Well, thanks for nothing St. Louis. I never liked you anyways. Again, I’m not going to give you a full recap because Scott wrote an excellent postgame last night. But, the Red Wings played well last night, took home a 3-2 win over the Wild and all we needed was the Blues to beat the Bruins and we were in third in the Atlantic. Coming into last night, Brian Elliott was 4-0-0 with a 0.25 GAA and three shutouts in his previous four starts, so the Blues should win no problem right? Wrong. Elliott gets torched for five goals on 23 shots, gets pulled and Jake Allen played no better. Despite a late push, the Bruins won 6-5 *cries* and remain one point ahead of us.
To make matters worse, I have Elliott in The Nation Network Keeper League Semi-Finals. However, we know the Red Wings basically need to win out and they beat a hot Wild team last night, so that’s a start. Tonight they will wrap-up the season series with the Toronto Maple Leafs or Mike Babcock, whichever way you want to look at it. In the previous three meetings, we saw Jimmy Howard shut the Leafs out in the season opener, the Red Wings take one in overtime and Jonathan Bernier shockingly stand on his head to shut Detroit out. Toronto is coming off of a horrible outing in Buffalo on Thursday, so let’s hope that carries over to tonight’s contest. In the last game, Babcock trapped the Red Wings all game long and Detroit was unable to generate any offence despite possessing the puck for what seemed like the whole game. The Maple Leafs also scored a butt-goal, so yeah, it was a gongshow. Let’s break this one down though!
THE RED WINGS
I guess the reason that Jeff Blashill did not want to commit to these lines on Thursday was because he didn’t want to ridiculed for switching Brad Richards and Anthony Mantha (which he was anyways). Or maybe it was something else? Either way, I understand wanting to reunite Mantha with Andreas Athanasiou because they played well together with Grand Rapids, but I just don’t like it with Luke Glendening in the middle. That was my beef, but the lines worked, we got the W, that’s all that matters.
Riley Sheahan has become our best forward in the last week. He had one goal and one assist last night to give him four goals and two helpers in his last five games, but he has not had success against the Maple Leafs in his career—just two assists in 11 career games. Some players who have had success against Toronto this season is Henrik Zetterberg (1G / 3A in three game), Justin Abdelkader (3G / 1A in three games) and Dylan Larkin (1G / 2A in three games).
I think we can all agree that Niklas Kronwall does not look 100 percent out there, but it has been excellent to see him pick up six assists in seven games since returning from the knee injury that continues to plague him. You have to wonder if Toronto native Brendan Smith will get back into the lineup tonight? I wouldn’t expect it, but it’s certainly possible.
THE MAPLE LEAFS
The Maple Leafs actually went on a tear after shutting the Red Wings out, but come in having lost three of their last four. They recently made a bunch of roster moves that included recalling Kasperi Kapanen, Tobias Lindberg, T.J. Brennan and Andrew Campbell while sending Connor Brown, Zach Hyman, Rinat Valiev and Connor Carrick back to the Marlies (AHL). Right now you are probably thinking “I haven’t heard of half of those guys” or you’re very in touch with the NHL and know them but know none of them are impact NHL players at this point in their careers.
The Red Wings have done an excellent job containing the Maple Leafs this season, allowing just two goals in the first three games. However, you always have to be aware of Nazem Kadri, who is the Leafs’ best forward. He recently potted a hat-trick in Florida and has five goals and two assists in his last five games. Detroit will also need to be aware of Michael Grabner’s speed. He was the one that scored the butt-goal on a breakaway in the last meeting and it seems like his wheels get him a breakaway in every game. We know our defenseman are the fleetest of foot, so they need to keep tabs on Grabner, especially when he is shorthanded, he will gamble.
BETWEEN THE PIPES
There is no word on who will be in goal for the Red Wings. Howard started last night, stopping 20 of 22 shots, so the light workload last night and basically all season could allow him to start again tonight. He has reemerged from Petr Mrazek’s shadow and does have a shutout against Toronto this season.
The one thing I’ve always liked about Mrazek is that it doesn’t look like he gets rattled, but I think that was a mirage. He appears to be out of whack right now and has lost confidence in himself. After going 18-9-4 in his first 30 starts, Mrazek has gone 9-7-2 with a 2.92 GAA and .898 SV% since the All-Star break. The 24-year-old is 1-1-0 with a 0.99 and .967 SV% vs. Toronto this season.
The Maple Leafs have not announced a starter either, but they have been splitting starts between Jonathan Bernier and Garret Sparks. Sparks started and lost on Thursday, so all signs are pointing towards Bernier. The 27-year-old has had a terrible season, but the shutout in Detroit seemed to reignite his game. He has won four of his last six starts while posting a 1.53 GAA, .952 SV% and that shutout. The Maple Leafs blueline can be very suspect at times, so Bernier could be hung-out to dry tonight, hopefully.
IN THE LAST MEETING…
I’ll be at the game tonight, so if you’re at the ACC tonight feel free to Tweet at me @Brock_Seguin and we’ll meet up for a beer. Mike Babcock wanted to win bad last time and that will probably be the case again tonight. Expect a lot of traps.
WHERE TO WATCH
Puck drop is at 7:30 p.m ET at the Air Canada Center in Toronto, Ontario. You can watch it on Fox Sports Detroit, NHL Network in the United States or CBC (Hockey Night in Canada) or City TV.. If you aren’t near a television, you can catch it on the Radio with WXYT-FM 97.1 The Ticket.
Also, make sure to follow us on Twitter; we’ll have live tweets, GIFS, and all the fun stuff that a topical social media platform has.