This is it. The beginning of the end… of the regular season. While there’s no telling yet whether or not we’ll be writing these post-game recaps next Wednesday, hope was still alive in Wings Nation as Henrik Zetterberg led the team into the final three games of their season.
Tonight, the first night of their final back-to-back of the year, the Red Wings played host to the Philadelphia Flyers who, along with Detroit, are one of three teams who have not been mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, but who have yet to clinch. An important two points were on the line for both teams, but it was Detroit who emerged victorious, muting the Flyers’ offense and shutting them out 3-0 for an incredibly important 2 points.
The Flyers came out hard, applying a strong forecheck and forcing Detroit to ice the puck twice in the first three minutes. They played that style of hockey that is well known in Philadelphia, hammering big guys like Mike Green and Jonathan Ericsson into the boards, but Detroit didn’t go without any chances.
Tatar had an early one, using his wheels to find some open ice and rip a shot off the shoulder of Steve Mason. Larkin created another by speeding the puck around the net and finding Zetterberg in the slot, but Mason shut it down again. Then, 7:57 into the first period, Detroit found the back of the net. Off a great forecheck by Brad Richards, Shayne Gostisbhere coughed the puck up to the front of his own net where it was picked up and batted in by Darren Helm.
— Stefan Kubus (@StefanKubus) April 7, 2016
Detroit held the lead through to the end of the period, shutting down a Flyers powerplay opportunity and outshooting them in the period 9-6.
The second period saw more chances go back and forth. A Helm breakaway. Two-on-one with Giroux and Simmonds. The penalties also went back and forth. Abdelkader for interference. Gudas for slashing. Datsyuk for tripping. Raffl for slashing. Both teams looked good on their respective man advantages and the only goal from the period came on a Philadelphia PP:
— Stefan Kubus (@StefanKubus) April 7, 2016
That’s right. Athanasiou blew past the Flyers defense and no one could catch him. He deked out Steve Mason for his eighth goal of the season and the first shorthanded goal of his career.
The scariest part of the second period, though, most definitely came on a Philadelphia powerplay when both Darren Helm and Luke Glendening broke their sticks. For almost an entire minute, half of the Red Wings players on the ice had no sticks. But the defensemen and Howard covered masterfully, forcing Flyers players to shoot from bad angles until one of their shots went over the glass and into the netting.
At the top of the third period, it was Philadelphia’s turn to play some panicked defense as they iced the puck three times in a row. This led to a strong offensive shift by Detroit’s third line and a solid scoring chance by Gustav Nyquist, who was robbed by the blocker of Steve Mason.
Then, Detroit went on to the penalty kill again for a high stick by Danny DeKeyser and it was the best penalty kill of the game. Shot blocks, zone clears, and big saves by Howard killed this penalty to maintain the Red Wings lead.
As the clock wound down, and the countdown from three minutes began, the Flyers applied some real pressure, but couldn’t solve the Jimmy Howard enigma. And then, as if he hadn’t done enough for this team already, Howard left the puck behind the net for Kyle Quincey who wired it off the boards and down the ice… right into the empty Flyers net.
3 – 0 Red Wings. Final score.
As the chart shows, it was actually a pretty even game all the way through, with Detroit driving most of the possession in the third period. Despite being held pointless, Nyquist and Sheahan led the team with a 5v5CF% of 73% and 62% respectively. Howard posted the shutout on 30 Flyers shots. The Flyers outshot the Wings 30-26. All in all, a solid outing for Jimmy Howard and the Detroit Red Wings.
Motor City MVP
While this game’s motor city MVP could go to Darren Helm who posted one goal and four shots on net or to Andreas Athanasiou for his beautiful shorthanded goal, it’s hard not to give this one to Jimmy Howard who has been absolutely stellar not just in this game, but in this whole playoff push over the last week. Howard stopped all thirty shots that the Flyers fired at him for his 2nd shutout of the season. It couldn’t have come at a better time.
It’s going to have to be a quick recovery for the Red Wings who hop on a plane and head to Boston for a game tomorrow against the Bruins. While their win tonight against the Flyers was huge, Boston is not out of the running yet. A regulation win against the Bruins tomorrow is a playoff clinch for Detroit.
You can watch the game on NBCSN or Fox Sports Detroit.