Much like the song “My Own Worst Enemy” by Lit floods my thoughts with nostalgia, as it was one of my late uncle’s favorite songs, Bally Sports Live before the Detroit Red Wings game did the same.
Hockey is a bittersweet thing.
Seeing Danny Dekeyser sitting next to John Keating for Red Wings Live on Bally Sports Detroit was a bit surreal. Dekeyser looked the part, not missing a beat as he and Keating played off of each other well. Having Luke Glendening opposing the Detroit Red Wings only compounded these feelings.
The biggest opportunity Dekeyser cited for the Red Wings before Sunday’s game was to get rubber on the net.
With Andrei Vasilevskiy in net, it’s an opportunity that needed to come to fruition. Per Keating in Red Wings Live, Vasilevskiy was 14-2-0 against the Red Wings.
Detroit Red Wings capped off sweet victory over Tampa Bay.
It’s a monumental task that was only heightened with the National Hockey League (NHL) standings race. The Red Wings were fifth in the Atlantic Division with 51 points in 45 games played. The Toronto Maple Leafs were fourth in the division with 52 points in 44 games played, and the Tampa Bay Lightning had 53 points in 46 games played as they sat in third place in the division.
Adding to the uphill climb, Ben Chiarot and Patrick Kane were out for the game. With the loss of Chiarot, Olli Määttä moved up in the lineup and was paired with Jeff Petry. As a Määttä stan, I was stoked for his opportunity.
Within the first two minutes of play, we had the privilege of watching Moritz Seider snuff out an offensive zone chance for the Lightning. Immediately, Seider turned the play up the ice, followed by an excellent scoring chance for the Red Wings.
Although the Lightning pushed offense, Alex Lyon stood tall and looked sharp.
Glendening’s line stopped a couple of great chances by J.T. Compher’s line.
Midway through the first period, the Lightning’s physical play picked up. They seemed to hit everyone in range.
Christian Fischer’s line earned the first extended zone time in about five minutes of play for the Red Wings. In my opinion, this line doesn’t get enough love and set the tone for the remainder of the game.
This might seem like an odd statement, as the Lightning scored at the 8:45 mark in the first period. Keeping Victor Hedman, Brayden Point, and Nikita Kucherov off the scoresheet is no easy task. These three connected for a fancy goal.
The shift following the Lightning goal, the Red Wings pressed in the offensive zone but came up just short.
Around six minutes left in the first, Fischer’s line had the longest offensive zone time for the Red Wings in the game thus far. It was reminiscent of a power play, even if they didn’t get on the scoresheet.
The Red Wings’ shifts following seemed inspired, and the Red Wings continued to push for offense. Vasilevskiy stood tall, not allowing many rebounds.
As it turned out, the only way to break through on Vasilevskiy was to have Vasilevskiy put the puck in his own net, courtesy of a Lucas Raymond shot.
The Red Wings’ captain, Dylan Larkin, who at times is poetry in motion at times, created space for Raymond. Larkin dragged two Lightning players closer to Vasilevskiy before passing it back to Raymond. Raymond used the opportunity to fire a shot on net that took a funny bounce behind Vasilevskiy. Attempting to bat the puck away, Vasilevskiy inadvertently put the puck in his own net.
I’d argue, none of this happens without Fischer and his line on their previous shifts.
After the first period, the Red Wings had 12 shots on goal, while they held the Lightning to five shots on goal. The shots on goal don’t explain the whole picture, though, as the first period had two halves. The beginning part of the first, the Lightning seemed to take play to the Red Wings. Later on, after the extended shift in the offensive zone by Fischer’s line, the Red Wings played like a different game.
Per NaturalStatTrick, the Red Wings finished the first period with a Corsi for percentage (CF%) of 70.59% and an expected goals for percentage (GF%) of 74.89%. Also, the Red Wings owned 75% of high danger chances for percentage (HDCF%).
Safe to say, the Red Wings created chances and looked to carry the same level of play into the second period.
After consistently watching Lyon, I think his puck tracking is elite. Time and again, he displayed his excellent puck-tracking abilities against the Lightning.
