Gustav Nyquist
- Tyler Bertuzzi is officially fun to watch. It’s not the same way that Larkin, Mantha, and AA are fun to watch when they’re doing what they’re doing, but the kid does good stick work and takes good angles on people. He’s not going to score a ton, but he has a good sense about him that is easy to appreciate.
- Nick Jensen’s decision-making is very feast-or-famine in terms of whether he’s going to shake pressure or turn the puck over. He isn’t moving the needle right now and I’m wondering if Ouellet is ever going to get into another game (or Hicketts for that matter).
- This game feels almost like a moral victory, but also it’s very much a victory for “The Process”, which likely means it’s maybe not so much a moral victory. I’m still conflicted about rooting for losses to the point where I can’t confidently say I am, but I also can confidently say I’m at a point where I’m not bothered so much by losses if the kids are doing well. For the most part, I think that’s true.
- Athanasiou is an interesting case for argument here as a microcosm of his season so far because he wasn’t very impressive in the early going while playing with Booth and Frk in limited minutes, but got more time late in the game with better linemates and did look better... just not that much better. It’s hard to tell where usage issues end and where issues of lessons still needing learned begin here.
- Stefan Noesen was very annoying in this game. I heard his name a bunch and he always seemed to be in a good position to break up a play. Cory Schneider was also quite good.
Next up the Wings return home to face the Rangers on Friday night.