Power-less Play: Sputtering special teams dooms Red Wings in 2-1 OT loss to Lightning
Happy ‘Fight Night’ day, I guess.
A 12:30pm start? In this economy?
Saturday’s matchup with the Tampa Bay Lightning fell on a special day for the Red Wings franchise. March 26th is the anniversary of ‘Fight Night’ and Wings fans came out in troves to celebrate with a little afternoon hockey. Unfortunately for those watching at home, most of the highlights were from that fateful day in 1997. This rivalry tilt didn’t see any goal-scoring until the third period.
There was a lot to like from the Red Wings in the first period. Tampa Bay started the game with the ice tilted in its favor, but it didn’t take long for the home team to start applying pressure. The real story was both goaltenders, who kept things scoreless all 20 minutes. The Red Wings got two chances on the power play but couldn’t get anywhere with it. Lucas Raymond had a grade-A chance off of a sick no-look dish from Dylan Larkin. Brian Elliott stood firm for the Bolts. Despite Tampa gaining some momentum in the late stages of the first period, Detroit staved off any offense and closed out a pretty solid 20 minutes. Detroit had the edge in shots at least, 7-5.
The Red Wings had another chance on the power play to open the second period, but again could not get anything going. It appeared as if there were no adjustments being made by the bench, which is frustrating given how many opportunities officials gave Detroit early in the game. Alex Nedeljkovic continued to be the most-valuable player on the ice for the Red Wings with a few big saves to keep it score-less.
This game was particularly tough to watch, not just because of the lack of scoring, but because of how bad the ice was. Little Caesars Arena is becoming synonymous with shitty ice and it was on full display in this game. Play was paused for some time as crews worked to fix what appeared to be a large gash in the ice. The Red Wings really need to do something about this. I know it’s a shared facility with a pro basketball team, but it really should not be this bad. Just wait until a player gets injured because he wipes out trying to skate on a patch of slush.
Okay, back to the game.
Tampa increased pressure in the second period, and Detroit returned that pressure in the third. Again, getting two huge chances on the power play but not registering a goal. Sure, the team had a few good looks and Brian Elliott played out of his god-damn mind, but there just seems to be no creativity with special teams. That has to be a coaching issue. The scoring wasn’t opened until about half-way through the third period. Oskar Sundqvist, the new guy, picked up his second goal as a Red Wing. It’s funny because out of all the good chances Detroit had on Elliott, it was this one that leaked behind him:
Oskar Sundqvist breaks the scoreless tie with his second goal in as many games since being acquired! It's a 1-0 @DetroitRedWings lead! #LGRW pic.twitter.com/cZShOa6j0v— Bally Sports Detroit (@BallySportsDET) March 26, 2022
Up to this point, Tampa had only gotten one look on the power play, so you knew the stripes were going to call Detroit, and they did. Filip Zadina was called for hooking, which would ultimately turn to a game-tying goal from Steve Stamkos, but not before Alex Nedeljkovic pulled off what could be considered the save of the year:
Oh my Ned! #LGRW pic.twitter.com/Ek0VuHEueQ— Detroit Red Wings (@DetroitRedWings) March 26, 2022
Stamkos’ game-tying goal would send this afternoon tilt into overtime. It seemed like Detroit could not get things set in the face-off dot, which is usually a bad omen when you’re playing three-on-three hockey against a team like the Lightning. Detroit was real close at one point to a prime scoring chance but the play was nixed by a tripping penalty from Tyler Bertuzzi. It was at that moment that I think we all knew where this was going.
Detroit’s penalty kill actually performed pretty well until Brayden Point ended it at 2:32. A deflating end to what should have been big home win for Detroit.
Some positives but also ugly negatives
I’ll start with the good news.. It appears that Alex Nedeljkovic has found his groove again. He’s been playing his ass off and Saturday afternoon’s game was no different. Moritz Seider played great as per usual, but this game in particular. The dude played a shift that was over four minutes. That’s wild for any defenseman, let alone a 20-year-old rookie. The Nick Leddy trade looks real good after this game. I think Jake Walman is a stud and Oskar Sundqvist has added some beef and complimentary scoring.
The bad news is that the power play is bland. There is no reason a team with the talent that Detroit has should be going 0-for-5 in a game. That’s simply unacceptable and it falls on coaching. No adjustments, no creativity, no resolve. It’s like we’ve been trapped in special teams purgatory for years and I feel it will stay that way until we see a complete upheaval of the Red Wings coaching staff.
Not much time for rest. The Red Wings are back in action Sunday afternoon in Pittsburgh against a pretty damn good Penguins team. Puck drop is at 5pm on Bally Plus.