Time: 7:30 PM EST
Place: Little Caesars Arena
Radio: 97.1 FM The Ticket/1270 AM
Blackhawks Blog: Second City Hockey
The Red Wings did everything right on Monday night. They looked like the better team through most of the game. So it had to be disappointing that despite such a strong effort, they still lost to the Chicago Blackhawks in overtime. They had several chances of their own in the extra period to take the win, but failed to make the most of their opportunities.
The nice part about this schedule is Detroit gets to go right back at Chicago tonight to make good on what they started the other night. With a win tonight the Wings would split their third straight series after getting handled by Tampa Bay to begin the month. Not only that but the team has outshot their opponents in each of their last five games. You can break down those games to explain exactly how or why that happened in each case, but in the grand scheme that’s not something this team has been able to do consistently in a long time.
Detroit is beginning to show signs of what they people expected. A much better team that wasn’t going to rack up wins yet but that they could impose their style on teams at times. Yzerman’s remodeling of the blueline is showing just how far this team has come defensively and their ability to suppress their opponent’s attack. The Wings have quietly slipped into 5th place in the league at 5-on-5 xGA/60 at 1.89 (evolving-hockey.com). Isolating for that alone you can clearly see Yzerman’s plan taking place.
The flip side of that coin is that due to this suppressing low event style hockey the team is playing defensively, their offense leaves a lot to be desired. The Wings 5-on-5 xGF/60 is 1.82, second last to Nashville, and puts them just below their defensive number.
The key here would seem to be to get the offense going while maintaining the defensive strength. For that to happen, the Wings are still waiting on the big boys up front to get going again. Larkin has a lot of zeros on his stat lines lately. That needs to change. The same goes for Zadina. It’s early in his career still, but he’s being given the opportunity on the top line and it’s time to cash in on his strong play by finishing for a goal or two soon. The same goes for a pair of large bodies on the second line in Mantha and Ryan. The Wings are top heavy up front and they need to start getting results from the players they count on.
As for their opponent tonight, the Wings did a good job keeping the Hawks big guns from burying them on Monday. Patrick Kane and Alex DeBrincat were both held off the scoresheet which few teams can claim. They were instead beat by Dominik Kubalik who buried two, including the OT winner. It will be quite the feather in their cap if the Wings can once again hold Kane and DeBrincat from doing much damage as they’ll likely come out that much stronger after being shut out. All the more reason the Wings need their top guys producing tonight.
After Malcolm Subban got the start on Monday, expect to see surprising rooking Kevin Lankinen get the start tonight. The young netminder has a scorching .925 SV% and 2.49 GAA to start the year. The Wings had some trouble beating Subban the other night, so they’ll really need to find some creativity to beat Lankinen. As for the Wings, with Greiss getting the start in Monday’s loss, expect to see the rotation back in action with Jonathan Bernier getting the start tonight. While Bernier’s numbers haven’t been great in limited action this season with a 3.22 GAA and .886% SV%, his presence seems to always give this team a boost, given his 3-1-0 record.
Of course the ever-lurking threat for this Detroit squad is special teams, Despite being a middling team at overall 5-on-5, their powerplay, 30th at 7.5%, and penalty kill, 26th at 73.5% have been the difference in a lot of their losses. The Wings kept Chicago’s dangerous powerplay off the board on Monday night and will be counted on to do it again. As for the powerplay, for the sake of mercy, they need to put an end to this latest stretch that has seen them go the entire month of February so far without a powerplay goal.
If Detroit can get a sudden outburst of goals from their top group, whether at even strength or on the powerplay, it will go a long way to getting a win tonight and splitting another series. A win tonight will also put that tough stretch through the end of January and beginning of February further into the rear view mirror on the road to respectability.