Blashill says a Vanek game time decision, but expectation is he will play.— Helene St. James (@HeleneStJames) February 15, 2017
Looks like Jurco and Sproul are scratched tonight in addition to Nyquist, who's expected to be suspended later today. #RedWings— Ansar Khan (@AnsarKhanMLive) February 15, 2017
Key Match Ups
Since taking over for the fired Ken Hitchcock, Mike Yeo has a 5-1 record with the Blues. This blazing start has the Blues firmly in the playoff picture after months of failing to meet high expectations. The Blues goaltending has suddenly gotten hot since Yeo took the reigns, allowing more than one goal only once. Before Hitchcock’s firing, the Blues had the worst team save-percentage in the league at a mind-boggling .887%. It wasn’t a case like Detroit’s goaltending struggles, where it was giving up a lot of shots—the Blues were actually top five in fewest shots allowed per game. The numbers suggested this was an anomaly and due to turn around soon. Sure enough it has since Yeo took over.
Hockey Is For Everyone
Tonight is the Red Wings night to celebrate “Hockey Is For Everyone”, an NHL initiative that promotes inclusiveness and diversity in the game for people of color and the LGBTQ community. This is the first in hopefully several steps toward culturally opening up the game. So far its marquee moment has been the Washington Capitals inviting Fatima Al Ali, a hockey fan from the United Arab Emirates (with some slick mitts), to practice. The NHL is making it’s diversity plan widely known the same season the league had four players of color in the All-Star game and Wayne Simmonds win the game MVP. Frans Nielsen will serve as the Red Wings ambassador and my hope is he’ll make a statement on the importance of diversity in the game. There’s still a lot of work to be done, I’m excited to see this first step taken. If you’re interested in helping local youth hockey players of color, look into the Clark Park Coalition, located in Southwest Detroit. They hold a free instructional hockey program serving low-income families in the Detroit area.
Jensen Finding His Stride
Nick Jensen is an interesting case; he’s a 26 year old rookie, right handed shot, and not that big at 6-foot. After being buried in the Wings system for years he’s finally broken through. The Wings are fully embracing him considering they recently opted to dump Alexey Marchenko. Jensen’s been solid, being rotated with several partners and gotten looks in all situations. The Red Wings have recently been regressive with skilled, puck moving defensemen—odd considering Brian Rafalski was such an asset to the 2008 Cup team. In his past four games, Jensen has two points and played north of 20 minutes twice. It could be he’s just a late bloomer who struggled to crack Holland’s “overripe” system. We’ve seen late bloomers find NHL prominence before (the aforementioned Rafalski also didn’t make his NHL debut until age 26). Jensen isn’t quite as skilled as Rafalski, but I see some comparison in attributes. He could continue to develop in the next couple seasons as a middle pairing D that can be utilized offensively. It’s clear the Wings have more faith in him than Marchenko and Ryan Sproul. I’d like to see his path continue to be paved.
The Blues struggles up to this point can be blamed on anyone other than Vladimir Tarasenko. Across the roster, several key players have underperformed leading to a coaching change and rumors of an imminent rebuild. All the while Tarasenko continues to do what he does; get shots—a lot of freaking shots—and score pretty goals. Tarasenko is fourteenth is the league in shots and has a sturdy 14% shooting percentage to go along with that high volume. Tarasenko had 7 shots in his last meeting vs. the Wings, but was held pointless.
It’s Been a While
A lot has changed since the Wings last meeting with the Blues. In their 2-1 overtime win in St.Louis, the Wings capped a surprising six game winning streak. It was the end of a very lucky period where the Wings were mostly outshot and outchanced yet found a way to win. Anyone taking an analytical look at the Wings could see right through the winning streak to their impending demise. Detroit has only had eight regulation wins since beating the Blues October 27.