Recap: Chicago smokes Detroit out of the LCA, 5-1

A good game for people who love bad games.

Chicago came to town still smarting about the 4-0 licking Detroit gave them earlier in the month. Chicago ended up paying Detroit back by equal measure with a 5-1 victory. Which was terrible. Read on if you love Classic Greek Tragedies, Exercises in Futility, or just general melancholy. Yayyy!

First Period

The Wings and Hawks opened the evening with a little back and forth of either end. Chicago tried getting the puck down low and back out to the point while the Wings focused more on moving the puck laterally in front of the net to create space. The Wings looked the more dangerous squad in the early going, but Chicago did their thing, got the puck back up near the dot on Howard’s left, and Alex DeBrincat fired a wrister past Howard to make the game 1-0 Chicago with 16:41 remaining in the period. Crapspackle.

One thing that really stood out early in the period was how much Tomas Jurco’s fourth line hemmed in Luke Witkowski’s unit (yes, there are many players who could claim ownership of the unit, but I’ll attribute it to Witkowski this time around. For reasons.) Howard eventually made a stop to get a face off, but Chicago’s Anthony Duclair snapped it past him on a clean face off win to make it 2-0 Chicago, and the game verged on getting ugly really fast.

Then, less than a minute later, the Hawks broke up the Wings’ attempt to lug the puck through the neutral zone and created a 2 on 1 for themselves. Hinostroza found the puck on his stick and launched another puck past Howard to make it 3-0 Chicago.

After going three into the hole, Blashill pulled Howard and put in Mrazek. The Wings seemed to respond well; Nyquist and Tatar each created a high quality chance, but when you’re losing 3-0, nobody feels good about creating a good chance that doesn’t put a puck in the net.

With 4 minutes left in the period and nothing of note to discuss, the NBCSN crew brought up the Wings’ attempts to retool on the fly, but I imagine that tune may change once the trade deadline passes. Turgeon’s continued appearance in the lineup would suggest that perhaps the Red Wings’ front office is “seeing what they have.”

In the closing minutes the Wings’ top two lines looked solid; Larkin set up a really nice opportunity for Bertuzzi, but Bert fanned on it. Gotta hope that’s not getting into the kid’s head. The Red Wings went in the locker room hoping Franzen carved a solution into one of the bathroom stalls, because whatever they were trying to do in that period, especially in their own end, was an overwhelming failure, save for a few bright moments in the opening and closing minutes.

Score: 3-0 Chicago

Fathead Players: Larkin, Tatar

Dartboard Players: Ouelett, Howard, Ouelett, Witkowski, Ouelett

Second Period

With the way the second period started, I somehow doubt Franzen scratched anything useful into the stall wall. In fact, things looked pretty bad in the opening moments. Just over two minutes in, Frans Nielsen nailed the post with a shot. It was the second post of the night, and Anton Forseberg could probably be found by that post a drink somewhere in Detroit after the game.

Chicago kind of scored another goal just under five minutes into the period, but it was only because Anthony Duclair was inside the net, presumably turning Mrazek’s net into a fort.

Mrazek later made a good stop against Duclair, who must be having a great game if I’m typing his name so damn much. Gets annoying. But it raises a point that Mrazek had a pretty solid game, and while he didn’t witness the defensive lapses that Howard did, he played a good game.

Immediately after I finished typing that, DeBrincat and Toews played hot potato with the puck on the break away and cut up four Red Wings to make it 4-0 Blackhawks. Still though, it was more of a defensive breakdown than a misplay on Mrazek’s end. It was the first point in oh-I-don’t-give-a-damn-how-many-games for Toews. What matters is that the drought ended against the Wings, and it sucks.

The first penalty of the night came against Kronwall behind the Wings’ net for interference against Hinostroza. Larkin used his speed to make the Blackhawks’ top power play unit look stupid for a solid thirty seconds in what was some of the flashiest penalty killing I’ve seen all season. The Hawks couldn’t even establish control in the Wings’ zone until they only had 45 seconds left in the penalty. Twenty seconds later, the puck was cleared out of the zone without a shot against. Honestly, it was probably the most impressive part of the Wings game during the night.

The period closed out with some back and forth at each end. Mrazek made a pair of great stops against the Hawks, then Glendening couldn’t finish a great opportunity. A tough period for Detroit. Time for a palette cleanser or some Franzen Bathroom Wisdom. One or the other. I’d honestly take either.

Score: 4-0 Chicago

Fathead Players: Mrazek, Zetterberg, Larkin

Dartboard Players: There are about 8 players playing about as well as cold oatmeal at this point. Take your pick.

Third Period

Usually, after a bad period or periods, the losing team comes out of the locker room charging hard and tilts the ice to their benefit. The winning team then has to weather a storm until they can size up the adjustments made by the losers and then make their own adjustments. But the losers in this game came out flat in both the second and third period. It was a pretty serious buzzkill, because as a fan watching the game it’s always like “Okay, new period. Get a goal in the first two minutes and its a whole new hockey game.” In this matchup against the Hawks, the start of each period beat like a drum as if to say “This is the same unfortunate hockey game you’ve been watching for the past two hours.” Maybe the worst part was being forced to listen to the Blackhawks playoffs (maybe?) narrative while a bunch of unremarkable hockey went on  at the LCA.

Second penalty of the night also went against the Wings, a Tatar hooking penalty, and normally you might say the reffing standard is really out of whack to think any team has played sinless hockey for so long, but it really was a clean game, which in a way was cool to see. Except the whole ‘Wings getting destroyed’ thing. The penalty kill wasn’t as sexy as the first, but Athanasiou did spring for a breakaway before launching the puck high above net.

Throughout the period Larkin’s line created some good opportunities and also got hemmed a couple times. The Zetterberg line played solidly, and the Nielsen line did well. Frk and Turgeon barely saw the light of day. But a routine issue was the middle and bottom defense pairings; the Wings’ forwards just couldn’t overcome the issues created by those four players and, at times, the kid line.

The Hawks finally went to the box with under five minutes left. Zetterberg had a great feed to Frk that was stopped by the flash of the leather the first time, but on the second attempt a handful of seconds later, the rebound popped out to Kronwall at the blueline, who shuffled the puck to Zetterberg, who sent it to Mantha, who flipped it into the Hawks net to make it 4-1 Chicago. Zetterberg’s assist on the goal moved him into a tie for fifth all time assists for Detroit, tied with none other than Pavel Datsyuk.

Blashill pulled Mrazek with over two minutes to go, which was the right decision when a team is down by three goals. Unfortunately, it allowed Alex DeBrincat to score into the empty net and finish his hat trick with 18 seconds left to seal Detroit’s fate, 5-1 Chicago.

Score: 5-1 Chicago

Fathead Players: Mrazek, Zetterberg’s Line

Dartboard Players: Ouelett, Jensen

Final Thoughts

Ughhhhhhhh. Chicago took avantage, Detroit couldn’t overcome its flaws, and it also couldn’t buy a goal. Three posts! Nyquist, Nielsen, and Mantha all hit posts! The Wings didn’t play good enough to win, but they played good enough to make it a closer game than the score suggested. Still, when the best we can say is “It really should have been 5-3” then we’re really adjusting our expectations low.