Despite our best efforts, we’re up late.
And, despite our best efforts, we have endured a handful of rough performances from the Detroit Red Wings over the last month. This is the team’s final stop on their mini-road trip out west, an experience that’s left the goaltenders with 10 goals against. The offense, despite fighting back, could only muster six goals in Detroit’s favor. Hopefully the luck goes the other way tonight. The Vegas Golden Knights have also lost their last two games. This is a team that suffered their first ever season outside the playoff picture; judging by the decisions they made this offseason, they don’t plan on letting that happen again.
Somehow, Vegas always manages to find players on the verge of breakouts. This season’s lucky winner is Chandler Stephenson, who’s followed a phenomenal 64-point season with 40 points in 45 games. The good news is, the Vegas Golden Knights are 31st in the NHL in goals at home. The bad news is, the Wings have had a very tumultuous trip out west. If the Red Wings can pull it off, it may serve as one of the biggest wins of the season.
Then again, if they don’t, half of Red Wings Twitter might burn the website down.
First, we need to get this out of the way: the shiny gold helmets Vegas wears are atrocious. They’re somehow the ugliest thing to come out of a season full of St. Louis’s reverse retros. That’s saying something. The earliest shot came from Jake Walman, who continues his fantastic season by cutting off a huge William Karlsson pass. He’s been easily one of the best — and most surprising — players this season.
Speaking of surprises, Jonatan Berggren is on the fourth line again. He, Oskar Sundqvist, and Joe Veleno wasted no time on the ice putting together the team’s best scoring chance so far. Where Berggren failed, Lucas Raymond succeeded. Dylan Larkin’s puck banditry secured a key turnover, passing it to Raymond for the first goal of the night!
Larkin is now on a six-game point streak, just one point shy of 400 for his career. Those sound like very very good numbers to me. In no time, the Wings continued to lay on the offense, with a close chance from Bertuzzi and Fabbri. Shortly after, Seider managed a quick breakaway, nearly scoring a goal of his own.
The Wings’ forecheck has been outstanding thus far. They’ve been able to stifled Vegas’s scoring chances while generating plenty of their own. Is this the same team that played in Arizona? It’s hard to tell. Maybe I’m blinded by the awful Vegas helmets. Jake Walman managed to steal another puck from Vegas leading scorer Chandler Stephenson. He’s like a brand new player this season.
Jim Devellano was at morning skate along with the rest of the scouting staff! Super cool. What wasn’t cool was the fact that William Karlsson inadvertently hit Berggren in the face. He seems to be okay on the bench. No worries! It seems like every other puck that’s shot goes out into the stands. Wonder if there’s a record. Wait. Phil Kessel plays for Vegas? That’s one of those offseason moves that went under the radar, like Max Pacioretty going to the Carolina Hurricanes.
Near the end of the period, Vegas began to pick up steam, putting more pressure on Detroit’s defense. Fortunately, Walman and Seider were ready, quick to shut down any would-be attempts to even the odds. The Chiarot-Hronek pairing is...intriguing. It needs more time to work, but Maatta-Chiarot seemed to work pretty well.
Unfortunately, the joy can’t last because of course it can’t. Vegas scores, tying us 1-1 at 1.
Period two picked up where the first ended, with Vegas attempting to generate more offense. Seider’s sneaky spin move stole a puck from Kessel, who quickly set up the team in the offensive zone. A Dominik Kubalik breakaway...resulted in a drawn penalty! The Wings head to the power play early in the second, ready to score. Did they succeed? Yes, they did! Kubalik gets his revenge from a beauty of a pass from Sundqvist. 2-1, good guys!
That’s Kubalik’s 14th goal of the season. With 32 points in 44 games on the season, he’s on pace for a 60+ point campaign. Very good stuff! The team continued to apply pressure from all four lines until Seider took a tumble, breaking up the offense. If Veleno was just a little bit faster, he’d likely be one of the better breakaway artists in the league. Without that quick first push, he’s relegated toward getting quickly broken up. Still, he’s had a great season this year and will serve as a solid depth threat for years to come.
Fabbri attempted a move between the legs, but wasn’t able to secure the bag. Somehow, the team seems to put in their best efforts in when they’re against contenders (the Colorado game notwithstanding).
