Before the game on the NBCSN broadcast Keith Jones was asked, essentially, why anyone should watch the Sabres and the Red Wings race to go belly up. His response: “Make it exciting for the fans. Hopefully there will be lots of action in the offensive zone.” I heard what he was saying, which was “please, let this game be fun.” I was right there with Keith Jones, which is not something I say very often. Strange times.
What I can say about the first seven minutes of the period: it was definitely a hockey game. There was ice and skaters and everything. There were even a couple shots on goal. Then Jack Eichel decided to send his stick to Larkin’s throat, which sent Eichel himself to the penalty box for high sticking. The Wings’ first power play unit held onto the puck really well for the second half of the man advantage, but that’s the best anyone could say about it.
Mike Green decided to return the favor X minutes later by hooking Eichel, and the Sabres make short work of it. Buffalo won the faceoff, cylced the puck around the points and onto the stick of Eichel, who fired a rocket from the top of the circle.
1-0, Sabres PP Goal (Jack Eichel from Ryan O’Reilly and Rasmus Ristolainen at 10:59.)
To their credit, the Wings responded well and pushed back hard, resulting in a nice scoring chance for Nyquist and DeKeyser, but neither could find the puck. The final five minutes of the period saw opportunities for both teams, but Sabres got in the better licks by exposing the Red Wings down low. The Wings’ best chance came from Frans Nielsen at Robin Lehner’s doorstep, but the Buffalo goalie blocked the shot and Mantha didn’t have the room to lift the rebound. The clock ran out and the Wings went into the locker room needing to tighten up defensively and searching for a way inside Buffalo’s defense.
1st Period Summary:
Score: 1-0 Sabres
Shots: 13-5 Sabres
NBCSN was kind enough to inform us that the Buffalo Sabres are 11-7-5 when leading after one period, so, uhh, I guess there was room for the game to go either way. Thanks, NBC! This Wings fan is keeping his eye out for anything.
Anything at all? No? Wishful thinking, I guess. I shouldn’t be too hard. The start of the second period wasn’t a snoozer by any means; the Line Blender 9000 was running hard, and both Detroit and Buffalo got their chances, still the more dangerous ones going to Buffalo. And Riley Sheahan actually had a decent shot that looked like it might have gone off the crossbar. The Sabres got a quick chance in the other direction, and then Tomas Nosek lugged the puck up ice and showed some decent speed, resulting in a quick shot on net. If the guy consistently has moves like that, he should absolutely be in Detroit next Fall.
With 11:18 left Tatar was sent for the box because he did something that looked like tripping. This Sabres power play lasted even shorter than the last one, with the Sabres being given a whole world of space around Mrazek to allow Matt Moulson to ping pong one in.
2-0, Sabres PP Goal (Matt Moulson from Jake McCabe and Tyler Ennis at 8:59.)
The Wings showed some bark with a few nice scoring chances in front of the net that resulted in a hooking penalty to Jake McCabe, but like, whatever, man. Stuff happened, the puck was cycled, no goals, life went on.
Just when the game started to feel humdrum (okay, maybe it was humdrum for a little while by then) Zetterberg took possession and fed a real nice pass to Tatar across the crease. Tats clipped the puck past Lehner for his 21st of the season! Just like, we had ourselves a game!
2-1, Red Wings Goal (Tomas Tatar from Henrik Zetterberg and Mike Green at 12:53.)
Note to NBC: When celebrating Joe Louis Arena’s final season, try to avoid showing clips of the 2009 Final. I know, it was your favorite Stanley Cup Final the Red Wings have ever been in, but this is a game between this year’s Red Wings and Sabres in mid-March. No one who wants to remember the 09 Final is watching this game.
The ice began to tilt in the Wings’ direction for the remainder of the period and they really began working on the shot deficit. They left the period still down a goal, but their energy was so much higher than after the first period.
Second Period Summary:
Score: 2-1 Sabres
Shots: 20-17 Sabres
[Ed note: our regular recapper had significantly more important things to do than finish this recap, so you get me instead - J.J.]
The third period went about as well as it could for a fan who wants to be entertained but also feels a bit worried about the team accidentally climbing the standings. Of course, fresh off watching it’s real hard to say “well actually the 18 shot third period for the Red Wings in which they scored zero goals was good”, but I’m happy enough to report that Robin Lehner made some real good saves and THE PROCESS was good.
Of course, it could have all been that much more bearable had everybody outside the Detroit area not had to listen to Pierre McGuire accuse Tomas Tatar of elbowing Josh Gorges on purpose and then fall over himself to call a lottery team with a goal differential near -30 a deep and talented squad, at one point mentioning that a team that could have Evan Rodrigues playing down their lineup is the sign of a really good team.
Perhaps the most-promising thing out of the third period of this game was the return of the Anthony Mantha we had grown accustomed to. While the big guy didn’t find the net, he took complete control on two of his shifts and was well-involved in the play instead of kind of lost on the perimeter like he has been lately.
Overall, the Wings blew two third period power play chances but also got five shots on net during those chances so again... it’s a case where I’m not bugged because of THE PROCESS.
Moral victories are better than actual victories nowadays. Let’s roll with it.
Final Score: 2-1 Sabres
Final Shots: 35-30 Red Wings
The Wings will turn it right around and face Montreal tomorrow night. Expect a win because more than a parity league, it’s an irony league.