There is no way to dance around this… the Red Wings have to win tonight. After an embarrassing 1-0 shutout loss to the last placed Toronto Maple Leafs, the Red Wings enter Tuesday with a three-point lead over the Philadelphia Flyers, but the Flyers have two games in hand.
Tonight will be the second of three meetings between the Red Wings and Flyers, so “the biggest game of the year” may be a bit of an overstatement, but as of today, it is as big as it gets. A win pushes us five points clear, so even if they win those two games in hand, we’re still in the playoffs. March has not been kind to the Red Wings—we’re 2-4-0 while averaging an ugly 2.00 goals per game.
I’ve seen a lot of people write and say that “the Red Wings will be better off missing the playoffs,” which makes absolutely no sense to me. Why? So we can draft 14th overall? No thanks. We’ve done just fine with making the playoffs and using those draft picks. In recent years, we’ve seen Detroit take Dylan Larkin (2014) 15th overall, Evgeny Svechnikov (2015) 19th overall and Anthony Mantha (2013) 20th overall. As of now, it looks like all three of them have bright, bright futures. For Mantha, the future starts now. Mantha was recalled on Monday and will make his NHL debut vs. the Flyers. More on him later. Let’s break this matchup down!
THE RED WINGS
The Red Wings announced that Mantha’s recall had nothing to do with another forward being injury, so you have to think that Teemu Pulkkinen is the likely candidate to be a healthy scratch. Darren Helm missed Sunday’s game with an illness and if he draws back in, Tomas Jurco will likely be the other scratch. I think there’s a good chance that Mantha will play on the Pavel Datsyuk line with Andreas Athanasiou moving back to the third line, but we won’t know for sure until the morning skate.
Mantha had a so-so rookie year with Grand Rapids (AHL), likely because of a pre-season broken leg, but he has played very well in 2015-16. The 21-year-old winger has picked up 45 points (21G / 24A) in 56 games and he’ll make his much anticipated NHL debut tonight. Hopefully he brings a spark to the line and most importantly to the Red Wings’ dormant power-play.
With the Red Wings starting a four-game road trip with only six healthy defensemen, a lot of people were expecting a defenseman to get the call from Grand Rapids, but they’ll head out and at least start this trip with the six they have. Niklas Kronwall is expected to miss 1-3 weeks, so there’s a good chance we don’t see him on this trip.
*** Morning Skate Update: I was right. Mantha will make his debut on a line with Datsyuk and Tatar. Athanasiou goes to the third line, Helm (illness) listed as a game-time decision, Pulkkinen and Jurco will go to the press box ***
The last time these two teams met was actually the first game in the existence of WingsNation.com and my first article on this site. In that article I said something like “forget Claude Giroux, we have to keep an eye on their second line,” because they were scorching at the time. Well, Giroux scored the game-tying goal in the third period and scored in the shootout, so I’ll never say those words again. Entering play tonight, Giroux has two goals and six assists (eight points) in his last seven games, but has been held scoreless in his last two. In the first game I said don’t worry about Giroux because Brayden Schenn and Sean Couturier were on fire. That is still the case with Schenn, who has five goals and five assists (10 points) in his las eight, but not so much with Couturier.
The Flyers were hopeful that Jakub Voracek would return tonight, but it was announced on Monday that Voracek will miss at least one more game.
On the blueline, we obviously have to watch out or Shayne Gostisbehere, who has had an incredible rookie season. The man known as the “Ghost Bear” has 15 goals and 23 assists (38 points) in 49 games, which puts him right behind Dylan Larkin for rookie scoring.
BETWEEN THE PIPES
In a game of this magnitude, Petr Mrazek will start for the Red Wings.. Mrazek made 26 saves in the Red Wings 1-0 loss on Sunday and comes in having turned aside 72 of the last 77 shots that he has faced (.935 SV%). He started that first game vs. the Flyers and played very well, stopping 30 of 31. The Flyers have had strong goaltending this season, but you have to give a slight edge to Mrazek.
will make a fifth consecutive start for the Flyers. Despite losing his last start and
playing great in the first meeting with the Red Wings, Mason will go tonight. Mason has gone 3-0-1 with a 1.72 GAA and .918 SV% in March and is 9-6-5 with a 2.23 GAA and .927 SV% on home ice this season.
WORDS FROM THE ENEMY
— T.J. Furman (@tj_furman) March 15, 2016
This is pretty neat, but in all seriousness, I hope Giroux is idolizing him tonight while Datsyuk’s dances around the Flyers D for his first career hat trick. Wouldn’t that be something? *kneels down and prays for this to come true*
WHERE TO WATCH
Puck drop is at 7:30 p.m ET at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. You can watch it on the Fox Sports Detroit or NBC Sports Network. If you aren’t near a television, you can catch it on the Radio with WXYT-FM 97.1 The Ticket.
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