A Let’s Go Red Wings chant broke out right before faceoff near the halfway mark of this period. Godspeed to every fan who stayed up for the game. Even more respect for the fans that have to deal with the moving digital billboard ads. They’re far and beyond the most distracting things in this game, and that’s saying something considering those Vegas helmets.
Husso strung together some of the best saves he’s had in a while, stopping a grade-A chance from Eichel that could’ve easily tied this one up. Imagining what he could be with a stronger support system makes me so excited for those last few years of his deal. Still, the pressure during this sequence was far from encouraging. Vegas had dominant possession of the puck for nearly two whole minutes. That’s not something you want from a team like Vegas, who could easily tip the scales if given the opportunity.
Joe Veleno must have read the sentences I wrote a few paragraphs ago. Breaking away from the defense, he fired a laser-sharp snapshot, making it 3-1!
Veleno has eight points in his last 15 games, doubling his point total on the season in that span. He, like Michael Rasmussen, has started to figure things out, building on the lessons he learned during his first few seasons. While he might not live up to that exceptional status he had as a junior leaguer, he’s still going to have a great career as an NHLer. (I’m saying this so he has an 80+ point breakout season in 23-24, thus proving me wrong again).
Anyway, the show continued with even more pressure on Vegas goalie Adin Hill, with Kubalik nearly putting another in the net. Ken Daniels may have jinxed this team, unfortunately, mentioning that have been more comebacks in this season than any season. The good news is, the team has been great about stifling Vegas’s chance thus far. They’re willing to block pucks with their body, hit hard, and get as physical as they need to keep Vegas at bay.
It feels like Seider’s been on the ice for pretty much every play tonight. The guy’s gotta be gassed at this point. The end of the period featured a chaotic chance from Copp, Walman, and Perron, nearly further widening the lead. So close! Larkin shared the luck, nearly scoring one of his own at the very end. No worries. Onto the third!
The third period started with a little scrap between Nic Hague and Michael Rasmussen. I think Hague is the only player Rasmussen’s size that’s ever tried to stand up to him. Vegas is likely used to overpowering opponents with their physicality. This type of play will be a great test for Detroit. Will they rise to the occasion against a tough team? So far, the odds are pointing to yes.
The Wings have been absolutely suffocating this entire game, stifling scoring lanes and blocking shots like it’s nobody’s business. If they play like this on a frequent basis, this team could do some serious damage to playoff squads. Vegas just seems completely incapable of solving Detroit. They’re slow, sloppy, and unable to make a dent in the Wings’ overwhelming defense. That feels odd to say.
Jake Walman did it again, stopping Karlsson’s one-on-one attempt. He seems to have Wild Bill’s number, keeping him away from any attempt to generate offense. Filip Hronek showed a bit of edge, getting in the face of a physical Vegas player. Berggren, brandishing a bandage, breathed a sigh of relief on the bench.
VILLE HUSSO DOES IT AGAIN. Lightning-quick reflexes from the netminder prevent what would’ve been a game-changing goal for Vegas. He did so well that the Wings travelers began their traditional “HUUUUUUUUUUUS” cheer. Well done.
Kessel and Chiarot collide, summarizing both of their impacts tonight. Raymond set up a great scoring chance only to have a pass whiffed. With eight minutes to go, Detroit continued to pile on the pressure, stopping Alec Martinez from making moves at the blueline. The only downside to this current point of the game was the lack of a certain Tyler Bertuzzi on the bench. In fact, Bertuzzi hadn’t taken a single shift in the third period. Hopefully it’s nothing serious.
Back and forth, back and forth, the pressure continued to mount as Vegas stacked the ice with their best players. Detroit followed suit, relying on their depth to smother the Knights with endless amounts of energy. The crowd’s energy was contagious, with both the Vegas and Detroit crowds fighting for control of the morale.
Eventually, Vegas decided to pull their goalie for the extra attacker. Four, five, six skaters — they could throw all they liked, but they were no match for Ville Husso’s brick wall approach to goaltending. The king of the empty nets, Michael Rasmussen...missed! The pressure in Detroit’s zone was so tangible that you could probably cut the air in the arena with a knife. Unfortunately, that pressure boiled over, resulting in a goal by Vegas. 3-2.
Meltdown season would NOT have its day, however. Detroit managed to scrape by at the very end with a frighteningly close 3-2 victory.