At one point, Larkin connected with Fischer for a great scoring chance. It makes me wonder if a line of Larkin, Raymond, and Fischer might be fun. Not that Larkin’s line needs a shake-up; they have looked great, but I’m always looking for new lineup construction. Plus, Pavel Datsyuk loved his piano pullers, and I reckon Larkin would feel the same way.
Around 17:50 left in the second period, the Lightning’s tempers flared. Too shy to go after Andrew Copp from the front side, Copp was hit from behind, but Copp seemed to be okay afterward.
Raymond had a beautiful breakaway. Possibly borrowing a page from Kane’s book created a tremendous chance that came up just short of a goal. Regardless, it’s fun to watch Raymond try to emulate someone like Kane on the ice anyway.
Daniel Sprong must have listened to Dekeyser on Red Wings Live as shoot, he has all game. Sprong had a beautiful breakaway with an equally beautiful finish for his 30th point of the season. Against arguably the best goaltender in the National Hockey League (NHL), Sprong’s shot froze his opponent. Of course, it might have helped to have Kane spilling Vasilevskiy’s weakness.
Austin Watson high stuck Shayne Gostisbehere, leading to a power play for the Red Wings.
With the game’s first power play, the Red Wings looked sharp. Raymond is taking the next step in his development, demonstrated by his ability to run the power play. He seemed to be everywhere all at once, which was incredibly fun to see.
On a would be breakaway, Glendening tripped Sprong.
The best chance for the Red Wings, after the Sprong beauty of a goal, the best chance for the Red Wings Aftercame from Raymond on the goal line on the power play. Instead of hitting the back of the net, the puck bounced off Vasilevskiy’s best friend (the post) and stayed out.
Vasilevskiy said no dice, so the Red Wings were kept off the scoresheet on their power plays.
With under 10 seconds left in the second period, Seider crunched an unsuspecting Lightning player, which is always a fun thing to see (so long as no one gets injured).
With a commanding 30 to 10 shot lead, the Red Wings continued to drive play in period two. As illustrated by George Malik:
In terms of advanced analytics, after two periods of play, the Red Wings possessed a 71.23% CF%, an 86.78% GF%, and an 84.62% HDCF%.
With 16:45 left in the third, the Red Wings go to their first penalty kill of the game. Daniel Sprong hooked Austin Watson.
A chaotic penalty kill led to a communal effort between Lyon, Seider, and Walman to maintain the lead.
As expected, the Lightning turned things up a notch and came in waves at the Red Wings throughout the third period. Lyon and company stood tall, making huge stops, and the ending plays before they led to a goal.
After a great scoring chance, the Red Wings lost the puck and offensive zone in exchange for an extended period in the defensive zone. The only prize the Red Wings got was a penalty to Jake Walman for high-sticking Brandon Hagel.
Quite possibly, the Jeff Petry had a game-saving play. In the defensive zone along the boards, he took his man out, keeping both his man and the puck in front of him (on the right side of the play). Even though it was a simple play, it illustrated the smart plays the Red Wings made all night long.
The cherry on top was the best duo striking again. Seider and Lyon took turns staving off the Lightning in the fading seconds of the Red Wings win on Sunday night.
Lyon is a clear number-one goalie with elite puck-tracking abilities and an even better personality. If he were on the Lightning, Leafs, or Blackhawks, he would get national coverage and even flirting with Vezina consideration. For context, in the third period, the Red Wings had five shots on goal in the third period. Meanwhile, Lyon stopped a whopping 18 shots on goal in the third period, which was eight more shots than the first and second periods combined. Lyon played incredible. He went from not facing much from the beginning of the first period to almost nonstop shots. Lyon was essentially a lightning rod throughout the third period.
After the most convincing win all season, which came at the most opportune time, the Red Wings should be putting other teams on notice but still seem to fly under the radar. That’s okay; we all might prefer it that way. Who wants to be a media darling anyway?
As incredible as Seider, Lyon, and Larkin were all game, I can’t help but think that Fischer was the catalyst for the game. He created the spark that the Red Wings needed to secure their place in the Atlantic Division race.