Special teams have been the main source of the Detroit Red Wings struggles early this season, and Sunday night in Chicago was no different.
Former Norris Trophy winner Duncan Keith opened the scoring a mere two minutes and twenty-four seconds into the opening frame on a Blackhawks powerplay – but even worse than the Red Wings’ play on the penalty kill was their handling of the man-advantage. They went 0 for 6 on the powerplay tonight with only 5 shots, bringing their total to a pathetic 2 for 26 – good for last in the league.
Detroit still managed to generate offense, however, outshooting the Hawks by a margin of 30-27. Johan Franzen, after taking a vicious spear from Dave Bolland earlier in the tilt, created a great chance off of a spin-o-rama cross-ice pass, then drove the net to bang a pass from Henrik Zetterberg home for his first goal of the season, evening the score early in the third period.
Despite keeping the puck in Chicago’s zone for almost the entire rest of the game, Detroit could not manage to get past Corey Crawford and a stellar Blackhawks defense, which includes the likes of Keith, Brent Seabrook, Johnny Oduya, and Niklas Hjalmarsson. Detroit’s inability to convert despite superior shot and puck-possession numbers would come back to haunt them in overtime, when Damien Brunner accidentally tipped a shot from Chicago’s Nick Leddy past Jimmy Howard and into the Detroit goal, ending the game two minutes and forty-five seconds into the extra period.
Detroit now stands at 2-2-1 with five points, keeping them at a disappointing fourth in the Central Division.
- The Mule was finally playing angry; and as we all know, an angry Franzen is a good Franzen. He has the ability to completely control a game when he wants to – maybe the Wings should start paying the opposing team to spear him on a game-in, game-out basis..
- Filppula looks like Datsyuk Jr. Quick, creative, and calm, he’s starting to make plays that leave me shaking my head. He’ll become a first line center sooner rather than later.
- Brian Lashoff. He’s not Nick Lidstrom, and he’ll never be anything close to that. However, he helps fill the void rather well: he provides a calm, no-frills/no-mistakes presence that is very solid defensively and can make a good first pass. His solidarity helps offset the dynamic but somewhat risky play style of Brendan Smith, who, by the way, I also really liked tonight. Two rookies who should be a staple of Detroit’s defense corps for years to come.
- Worst. Powerplay. Ever. Sloppy passes, overthinking, slow skating and losing the battles…if you watch the games, it’s surprising that Detroit even has two powerplay goals on the season. This needs to change, and fast, or Detroit’s going to be on the outside looking in come April.
- Detroit’s bottom six, outside of Abdelkader and Tootoo, did little to impress me this game. Granted they were missing Helm, but someone else needs to step up and be a high-energy presence. Depth wins games, and the Wings definitely have it – on paper. But if the third and fourth forward lines don’t start making a difference, the offense is going to continue to get shut down.
- Slow starts. The Wings remain the only team without a goal in the first period, and it may have been the reason they lost tonight. They keep digging holes for themselves that they can’t climb out of, no matter how well they play in the next two periods. Starting a game 1/3 of the way through is not the way to win in this league, especially in a shortened season – every second, every shot, and every loose puck battle counts so much more when there’s only 48 games to be played.
- I know there was no penalty on the play, but Shanahan really needs to look at Dave Bolland’s spear of Johan Franzen. What caught my eye was the fact that Bolland hit Franzen with his stick TWICE, in the SAME PLACE. Clearly wasn’t an accident or an attempt to block Franzen from the puck – Bolland was five feet away from him the whole time. A despicable play.
- Damien Brunner clearly still needs some time to adjust. He didn’t handle Chicago’s extra coverage of him well in the offensive zone, and was a downright liability in his own end. Don’t get me wrong, I think the guy’s a star – I just think he needs a few more games to really come into his own. Hey, the longer he takes to adjust, the cheaper he’ll be next season…
- Howard was great. He’s been great all season – the poor guy is just being left out to dry. My question regards how long he can keep this up – he’ll get tired eventually, and if Gustavsson doesn’t heal up soon, Detroit will have more problems on the back end than just the defense (read: I don’t like Thomas McCollum).