Game 29: Red Wings-Philadelphia Enotes

Let’s hope that the Red Wings aren’t battling for their lives in the season’s final week, just to make the playoffs. Because if they are, tonight’s game against the Philadelphia Flyers at JLA is the kind of match that will cause the Detroiters to kick themselves.

A 3-1 lead midway through the second period looked promising, but then it all fell apart, and the Flyers scored five unanswered goals to win, 6-3.

In the third period, the Flyers pumped in three goals in about five minutes, two of them on the power play.

Jimmy Howard again played the role of bewildered net minder as the Red Wings’ four-game winning streak was snapped in perplexing and stunning fashion.

Tomas Tatar scored twice, living up to the praise damned upon him by NBCSN’s Keith Jones in the first intermission.

Johan Franzen scored the other Red Wings goal, blasting a slap shot from the top of the face-off circle past Steve Mason.

The Flyers scored an empty net goal with 59 seconds to play.

Howard let in five goals on 33 shots, again failing to make any significant saves of note.

Let’s hope this one doesn’t come back to haunt.

The Red Wings are 14-8-7.

BOX SCORE

BOTTOM LINE: The Flyers have been playing better as of late, but the Red Wings inexplicably let the momentum totally shift after going ahead 3-1.

THE WINGED WHEELER SAYS: The Flyers weren’t great, but for five minutes in the third period they left the Red Wings shell shocked. These stinkers are going to happen over the course of 82 games, but the timing is discouraging, coming right when you thought the Red Wings had gotten their act together. We’ll see if this is just a speed bump.

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Game 27: Red Wings-NY Islanders Enotes

Pavel who?

The Red Wings won their third straight game today—all without the injured Pavel Datsyuk—as they whitewashed the NY Islanders, 5-0, on Long Island.

Daniel Alfredsson and Darren Helm each scored twice, and Gustav Nyquist added a goal. Jimmy Howard made 29 saves.

Never has a player earned the No. 1 star quite like Helm did. His second goal was a shortie, and he was around the puck all game long.

The shorthanded goal was one of the most magnificent you’ll ever see.

Using his blazing speed, Helm outraced Radek Martinek to the puck at the Isles’ blue line, putting Helm on a collision course with NY goalie Kevin Poulin between the circles. Helm flipped into a partial somersault over Poulin’s right pad, tipping the puck in the process. The puck and Helm’s stick both ended up in the net.

It could have been a nightmare play, too. The way Helm’s legs hit Poulin’s pad was actually quite scary. And with Helm’s injury luck, you kind of held your breath. But he was fine, and the shortie gave the Red Wings a 2-0 lead at 16:49 of the second period.

Alfredsson’s first goal was a breakaway from the blue line, courtesy a nifty breakout pass from Brendan Smith that was threaded through sticks and skates from inside the Red Wings zone. Alfie buried a snap shot over Poulin’s left shoulder for a 3-0 lead 12 seconds into the third period.

Howard had to make a point blank stop with under a minute to play to salvage his shutout.

The line of Helm, Alfredsson and Johan Franzen was brilliant—combining for four goals and two assists.

The Red Wings (13-7-7) have their first three-game winning streak in a month.

BOX SCORE

BOTTOM LINE: Perhaps the Red Wings’ most complete game of the year. Hardly anything to complain about.

THE WINGED WHEELER SAYS: Coach Mike Babcock had a “doghouse” line of Stephen Weiss, Daniel Cleary and Mikael Samuelsson playing together. Cleary got an assist, on the Helm shortie. This was Red Wing hockey we all know and love: puck possession, hard on the puck in the attacking zone and strong goaltending when necessary—plus secondary scoring. Let’s see if this is the start of something good.

Game 26: Red Wings-Boston Enotes

The Red Wings, on this night before Thanksgiving, are thankful for the law of averages.

On a night when they were once again without Pavel Datsyuk due to concussion-like symptoms, the Red Wings steamrolled past the first-place Boston Bruins, 6-1, at JLA.

It was a night where the law of averages finally kicked in.

Just about everyone who scored snapped a goal-less streak of significance.

The Bruins only mustered 17 shots against goalie Jonas Gustavsson, and didn’t score until less than three minutes were remaining in the game.

Justin Abdelkader, Gustav Nyquist, Henrik Zetterberg, Niklas Kronwall, Drew Miller and Tomas Tatar were the goal scorers. All but Zetterberg and Nyquist needed a calendar to find their last goal scored.

The Red Wings swarmed the Boston zone, and even though the final SOG total of 28 was hardly Earth-shattering, the shots were often of the scoring quality variety. On many of the goals, the Bruins were out of position and goalie Tuukka Rask was left hung out to dry.

Gustavsson, despite not being tested all that much, was solid in net, as he started for the second straight game as coach Mike Babcock gave struggling Jimmy Howard a “breather.”

Gustavsson (6-0-1) remained undefeated this season.

His counterpart, Rask, had his worst game of the season, by far—but hardly any of the goals were really his fault. Rask’s teammates played like a team thinking more about turkey and dressing than picking up two points.

