Red Wings Look Lifeless in Shelling by Habs, Lose 8-1

Wings fall flat in first game following trade deadline

Tonight the Wings squared off with the Canadiens having to reshuffle their lineup following the trade deadline. The big deadline move for the Wings was shipping Nyquist off to San Jose despite knowing his fear of Sharks.

Losing Nyquist left a big hole in the Wings lineup, particularly a spot on Larkin’s wing. The other update was Vanek and Daley both would miss this game with injuries. Practice comments indicated Larkin would center Helm and Mantha while Zadina would slot onto the wing with Athanasiou and Bertuzzi. The other update from Blashill was that Athanasiou would be playing significant time at center for the remainder of the season. With the Wings depleted roster, Witkowski drew back into the lineup, this time at forward after an extended absence from any game action. With Daley’s last minute scratch, Ericsson who appeared to be a healthy scratch earlier in the day moved into his spot to play alongside the newly acquired Bowey.

Howard returned to his spot between the pipes after missing some time with the flu. Carey Price got the start for the Canadiens. One player to keep an eye on for the Habs in this one was Max Domi who is having a career year after his move to Montreal. Another one to note is a familiar face in Tomas Tatar who has raced out to 21 goals and 46 points in 62 games.

Was this stripped and rebuilt roster able to steal a win from the wildcard Canadiens for the first time in 8 matchups?

1st Period

Nielsen opened with Glendening and Rasmussen on his wings. The first couple of shifts were uneventful as the teams started to feel each other out. Witkowski didn’t take long to make his presence felt throwing a big hit at the Red Wings bench on his first shift less than 3:00 into the game. Early in this one it was evident Zadina was putting an emphasis on establishing himself on a physical level in the NHL throwing a few hits. But as this game ticked into the mid section of the first period, it was Tatar who found himself with a break after getting open behind Hronek on a high flip pass. Hronek pursued and put an aggressive hook on Tatar resulting in what can be assumed was going to be a penalty shot. However Tatar was able to recover the puck and make a move to his forehand side before a lunging Howard could poke it away. Tatar slid it into the open net, 1-0 Habs.

Shortly after the goal, Bertuzzi made a hard drive to the net then slid a pass in front to where he anticipated Zadina would be following up. But Zadina drove to the far post rather than the top of the crease and the puck drifted by. This is just evidence that the new line mates will take some time to feel each other out as can be expected. After one of the commercial breaks FSD cut to a Kronwall hits package to highlight his bobblehead night. Boy, the man can still throw one hell of a hit.

Glendening came very close on a chance created by a Rasmussen forecheck behind the net that knocked a puck loose. Glendening grabbed the puck and attempted to tuck it in around the post with Price facing the wrong side but he couldn’t quite jam it in. By the halfway point of the period the Canadiens were outshooting Detroit 4-1. Howard withstood a bit of a flurry of in front of him having to move side to side constantly before being able to freeze a puck and relieve the pressure.

Witkowski came close to laying another big hit deep in the Habs zone as the defender attempted to clear the zone from the circle to the right of the price. His shoulder popped up just missing his target and honestly it may have been for the best as the point of contact could well have been the head. It took until there was close to 4:00 remaining for the Wings to get their second shot on Price. But it was a good one as Mantha made a nice delayed zone entry backhand pass to Larkin at the blueline. The puck worked back to the point where the shot was made to Price’s blocker side but he was quick to steer the shot away.

With 2:30 to play the Habs picked up a penalty on a Byron trip of DeKeyser behind the Wings net. The call was a bit soft but DeKeyser did go down as a result of the tap to his feet. The Wings rolled out their new powerplay unit featuring Hronek at the point, Rasmussen at the net, Larkin working the slot, and AA with Mantha working the half boards. The unit was on the ice for almost the entire powerplay keeping good pressure throughout. They moved the puck probably a bit too slow but were methodical in doing so getting Mantha a good shooting opportunity with Rasmussen screening. Just as time was expiring on the powerplay Athanasiou took a high stick to put the Wings back on the powerplay with 0:18 to go.  The replay showed AA definitely embellished the call as it caught him in the shoulder and after a moment he threw his head back. The action drew the ire of Mickey and Ken who frown upon such tactics. The Wings carried the powerplay into the 2nd period as time expired.

Bowey in his first action since being added to the Wings didn’t show much to notice but as the sentiment goes that’s usually a good thing for a defenseman. He made some simple outlet passes which is a perfectly fine start for the young defender looking for a reset in Detroit. Zadina may have gone unnoticed by most but his effort was evident trying to streak to openings through the neutral zone to get open for passes, but his touches were limited or at least seemed that way. He did manage a shot to close the opening period as well. The Wings only managed 5 shots in the period and were going to have to step it up moving forward in this one.

2nd Period

As noted the Wings opened the 2nd period on the powerplay for a phantom high stick call. The same powerplay unit sent out to close the first period started this period. After once again establishing good offensive zone possession, the best chance came on a Mantha pass through the slot to Athanasiou. AA had to double clutch on the pass before shovelling it toward the net where Larkin and Rasmussen crashed the crease. Rasmussen picked up the loose puck in traffic and tried to scoop a backhand shot in, but the puck narrowly caught Price’s shoulder. The Wings could not capitalise on the powerplay chance and went back to even strength. Shortly after the penalty expired, Domi jumped on a turnover in the neutral zone, gained the Wings zone and pulled up at the half boards. He flipped a pass across the circle that bounced past the intended target but did find its way to Shaw who swatted the bouncing puck toward the net. The shot came off his stick awkwardly enough that it eluded Howard back to the far post and found the back of the net, 2-0 Habs.

