Physical Minnesota Wild too much for the banged-up Detroit Red Wings

Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports
Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports /

The Detroit Red Wings landed in Minnesota hoping to snap a three-game winless streak, but it would be tough without captain Dylan Larkin who suffered a hand injury Tuesday night. Larkin took a shot off the hand similar to Tyler Bertuzzi late in the first period against the Carolina Hurricanes. Larkin returned for the second period but did not return for the third frame. Detroit would fall to the Wild 4-1.

In addition to Bertuzzi, the Detroit Red Wings are without a plethora of top-nine forwards, including Jakub Vrana, Robby Fabbri, and Filip Zadina. Entering the night, Detroit had been without Olli Maatta due to illness. Maatta was recently put on injured reserve (IR). It’s a tough loss for the Detroit Red Wings. Maatta had been playing exceptionally well paired with Filip Hronek this season. Hronek leads Detroit’s defense in scoring, notching 24 points in 29 games.

Speaking of Hronek. The first period of Wednesday night’s game began with a bang. Literally. Power forward Ryan Reaves caught Hronek with his head down as he tried to exit the defensive zone and leveled the 25-year-old defender. Hronek had been looking over his left shoulder as a Minnesota Wild forechecker lingered but failed to notice the heat-seeking missile set to seek and destroy, barring down on him.

Detroit Red Wings defenseman Filip Hronek would not return.

Following the hit, the four officials got together and determined this was a legal hit, and no penalty would be assessed on the play. It most defiantly wasn’t a squeaky clean hit. Reaves had Hronek lined up from center ice, and the initial contact was to Hronek’s head, not shoulder or any other part of the body. The NHL, like most leagues, is putting extra focus on head injuries and targeting a player’s head. I am not sure how this was not, at the very least, a two-minute charging penalty. Shortly after this, Lucas Raymond barely touched a Wild player that fell. Raymond was called for a tripping penalty. If you were watching the game, you could only snicker. The NHL has become exceptionally inconsistent with what they call a penalty and with what plays they determine require a suspension.

If you are not bothered by the hit. That is fine. I can genuinely say I was more disappointed with the lack of response from the Red Wings players on the ice. Someone needs to drop the mitts with Reeves. Jake Walman asked what Reaves took in his coffee, but nothing more. The game was on TNT, and commentator Eddie Olczyk quickly told a story about Bob Probert wanting to fight goaltender Ken Wregget. Olczyk mentioned he had been the last player exiting the zone and felt obligated to circle back and help his netminder. Olczyk admitted that it wasn’t much of a fight, and Probert tuned him up but said sometimes a player needs to step up in certain situations even if they’re going to take their lumps.

The Red Wings, already without Maatta, lost Hronek for the remainder of the game. Midway through the second period, Reeves laid a clean hit on Gustav Lindstrom in Detroit’s defensive zone to the left of goaltender Magnus Hellberg prompting Ben Chiarot to confront Reaves and drop the gloves. It wasn’t much of a fight, but the Detroit Red Wings needed someone to step up and respond to Reeves; kudos to Chiarot.

The Detroit Red Wings couldn’t get anything going against the physical Minnesota Wild.

As you can see from the video post above, the Wild were dawning their reverse retro jersey’s against the Red Wings. It almost felt like we should be watching Mike Modano, Brian Bellows, Neal Broten, or Dino Ciccarelli out there taking shifts.

Detroit did not have its legs early on. They’d finish the first period being outshot 7-3 and trailing on the scoreboard 1-0 behind a power play goal from Frederick Gaudreau. Gaudreau pulled off a little toe drag from the top of the circles and picked the top corner with a slick shot as the screen set up in front of Hellberg. Matthew Dumba scored his third goal of the season midway through the second period giving the Wild a 2-0 lead.

Late in the second period, the recently recalled Elmer Soderblom forced an offensive zone turnover with a tremendous forecheck. A few moments later, he was rewarded for his work on a nice give-and-go with Adam Erne. Soderblom netted his third goal of the season, making it 2-1 Wild. A mere 16 seconds later, Mats Zuccarello got it right back for Minnesota, scoring his tenth goal of the season.

The third period was very uneventful. The Detroit Red Wings trailing by two, couldn’t muster much of anything in the way of offensive zone chances. Detroit pulled Hellberg with roughly three minutes left in the period down two hoping to cut into the Wild lead. Eventually, Frederick Gaudreau scored his second of the night, hitting the gaping net with an attempt from his own zone.

Next. Red Wings Blue Line Report. dark

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The Detroit Red Wings are really struggling. The Red Wings were only able to total 17 shots on net Wednesday night, going 0-3 on the power-play. It’s just not good enough.

Not only are they missing their captain, but also Hronek and Maatta not on the ice revealed the lack of depth on Detroit’s backend. Detroit did not lose because of Hellberg; the offense has dried up of late, and so have Detroit’s wins. Next up for the Detroit Red Wings are the Ottawa Senators Saturday at 1 pm Est. in Detroit; hopefully, we will have an update on the health of both Larkin and Hronek sometime Thursday.