The Red Wings (12-7-7) have a modest two-game winning streak, something for which to be thankful, the way things have been going. And don’t look now, but that’s two wins in their past three games at home.

Hey, it’s a start.

BOX SCORE

BOTTOM LINE: For one night anyway, the Red Wings looked like the team that used to dominate opponents at JLA.

THE WINGED WHEELER SAYS: It is interesting that the Red Wings played like this in front of Gustavsson. This may be a coincidence, but when Howard has been in net, the entire team looks more tentative. Plus, it’s hard to ignore the goal tending numbers, specifically Gustavsson’s undefeated record.

Game 24: Red Wings-Ottawa Enotes

loser

Someone should tell the Red Wings that 40-foot slap shots aren’t going to get it done on a 5-on-3.

Actually, FSD’s Mickey Redmond tried to tell them that, but sadly Mickey’s pleas went unheard from up in the press box.

The Red Wings enjoyed three 5-on-3s, scored on one of them, but inexplicably refused to try anything down low on the other two, and eventually fell to the Ottawa Senators, 4-2 at JLA. Bobby Ryan’s power play goal on a 5-on-3 for Ottawa at 3:51 of the third period broke a 2-2 tie and proved to be the game winner.

The Senators (9-10-4) snapped a three-game losing streak. The Red Wings (10-7-7) fell back into the abyss after a win over Carolina on Thursday temporarily stopped their bleeding.

But it was maddening watching the Red Wings fire slap shot after slap shot at Ottawa goalie Robin Lehner, many with absolutely no traffic in front of the net. Lehner stopped all of them with ease.

Like so many home games this season, the Red Wings came out buzzing, recording the game’s first seven SOG. But despite a solid first period in which Detroit took a brief 1-0 lead, the Senators led 2-1 after 20 minutes and the Red Wings could never regain the lead.

Darren Helm (4) and Pavel Datsyuk (11) scored for Detroit.

Brendan Smith fought the good fight against Ottawa tough guy Chris Neil midway through the second period. Neil won the fight, but Smith got in a few decent punches.

Red Wings D Jakub Kindl left the game in the third period with an apparent injury.

The Wings kind of lost their composure in the final minutes, picking up a couple of slashing penalties—one by goalie Jimmy Howard, who had another “meh” game. Rarely did he make a big save.

The Sens’ second goal was flukey, pinballing off skates and sticks before eventually rolling behind the goal line off a Red Wings player.

If you’re a struggling team needing a win badly, you couldn’t ask for anything better than the Buffalo Sabres. The Red Wings travel to Buffalo for a 5:00 game on Sunday.

BOX SCORE

BOTTOM LINE: Coach Mike Babcock juggled lines looking for a spark, but the Red Wings’ offense was like a basketball team shooting 20-foot jumpers all night.

THE WINGED WHEELER SAYS: These are not your father’s Red Wings, sadly. Oh, how the Wings could use a player like the one they honored a couple nights ago—Brendan Shanahan. A sniper would be nice, too. Hey, with Christmas coming up, maybe they could ask Santa? In all seriousness, this Red Wings team doesn’t crash the net, doesn’t create havoc down low and has way too many left-handed shooters. The lack of a right-handed shot manifested itself several times in this game, when passes to lefties were mishandled all night.

Game 23: Red Wings-Carolina Enotes

So that’s what the Red Wings needed? A shot of Nyquist?

Gustav Nyquist, making his season debut, wasted no time making his mark on the game, scoring 17 seconds into it, then added a breakaway goal late in the third period that ended up being the game-winner, and the Red Wings finally skated off the ice with two points in their back pockets, beating the Carolina Hurricanes, 4-3 at JLA.

It wasn’t easy. Breaking a seven-game losing streak (and eight straight at home) never is.

Nyquist banged home a rebound on the game’s first shift, and even when Darren Helm gave the Red Wings a 2-0 lead about five minutes into the second period, you knew that there was going to be hand-wringing before the night was through.

Sure enough, the Canes scored twice in the second period to tie the game. It was looking like so many games in the losing streak: early promise, late heartbreak.

A two-minute 5-on-3 power play seven minutes into the third period provided the Red Wings with a chance to go ahead, and even though it took them 1:45, Niklas Kronwall was credited with a goal when Jordan Staal accidentally kicked Kronwall’s rebound a puck’s width past the goal line. 3-2 Detroit.

Then the Swede Nyquist, blocked from the Red Wings out of training camp because of depth and salary cap concerns, squirted loose at center ice, took a deft pass from Henrik Zetterberg off the boards, skated in alone on Carolina goalie Justin Peters and deked into a backhand, slipping the puck between Peters’ pads for a 4-2 lead. The goal came at 15:58.

Even with a power play and a two-goal lead with less than a minute to play, the Red Wings still managed to give the crowd a scare.

Andrej Sekera scored a shortie with 16 seconds to play, his second goal of the game.

But the Hurricanes couldn’t get set up in the Detroit zone after the ensuing face-off, and the Red Wings (10-6-7) survived.

