During a span of 3 minutes 2 seconds Friday night, the Detroit Red Wings completely changed their 2020-21 fortunes.
Down 2-0 to the Columbus Blue Jackets, Joseph Veleno, Danny DeKeyser and Jabuk Vrana strung together goals in short second-period work, leading the Red Wings to a 5-2 victory, vaulting them into seventh place in the Central Division.
Now, can they remain?
With the regular-season finale scheduled for 7 p.m. tonight at Nationwide Arena, the Red Wings (19-27-9) lead the Blue Jackets by (17-26-12) by one point. Without the trio’s offensive flurry Friday, the Blue Jackets could have clinched seventh place and the Red Wings could have improved their draft lottery odds.
Fighting for a contract extension, coach Jeff Blashill remained focused on avoiding another last-place finish. Before COVID-19 shut down the 2019-20 campaign, the Red Wings were, by far, the worst team in the NHL.
“Would I like to look at the standings and see us ahead of Columbus? Yeah. For sure,” Blashill said via Red Wings TV. “Would our players like to see that? For sure.”
Following Friday’s win, the Red Wings’ odds for landing the No. 1 overall draft pick stood at 7.5 percent, according to tankathon.com.
With the potential of another win Saturday, those odds could fall.
"“Would I like to look at the standings and see us ahead of Columbus? Yeah. For sure.” – Red Wings Coach Jeff Blashill"
Fans like seeing the organization’s depth developing at the NHL level.
They like seeing Veleno scoring his first NHL goal, Mathias Brome earning his first NHL assist, and Vrana and Richard Panik, the two NHL players the franchise received in exchange for Anthony Mantha at the trade deadline, connecting on the game-winner
The first or fourth overall pick – or whatever – will be determined.
Tonight, the rookies are eying another offensive flurry or two during their final battle for seventh place.
Red Wings Rookies in Reserve
It’ll be interesting to see which rookie forwards dress tonight.
Brome and Givani Smith competed Friday in favor of Evgeny Svechnikov.
Despite a team-low 12:57 time on the ice Friday, Brome earned his second point in 25 games with the Red Wings, his first since March 9.
Smith had three first-period SOG and shared the team-lead of two hits with Michael Rasmussen.
Meanwhile, Svechnikov has three goals among seven points in 20 games.
An unrestricted free agent after today, goalie Jonathan Bernier is expected to get the start tonight. He should be a top priority to re-sign this offseason. … Under contract for 2021-22, goalie Thomas Greiss has earned at least one point in his past nine starts (6-0-3). … Veleno’s power-play goal was just the second the Red Wings have scored with the man-advantage since April 12.