Wings Postgame: Unspecial teams

Ondrej Palat isn’t the most popular guy in Detroit right now.

Tied 2-2 in the third period, Palat scored the game-winner late to put the Lightning up 3-2. 

Though the Lightning coughed up a 2-0 lead, it ultimately wasn’t fatal for Tampa Bay as the Wings now sit behind 3-1 in the series.

Game 4’s often considered the most crucial game in a series, and with good reason. It’s not over yet… 

The Rundown

The Wings definitely didn’t start this one off great. There were a few chances here and there, but 5:41 into the first, they found themselves down 1-0 off Nikita Kucherov’s first goal of the night on the power play.

Midway through the second, the Lightning doubled their lead to two… on a power play goal by Nikita Kucherov.

While some teams would keel over and give up, if there’s one thing the Red Wings have shown this year, it’s consistency. ability to come back from leads. always being competitive. depth scoring. never knowing which kind of team will show up on any given night.

Hard-nosed, stand-in-front-of the-net play from Darren Helm started the Wings comeback. He won’t score many easier goals (or at least more straightforward ones), and Luke Glendening probably won’t have any harder assists. 

Gustav Nyquist came out of the box angry at getting called for goaltender interference and ready to make an impact. With just under 10 seconds left in the second, he found his way onto the scoresheet, tying the game at 2. 

One of the things I’ve liked about the Wings this series is that they’ve kept each game interesting. I don’t think they’ve really been the better team in the series, but they’ve at least usually come through with an effort respectable enough to not be disappointed in their play as a whole.

Underdog teams usually don’t blow their competition out of the water, but just barely find ways to win, because frankly, they’re not as good.

And there it was. The moment the Wings needed.  

On the back of the kid who’s been there in many of the big plays this season, the one who made the immediate jump to the NHL faster than some hoped, who made the Calder discussion interesting. In a series where someone needed to be a hero, Dylan Larkin, the Michigan boy, the chosen son, was poised to push everything the right way. Score the goal, even up the series, head down south with some momentum. Larkin came in, shot the puck, beat Bishop, and the lights and horn went on. 

Larkin did everything right… except actually score the goal. He hit the post.

Dylan Larkin will probably score bigger goals than this non-goal. He’ll probably play a long enough career to get out of the first round, and probably have some sort of considerable playoff success in the NHL, be it with the Wings or elsewhere. But right now? Man, it would’ve been great for him and the Wings if he was few inches to the left. He’s probably not getting traded in the offseason, but this miss might have increased his chances. 😉

It’s nothing more than some cruel luck, but the missed chance goes from the Wings being in the driver’s seat in the game and potentially tying up the series, to being devastated that they didn’t complete the comeback. I’m not one for narratives of emotion, but that was clearly the Wings’ best chance to pull ahead in this one.

So having had trouble on the penalty kill before in the game, you’d have hoped the Wings would have sorted it out, right? Not quite. 

As mentioned, Palat came through with the dagger, scoring the winner on the powerplay after Jonathan Ericcson got booked for cross-checking with just 2:59 left in the third, in what was arguably the biggest goal of the series to date. I won’t comment on the penalty as it is what it is, but the Wings once again couldn’t protect their net on the PK, costing the game and most realistic hopes of winning the series. 

And that was pretty much it. A few chances here for the Wings, Mrazek got pulled, but Bishop and the Lightning shut the chances down of a second comeback. A quiet, stunned Joe Louis Arena headed home to various parts of Michigan and Ontario, suddenly coming to terms with the fact it could be their last taste of home hockey games until October. Not to be one to jump the gun, but with the Wings barely stumbling into the playoffs this year… this could be the final home game of the world-famous playoff streak. 

The Stats

Screenshot 2016-04-19 at 10.19.16 PM

chart via hockeystats.ca

Not a whole lot to argue with this one. The Wings definitely had their chances to win tonight and didn’t lie down and die after falling behind by two, but also didn’t really outchance the Lightning. Perhaps there was an unfavourable penalty call or two, but all things considered, Tampa once again looked just a step ahead throughout the course of this one. 

For what it’s worth, former healthy scratch Brendan Smith led the team in possession with a 77.8 % at even strength. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Motor City MVP

Noted off-ice confusing decision maker Pavel Datsyuk could’ve played his last home game as a Red Wing. Not quite a Kobe Bryant send-off, but he did manage a 75% Corsi, which is higher than 60 points. No points on the night, but a very solid game at both ends.

Up Next

Winning three games in a row is hard in the NHL. Winning three games in the NHL playoffs when you’ve been outplayed the majority of the series and inconsistent in the stretch drive? Darn near impossible.

But if the Red Wings are going to do it, it starts Thursday at 7 in Tampa Bay.