Nyquist, if he plays one more game, cannot be sent back to Grand Rapids unless he clears waivers, which is highly unlikely. He’s got a scorer’s knack of being around the puck and depositing said puck into the net, and other NHL teams know that. So it looks like Nyquist is with the Red Wings to stay.

Nyquist was called up due to the placing on long-term IR of D Danny DeKeyser with a separated shoulder, which freed up cap space. DeKeyser is expected to miss 3-6 weeks.

Nyquist skated on a new no. 1 line with Zetterberg and Danny Cleary, as coach Mike Babcock split up Z and Pavel Datsyuk.

The Red Wings fired 47 shots at Peters, and even though they blew a 2-0 lead, they never lost composure nor did they cough the puck up very much, even when the Canes pressed after falling behind 3-2.

BOX SCORE

BOTTOM LINE: It was amazing how much the insertion of one different player (Nyquist) made the Red Wings look more confident and more crisp.

THE WINGED WHEELER SAYS: Jonas Gustavsson started in goal for Detroit, and was quite competent, as he’s been whenever he’s seen spot duty this season. He found himself out of position on Sekera’s second goal, but for the most part Gustavsson was sharp. Babcock shuffled his lines like a deck of cards, and for one night, he drew mostly aces.

Game 22: Red Wings-Nashville Enotes

No overtime needed. No shootout necessary.

The Red Wings found a way to lose this one quietly, within the normal allotment of 60 minutes.

The Wings sleepwalked their way through a 2-0 loss to the Nashville Predators at the Joe tonight. Forget about where the game was played—although the home winless streak is now at a grisly eight games. They could have played this one in Timbuktu and the Red Wings wouldn’t have had a chance to win.

When you don’t play with confidence, you look like you’re uninspired. The Red Wings are starting to show cracks, starting to exhibit evidence of a team being crushed in spirit by the inability to grab two points.

The game was scoreless until :05 left in the second period, when Red Wings killer Shea Weber blasted a slap shot past Jimmy Howard, through traffic, and the power play goal gave the Preds a 1-0 lead. Gabriel Bourque added an un-needed insurance goal at 7:13 of the third period, tapping in a loose puck after a shot wide banged off the boards and into the goal crease.

But even though the teams played 39:55 of scoreless hockey before Weber’s goal, the Red Wings weren’t terribly engaged. They, frankly, were playing like a team expecting the other skate to fall.

The Red Wings iced the puck with maddening regularity, usually as a result of poor outlet passing. They created precious few scoring chances. They didn’t crash the net. Nashville goalie Marek Mazanec won’t get a much more stress-free shutout than the one he got tonight.

It was yet another night when the visitors came in and had their way with the Red Wings. The crowd was too stunned—or too bored—to boo or put up much of a fuss.

BOX SCORE

BOTTOM LINE: The Red Wings took a giant step backward tonight. Chris Osgood and Darren Eliot each used the word “disturbing” in describing the team’s play on the FSD post-mortem. Hard to argue.

THE WINGED WHEELER SAYS: 22 games have been played and the Red Wings are still struggling to find their way. The 9-6-7 record doesn’t look terrible, but with the way they performed against the Preds, it gives one pause. Are they tuning coach Mike Babcock out? This was an effort that was mystifying and troubling. I believe it’s a lack of confidence and nothing more sinister than that. This team needs a win in the worst way.

Game 21: Red Wings-NY Islanders Enotes

If a tie is like kissing your sister, then what is gaining a point by losing in overtime or a shootout?

How about, what is it if you do it five straight times?

The Red Wings played their nightly overtime/shootout game tonight on Long Island, and as usual, they lost it.

Frans Nielsen scored the only shootout goal, and the NY Islanders defeated the Red Wings, 5-4. The Red Wings pushed the game into overtime when Pavel Datsyuk scored with :43 left in the third period.

The loss leaves the Red Wings with the very odd record of 9-5-7—which is the NHL’s nice way of saying that you’re 9-12.

You can fairly say that the Red Wings just aren’t equipped to win the NHL’s skills competition, but that really doesn’t make any sense. Why would that be so? Pretty much any NHL player should be able to score a goal now and again while on a clear cut breakaway against a goalie.

The more logical explanation has to do with approach.

The Wings, in shootouts, tend to do more dipsy-doo than they do shoot-em-up.

In other words, maybe less frou-frou?

Or else, the team should just learn to win games in regulation or overtime.

The Red Wings played this one on the road, which calls to mind a quote from witty coach John McKay of the hapless expansion Tampa Bay Bucs.

“We have now proven we can’t win on the road or in front of our home fans. So we would like to play at a neutral site.”

Daniel Alfredsson was an unhealthy scratch with a groin injury.

BOTTOM LINE: This shootout/OT loss streak is kinda crazy. Makes you wonder if the Red Wings will finish with a record of 9-5-68.

THE WINGED WHEELER SAYS: If you’re looking for a bright spot, it’s that for the second straight game, the Red Wings got goal scoring from players not named Datsyuk and Zetterberg. But if you’re a doom and gloom guy, the goaltending continues to not be good enough to steal a win. Jonas Gustavsson wasn’t awful, but he wasn’t exceptional, either.