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Slipping Up to Boston: Wings Lose Preseason Opener to Bruins 4-2

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NHL: Preseason-Detroit Red Wings at Boston Bruins Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the first recap of the first preseason game of the 2017-18 season. I can’t promise we’ll do eight of these, but I got to watch this one, so I might as well write about it. Detroit sent more of a B-squad out against what was probably a Bruins A-minus squad, and it showed, as Detroit lost 4-2 in Boston while getting outplayed most of the game.

Just keep in mind it’s only preseason and only one game at that. Let’s all freak out together, shall we?

First Period

The first five minutes of the game were all Bruins, as the more-NHL heavy squad led by David Pastrnak on the top line put up a bunch of early chances that Mrazek had to come up big on (and to Mrazek’s credit, he looked very “in control” during some really scrambly moments where we might have seen him overcommit in the past). The only credible Wings chance in this time was Sheahan stealing a puck and finding Glendening out front for a backhander stopped by Khudobin.

After the first TV timeout, Frk got a quick break in but was denied the forehand-backhand prior to the Bruins taking a penalty. The 1st unit (NHL) power play got few looks and seemed hesitant. The AHL squad got a couple better looks, but couldn’t find the net on a few chances created by Frk.

Another commercial break later and Pastrnak picks Jensen’s pocket in the Wings’ zone. In the resulting scramble, Witkowski takes a cross-checking penalty while taking Pastrnak out down low and the Bruins get a PP. Detroit kills it off despite spending about a minute dealing with a Cholowski broken stick after a shot block.

Next, it’s again the Wings’ turn for a power play under the new slashing rules (shrug) - This power play is way worse, as there’s probably only one decent chance in the whole two minutes. Rasmussen struggles on this one, with two messed-up zone entry attempts during the time.

After a brief period of 5-on-5, the Wings go back shorthanded on another cross-check created by Bruins’ pressure to the front of their net - this time it’s Martin Frk taking a seat. The period ends after some intense pressure, but will carry over 1:20 of advantage.

The period in one sentence: Krejci and Pastrnak are good at hockey.

2nd Period:

David Backes takes care of that early PP problem for the Wings, so we go 4-on-4 for a bit before another Wings’ power play with limited looks. Once things return to even, David Krejci goes to work cycling around the Wings’ zone before Zboril finds Ryan Fitzgerald all alone down low for a pass receipt and shot under a moving Mrazek to make it 1-0 Bruins.

A few more minutes go by with nothing really noticeable happening at even strength for either team, but the Bruins make it 2-0 on a Danton Heinen goal scored 7:54 in while the Bruins were playing a man up due to a delayed penalty call. Things all started with an uncovered jump into the zone by Cholowski (It was Bertuzzi’s job to cover) and the Wings couldn’t recover. This one was an easy tap-in on a cross-ice pass just at the top of Mrazek’s crease.

After another TV timeout about halfway through the period, Coreau comes in to take his half of the game. Shortly after, the Wings go back to the PK as Frk serves a faceoff violation penalty (I didn’t see it so I don’t know what happened). The Wings’ PK does a really good job of limiting chances keeping the play to the outside and I don’t believe the Bruins put what should be considered a single shot on goal.

Just to break up the boring constant of Boston pressure in the Detroit zone, Kuraly and Glendening have a fight at 15:40 that was probably a win for Glendening, but it was mostly the two of them falling down. Glad to see a kid like Glendening showing the coach how badly he wants to make the team out of preseason.

Now Auston Czarnik makes it 3-0 Bruins on a penalty shot where he dekes Coreau out and puts it in on the forehand. He gets the shot after a Larkin neutral zone turnover gets him in between the defense to be taken out by Cholowski.

Immediately after, Pastrnak gets another walk-in that’s stopped and the refs feel sorry enough for Detroit to not call a penalty.

Fortunately, the Wings show a little bit of life as Mantha gets a break in alone on goal after a neutral zone turnover gives Lashoff a passing lane for Mantha to come off the wing and slide it under Khudobin to make it 3-1 Bruins.

The period in one sentence: I’m not sure this team has ever met before.

Third Period

Things start off well enough for the wings, as Larkin makes it 3-2 Bruins less than four minutes in. Mantha gets a strong-arm break into the zone and makes a bit of room coming around to find Larkin coming up the Wing. Larkin catches Khudobin off his post and shoots it from just below the goal line and into the net off the back of the goalie.

The Wings definitely have more energy coming in this period, but still struggle to put together enough passes to create dangerous chances. They get the first power play of the third period as Heinen tries breaking in behind Sulak, but does so by closing his hand on the puck, which isn’t allowed. The top unit can’t get anything going because of too much “hero hockey” where one guy tried to do too much, then the 2nd unit came on and almost gave up a shorty because they were all out of sync.

The Bruins fought to get momentum back after, but the Wings counter-punched with a couple rushes up ice that might have earned penalty calls at a different time, but not tonight.

Of course, as it tends to go, the Wings take the next penalty as McIlrath goes off for interference. Pretty iffy call, but whatever. It’s preseason for refs too. Lashoff goes off early on the PK after blocking a shot with his arm. It feels like Sheahan and Larkin are on for this entire PK, but the Wings get the job done, only allowing a chance at the very end.

A few minutes later it goes to 4-2 Bruins on a Teddy Purcell goal finishing off a 3-on-1 rush feed from Austin Czarnik that Coreau can’t stop. Lashoff was back on the ice after blocking the shot getting caught up ice on a turnover in the Bruins’ zone by Rasmussen’s line.

The Wings take another faceoff violation penalty with 54 seconds left coming off an icing that should have taken the faceoff into the Bruins’ zone. Riley Sheahan gets a good shorthanded chance, but the game ends 4-2.

The period in one sentence: It’s only preseason.

Assorted Thoughts

  • Michael Rasmussen had a pretty bad game. He was too slow on decision-making and got bodied off of pucks pretty easily. It looked very much like a guy not used to playing against opponents as strong as NHLers.
  • Nick Jensen was a bit feast-or-famine playing what were essentially top-pairing duties against very dangerous NHLers. At times he absolutely couldn’t get a puck past David Pastrnak to save his life while in others, he was cool as a cucumber.
  • Dennis Cholowski moved well and had a good sense for the angles, but also looked a bit too slow to make decisions.
  • Larkin, Mantha, Sheahan, and Glendening all played like NHLers in this one. Luke Witkowski still reminds me of Steve Ott, but he’s probably better than that at this point and I don’t want to unfairly dislike this guy just yet. Give it more time.
  • Brad Marchand was right that the picky way they’re going after faceoff violations is stupid. Faceoffs already take too damn long for linesmen delaying things and it was going on throughout this entire game too. I swear I’m not just saying that because the Wings took two penalties for improperly-placed feet. It’s annoying watching the game constantly delayed by this while the crackdown on interference is still a mere pipe dream.

Next up, the Wings take on Pittsburgh tomorrow night. Can’t promise a recap of that one.