Detroit Red Wings finish regular season strong with 3-0 win against St. Louis Blues


Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The Detroit Red Wings seemingly had nothing to play for Sunday against the St. Louis Blues as their 2-1 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday coupled with the Columbus Blue Jackets’ 3-2 win against the Florida Panthers on Saturday meant they were locked into the final wild-card spot.

As a result, coach Mike Babcock elected to rest Johan Franzen, Danny DeKeyser, Daniel Alfredsson and Niklas Kronwall in a 3-0 win against the Blues. With the loss, the Blues cannot win the Central Division and will face the Chicago Blackhawks in the first round of the playoffs. So, the Red Wings were playing for the chance to make the Blues’ lives miserable.

Mission accomplished.

Ryan Sproul made his NHL debut and became the ninth player to make his Red Wings debut this season joining Xavier Ouellet, Alexey Marchenko, Tomas Jurco, Adam Almquist, Luke Glendening, Teemu Pulkkinen, Mitch Callahan and Landon Ferraro.

Sproul looked very confident in his first NHL game jumping up in the play and playing with a lot of energy. He did get burned trying to defend Maxim Lapierre in the neutral zone, but that’ll happen to rookies as he learns when and when not to make aggressive moves.

Detroit played like this wasn’t a throw away game. Even though its first-round matchup with the Boston Bruins was predetermined Saturday, the Red Wings played with energy and did it without a good chunk of their veterans.

The Red Wings had a goal disallowed midway through the first period when Joakim Andersson gave Ryan Miller a stick tap giving the referees a reason to call goaltender interference, as Tomas Tatar ripped a shot in the top corner from the slot.

Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The Red Wings would get that goal back about four minutes later when Brian Lashoff took a shot from the point as it caromed off Justin Abdelkader and flipped over Miller’s shoulder to give Detroit a 1-0 lead.

The Red Wings continued to put the pressure on the Blues as Tatar was sprung for a breakaway, but Miller closed up the five hole and denied the young Slovakian.

Tatar had another breakaway in the third period, but Miller outwaited him, and Tatar never got a shot on goal.

Nyquist also got a breakaway opportunity in the third, but he deked himself out of a viable scoring chance.

With about 3:30 left in the second period, Riley Sheahan snapped a shot over the catching glove of Miller to make it 2-0. I had my doubts about Sheahan when he got called up this year, but he’s been a fantastic surprise with a good mix of size, physicality, a great set of hands and a nice wrister to boot.

The Blues couldn’t figure out Mrazek in the second period as he came up big on a 3-on-1 opportunity during a bad Red Wings line change.

If Mrazek hasn’t won you over before, he surely did after this game. He’s proven he is a competent goalie and should be Howard’s backup to begin the 2014-15 season.

He finished the 2013-14 season with a 2-4 record, 1.74 GAA, .927 save percentage and two shutouts.

Yeah, I’d say he’s ready.

The Red Wings face the Bruins on Friday in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Obviously, Pittsburgh would have been the ideal matchup, but the Red Wings have a shot to upset Boston.

Here’s a look at the first-round games with the first two being played in Boston, next two being played in Detroit and the remaining three games going back and forth from Boston to Detroit:

Detroit won the regular season series 3-1, including a 6-1 drubbing of the Bruins in late November before the injuries started to pile up.

Regular season games don’t mean a whole lot coming into the playoffs, but this definitely won’t be a cake walk for the Bruins.

The best time of the year is here: It’s playoff hockey.