What are we doing here? Are we tanking or trying to make the playoffs, because it doesn’t even look like the Red Wings know what they’re doing right now.
Last night they blew another third period lead and wound up losing in overtime, again. Detroit has now lost three in a row in overtime and sit at 20-19-9 on the season. Tonight they will take on the Maple Leafs for the second time this season. The first meeting was the Centennial Classic, when they lost in overtime—shocker. Since January 1st, the Red Wings have gone 4-3-5 in 12 games and have averaged 2.83 goals for, 3.17 goals against per game and the power play is a measly 3-for-35 (8.57%).
Let’s go back to whether or not we are tanking or not, because if they were going for that top-5 pick and they’re going to lose anyway, then do it in regulation. If you’re going to make the playoffs for a 26th consecutive season then you need to pick up the extra point.
The Maple Leafs have turned things around quickly haven’t they. I guess that’s what happens when you get three top eight picks in a row (William Nylander, Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews) and four in the last five years. They are coming off of a 4-0 shutout win over the Flames on Monday and have 10-2-2 in their last 14 games (dating back to December 22nd). They are 22-14-9 on the season, which is a .589 points percentage, which is good for 12th in the league. Toronto gives up quite a few goals (2.78), but are sixth in the NHL in scoring, averaging over three goals per game (3.09).
Let’s take a look at tonight’s lineups and starting goalies.
THE RED WINGS
The Red Wings’ lineup will likely remain the same as it was last night because they don’t really have any other options. Dylan Larkin (upper-body) has already been ruled out and Thomas Vanek (lower-body) seems highly likely, but Jeff Blashill didn’t go as far as to rule him out.
For some unearthly reason Blashill decided to play Anthony Mantha for just 9:51 TOI yesterday. That was third lowest among Red Wings’ forwards and even less than Tomas Jurco, who needed Vanek and Larkin to get hurt to even get into the lineup. Mantha hasn’t been his dominant self over the last few games, but when you decide to put Riley Sheahan on the ice in overtime instead of Mantha, then that’s just plain unexplainable. I mean Sheahan is still searching for his first goal and he has dressed in 45 games.
They were pretty much dominated in all facets of the game on Tuesday and were lucky to have a lead in the third and to get out of there with the point that they did, but a few players had really strong games. Mike Green was his regular stud-self on the blueline and had a beautiful pass to spring Andreas Athanasiou for the first goal and banked one in off of Kevan Miller in the second to give him nine goals on the season. Athanasiou also had a really nice game. As I mentioned he scored, giving him 11 on the year and nine points (6G /3A) in his last 10 games. His recent strong play and a few injuries led to him playing a career-high 19:06 TOI. Lastly, Tomas Tatar had one of his better games of the season. He scored his 11th tally of the campaign, but looked really dangerous throughout the second and third period.
If the offence can continue put up numbers and the power play figures itself out—yeah I’m still holding out hope for some reason—this team still has the ability to get to the postseason, but all of that seems rather unlikely at this point.
THE MAPLE LEAFS
The Maple Leafs haven’t made many changes to their forward lines all season long and why would they? They have a very balanced top-9 and are being led by their three talented centres. Matthews leads the team in goals (22) and is second in points (38), while Nazem Kadri has scored 20 with 13 assists (33) and Tyler Bozak is fourth on the team in goals (12). However, it is the young Marner who leads them in points with 39 (11G / 28).
The Maple Leafs have been fortunate with injuries this season, but will be without Morgan Rielly for a fourth-straight game. Rielly is battling a lower-body injury and will be out through the All-Star break. With Rielly out, Martin Marincin will play and Jake Gardiner will continue to play heavy minutes.
Ten of their 18 regular skaters have played in all 45 games—in comparison the Red Wings only have seven players who have appeared in all 47 games. Even better for Toronto is the fact that 15 of the 18 regulars have missed five or fewer games.
BETWEEN THE PIPES
Jared Coreau faced a whopping 49 shots last night, so Petr Mrazek should start in net tonight. Mrazek allowed three goals on 37 shots in the OT loss in Buffalo on Friday and has now stopped 57 of the last 62 shots (.919 SV%) that he has faced. Mrazek has gone 6-5-2 with a 3.01 GAA and .893 SV% at Joe Louis Arena and has gone 1-2-0 with a 1.67 GAA and .950 SV% in his brief history versus the Maple Leafs.
Frederik Andersen is expected to get the nod for Toronto. Andersen posted a 26-save shutout on Monday, but has mostly struggled in January. In his last nine starts the 27-year-old has gone 5-2-2 with a 3.08 GAA and .902 SV%. He allowed four goals on 37 shots in the Centennial Classic and has won each of his first two games vs. the Red Wings, dating back to his time with Anaheim.
THE LAST TIME…
The first two periods were boring, but the third period and overtime were doozies the last time these two teams got together. Whenever the Red Wings and Maple Leafs meet it’s always fun hockey, especially at The Joe because there are always so many Maple Leafs fans and the crowd is electric.
WHERE TO WATCH
Puck drop is at 7:00pm at Joe Louis Arena. You can watch the game on SportsNet or Fox Sports Detroit. If you can’t watch the game you can listen to it on 97.1 FM The Ticket.
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