WGD: GAME 54: RED WINGS @ CAPITALS

The Red Wings were robbed of two points on Tuesday, but that’s good news if you’re in the mindset that the Red Wings are better served by missing the playoffs. 

Henrik Zetterberg had his stick chopped in half by Brandon Dubinsky and it went uncalled. Zetterberg having to drop his stick created a turnover and the Blue Jackets went the other way and scored the game-winning goal and ‘The Joe’ erupted in the classic “Bulllllshitttt” chant to show their displeasure with the refs. 

Having picked up a point vs. Columbus, the Red Wings come into tonight at 22-21-10 (54 points) and despite a mostly disappointing first 53 games, they’re just five points back of the Flyers for the final Wild Card spot and six points behind  the Maple Leafs for third in the Atlantic. Obviously there are a bunch of teams standing in their way of getting there, but they’re still in this and being robbed of a point is tough for the fans to swallow. 

It’s going to be really tough to pick up two points tonight as the Red Wings get set to face the NHL’s top team, the Washington Capitals. Washington has gone 37-11-6 in their first 54 games and have won five of their last six and are a ridiculous 17-2-1 in their last 20 games—that .875 point% is far and away the best in the NHL since December 30th. The Wild are second in that span at 12-4-1 (.735 P%). 

THE RED WINGS

Detroit Red Wings Lines courtesy of DailyFaceoff

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The Red Wings will make one change to the lineup tonight, re-inserting Ryan Sproul for the first time since January 10th. Sproul has been a healthy scratch for 12 consecutive games, but he’ll replace Xavier Ouellet tonight. Ouellet had a bit of a difficult night versus the Blue Jackets, plus Sproul’s shot should help their feeble power-play. 

The one thing that was key for the Red Wings on Tuesday and something they’ll need again tonight is a fast start. The Red Wings scored the first goal of the game, which hasn’t happened often in recent games. Riley Sheahan is still searching for his first goal of the season, but his line with Dylan Larkin and Tomas Tatar was clicking vs. the Jackets, but Andreas Athanasiou was arguably their best player. The player we know as “A.A.” played 17:04 TOI, which was his most playing time in four games and he was zipping around all night. 


Both Henrik Zetterberg and Anthony Mantha saw their point streaks snapped—both were brief three-game streaks. Mantha had a few tough games in a row, but he’s turned things around in his last four or five games and Detroit will need him to continue to supply offence as they head down the stretch. 

THE CAPITALS

Washington Capitals Lines courtesy of DailyFaceoff

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The Capitals are led by Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin. Backstrom is second in the NHL in assists (39) and is tied for fifth in points (54),  while Ovechkin finds himself in familiar territory, ranking tied for third in goals (26) and tied for 11th in points (50). The two are two of the best in the NHL and if no one else can contain them, don’t expect the Red Wings to. 

After a slow start to the season, Evgeny Kuznetsov has been red-hot in the last five weeks. Since January 2nd, Kuznetsov is tied for the NHL lead in points with Backstrom and Brad Marchand—all of whom have 24 points. Last year’s breakout star has nine goals and 15 assists in 18 games over that span, which topped his total from the first 36 games—where he had just 19 points (3G / 16A). 

The Capitals are strong up front, but their blueline certainly isn’t weak. John Carlson has missed some time with injuries this season, but still has 26 points (5G / 21A) in 48 games, but Matt Niskanen leads the group with 31 (4G / 27A) in 53 games. 2

BETWEEN THE PIPES

Petr Mrazek will make his fourth consecutive start tonight. Mrazek allowed three goals on 27 shots vs. the Blue Jackets, but two of those goals weren’t very good. The first goal was from a terrible angle that went in off Mrazek’s side and then he simply whiffed on the Cam Atkinson’s goal. Mrazek has stopped 98 of 105 shots (.933 SV%) in his three previous starts. 


Braden Holtby gets the nod for the Capitals, so we’re in big trouble. Holtby had a 23-save shutout on Tuesday and comes in riding a six-game winning streak while posting an impressive 1.83 GAA and .930 SV%. Holtby also posted a 25-save shutout in the first meeting between the Red Wings and Capitals and is the best goaltender in the NHL. 

THE LAST TIME…


WHERE TO WATCH

Puck drop is at 7:00pm at the Verizon Center in Washington. You can watch the game on 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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