Like they say in everyone’s favourite Joe Louis Arena jam “Don’t stop believin’!” The Red Wings dropped the first two games of the series in Tampa Bay but return home where they will look to take their two home games. Game 2 had a similar feel to Game 1. The Red Wings hung in there through two periods only to be overmatched in the third. Detroit got in tonne of penalty trouble early and it just didn’t look goof from there.
The first two games of the series have been much more physical than I think most people expected, evidenced by a line brawl at the end of game two and a total of 114 penalty minutes being handed out on Friday. While I didn’t believe either would be or deserved to be suspended, many (mostly Lightning fans) believed that either Danny DeKeyser and/or Justin Abdelkader should have been suspended—DD for his hit on Palat (which Palat made worse and DeKeyser wasn’t even penalized for) and Abby for his MMA-style ass-beating of Mike Blunden.
Despite the penalty kill going 6/7 in game two, you simply can’t take that many penalties against a team with as many lethal one-timers as the Lightning posses. It is definitely nice to see the penalty kill working at 91 percent, but the power-play needs to improve, after going just 1/10 (10%) in the first two games. We know who we have to slow down, so let’s just get to the breakdown.
THE RED WINGS
After returning to Detroit, the Red Wings held an optional practice and Jeff Blashill would not disclose any lineup information for Game 3. We will have to wait and see if the Red Wings have a full morning skate on Sunday, that’s the only way we’ll know pre-game if Blashill will shuffle his lines or not.
Offensively it has not been an impressive start to the 2016 playoffs for Detroit. They’ve scored two goals per game, but they haven’t been able to generate consistent chances like Tampa Bay has done in our end of the rink. And in terms of the power-play, the Lightning’s penalty kill has been stifling. Mike Green and Tomas Tatar are the only two Red Wings to record multiple points so far, but when Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Gustav Nyquist have zero points, it’s going to be tough to win.
Defensively, we all knew this team was a mess. The defensive zone turnovers have been aplenty and they need to be cut in half…at the very least. Again, will we see Brendan Smith in Game 3? We probably should, but who knows.
Although not as big as the losses of Steven Stamkos and Anton Stralman, the Lightning were dealt another blow on Saturday, when it was announced that J.T Brown would miss the rest of the series. He was hurt blocking a shot in Game 2.
And another look. pic.twitter.com/6SuZuOZgrx
— Stefan Kubus (@StefanKubus) April 16, 2016
Last year ‘The Triplets’ were Ondrej Palat–Tyler Johnson–Nikita Kucherov, but this year Palat has been replaced by Alex Killorn and they are murdering the Red Wings. Through two games, Johnson is leading the NHL Playoffs in scoring with six points (2G /4A) and ‘The New Triplets’ have combined for 15 points (7G / 8A)—that is outscoring our top line (1G / 0A) by 14 points.
Jonathan Drouin has had an impressive two games as well, but only one point to show for it. Outside of that top line, Tampa Bay has just eight points (1G / 7A) from the other 15 players. If Detroit can find a way to even limit the damage, they have the ability to battle back in this series. However, they haven’t shown that they have any answer for them right now. Jonathan Marchessault is expected to draw into the lineup for Brown.
BETWEEN THE PIPES
Blashill did not announce a starting goalie on Saturday, but in need of a spark, don’t be surprised if Petr Mrazek replaces Jimmy Howard in Game 3. Howard has posted a 3.59 GAA and .891 SV% through the first two games, so it might be time for a change. In all honesty, it is tough to blame Jimmy, but Mrazek appears to be the guy who has a better chance to steal a game for the Red Wings…and they need that right now. They need to plant a seed of doubt in Tampa’s mind. We’ll find out who starts after the morning skate.
Of course it will be Ben Bishop in net for the Lightning. Bishop has been outstanding, like he was last year. Through two games, he has stopped 64 of 68 shots (.941 SV%) and will look to propel the Lightning to a commanding 3-0 series lead tonight.
NHL 16 SIMULATION
The NHL 16 simulation has actually been fairly accurate. In game one, it predicted a 3-2 Red Wings win, but it was actually a 3-2 Lightning win. In game two, it predicted a higher scoring affair and a 4-3 Lightning win—it was actually 5-2. However, I’m not impressed that it could not predict a line brawl forming at the end of the game. Hopefully, this is where the accuracy will stop.
Detroit picked up where they left off in Game 2, taking a penalty 13 seconds into the first period. Much like the first two games, they killed the penalty with relative ease. The first 15 minutes of the period were rather boring, but the final five was not. In a span of three minutes the Lightning snapped three consecutive shots past Mrazek—Kucherov (1-0), Palat (2-0) and Namestnikov (3-0). The Red Wings drew a penalty late in the opening frame, but couldn’t cash (shocker) and headed to the break down 3-0 in the game and likely in the series.
Against his better judgement, Blashill left Mrazek in to start the second, but after Palat scored his second just 2:30 into the period, Howard came in in relief. This is getting bad. I hope this isn’t real. Halfway through the second Detroit was able to finally get on the board, making it 4-1. That is where the progress ended and head to the third down three despite outshooting the Lightning 21-9.
Detroit made it a little more interesting early in the third, but Palat completed the hat-trick mid-way through the frame and looked all but over. Detroit was surprisingly able to get the game back to 5-4, but an Tampa empty-netter sealed a 6-4 loss.
Final: Lightning (6) – Red Wings (4)
⭐️ Ondrej Palat (TBL) – 4G / 0A
⭐️⭐️ Henrik Zetterberg – 2G / 0A
⭐️⭐️⭐️ Valtteri Filppula (TBL) – 0G / 2A
WHERE TO WATCH
Puck drop is at 7:00 p.m ET at Joe Louis Arena. You can watch it on Fox Sports Detroit, CBC or CNBC and 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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