Despite closing the shot gap to two, the Wings weren’t generating good scoring chances. It was the AA, Bertuzzi, Zadina combination that finally gained some sustained pressure for the Wings at even strength. The three showed some good creativity moving the puck around trying to find an opening, with Zadina following Bertuzzi’s lead on the forecheck effort. Just past the halfway mark of the game it was the Larkin line getting a chance when Larkin took a pass at the blue line to gain the zone. He touched a pass to Helm who flew through the zone with speed. Helm tested Price with a shot from the left circle that Price couldn’t corral the rebound right away. Larkin came close to jamming the rebound in but Price found it first.

But shortly later, the Habs started a quick breakout and Gallagher streaked down the right side. After looking for a pass he elected to keep the puck toe dragging it across the top of the faceoff circle and letting a shot go that used Hronek as a crossing screen in front of Howard. The shot beat him low just over his pad to the far side that was a tough stop to make, 3-0 Habs.

With 7:00 to play Howard got flattened a bit after Shaw tried to cut out to front of the net from behind the goal line and was subsequently pushed on top of a sprawled Howard. Howard did not leave the game and appeared to be unharmed by the play. On the next play it was the Athanasiou line buzzing again as a turnover at the Wings blue line resulted in a Bertuzzi and AA two on one with AA carrying the puck into the zone. The defender leaned towards Bertuzzi but Athanasiou tried to force a pass across that bounced away from Bertuzzi. The play was then sent to Zadina who missed the net with a shot from the slot. That was probably one AA wanted back to shoot instead, particularly since on the ensuing rush the other way Montreal’s Drouin found a trailing Domi in the high slot who used the traffic crossing in front of Howard to beat him with a shot to the blocker side that Howard never even reacted to, 4-0 Habs.

The gap continued to grow for the Wings as shortly after that goal as on an absolutely terrible play the Habs had the puck at the top of the zone and four Wings players occupied the lane to the net but nobody tied up Armia on the far side at the bottom of the circle, who promptly one timed the pass from the point to the back of the net, 5-0 Habs, mercy...

Mercifully with 1:44 to play the Wings gained the offensive zone and Green ended up with the puck at the point after it was cycled around the zone. He put a shot towards the net that was deflected by a Montreal defender. The puck bounced it’s way to Mantha at the far side of the crease who had a tap-in to an open net to put the Wings on the board, 5-1.

But the enthusiasm was short lived as with 0:42 to play, the Wings turned the puck over behind their own net when Green reversed the puck but his partner was nowhere to be found. Domi grabbed the puck in the corner and quickly threw it to the front of the net for Shaw who redirected it behind Howard, 6-1 Habs.

The Wings did get another powerplay just before the period expired that would carry into what one can only assume would be the final period.

3rd Period

Bernier came out to start the 3rd period providing relief for Howard who was left out to dry by his team. The Wings came out with the powerplay to open the period but looked completely lost barely ever gaining offensive zone possession until the last 30 seconds of the advantage. Not long after the penalty expired, Drouin flipped a backhand pass to Domi at the Detroit blue line and Domi had the defenders beat. Domi streaked in and made a move to his backhand and beat an outstretched Bernier, 7-1 Habs.

If you were still watching at this point, thanks for not leaving me alone.

This game proceeded through the middle section of the last period about how you would expect one with a score like this to go. Both teams seemed to check out and start moving on the next one and not much being done by either in the offensive zone. The most notable play may have been an almost-shot by Athanasiou after receiving a pass from Zadina and then attempting to deke his way through to a dangerous shooting position. But the puck was knocked away before he could get his shot off. Domi made an attempt for the hat trick after Nielsen lost his stick in the neutral zone which left Domi one on one with Green. Domi tried to burn past Green and did manage to get a step on him to the outside but Bernier was able to snag his shot attempt from the hash mark.

If you were looking for a silver lining of some sort. If we can even call it that, the Wings to this point with only 6:00 remaining had not receiving a single penalty in this one. But that came to and end when Kulak forced Larkin into a fight by chasing him around the corner in the Habs zone. First off, who is Kulak, hands up if you’ve heard of him? He manhandled Larkin repeatedly until he engaged him finally. Not sure where the referees were on this. Larkin did give him a whack a few shifts earlier after the two had an exchange but it wasn’t much of one.

Oh, yeah the Habs scored again to give Shaw his first career hat trick..., 8-1 Habs.

The Wings got a powerplay to wrap up the game after Hronek was boarded heavily. They had a few chances to try to grab another goal culminating with Athanasiou missing an open net tap in with 0:10 to play.

Wrapping Up

The Wings were dreadful throughout this one looking like a lifeless bunch following the trade deadline. One can only hope this is a one off rather than what we can expect for the remainder of the season. It’s probably not fair to single anyone out especially after a performance like that but Hronek had a particularly tough game. It seemed like whenever he got out of position or made a questionable play it ended up in the net. Tough night for the young defenseman and hopefully it doesn’t knock him off what has been a good showing until tonight. This one is essentially a throw away and hopefully results in a strong effort on Saturday night against Arizona.