Photo Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Wings Post-Game: You Need Saves To Win

The Red Wings were in Toronto tonight, taking on a young Maple Leafs team that led the NHL in scoring coming into the game.

The Rundown

Detroit got off to a strong start, making the Maple Leafs look like a team that played in Washington last night, outshooting them 4-0 in the first five minutes of the game. Following an ill-advised icing at the end of a shift from Luke Witkowski, the Red Wings made a horrific change on the ensuing face-off, leading to Nazem Kadri opening the scoring on the Maple Leafs’ first shot of the contest.

A brief 43 seconds later, Morgan Rielly threw a harmless looking shot on goal that appeared to go off of Zach Hyman‘s foot and in. Two shots, two goals for the Maple Leafs and the Red Wings’ strong start was wiped out. Despite trailing on the scoreboard, the Red Wings stayed with it, looking to climb back within a goal. At 12:10 in the first, Henrik Zetterberg scored an NHL 94 style wraparound goal, making Leafs’ backup Curtis McElhinney look extremely foolish.

The goal was Zetterberg’s fourth goal of the season, giving him eight points (4G / 4A) in seven games this season. Zetty finished the game with five shots, putting him on-pace for 223 shots, which would be his second highest season total since 2012-13.

Unfortunately, Toronto got that goal back rather quickly with Auston Matthews taking Trevor Daley look silly and pushing the Leafs third goal by Jimmy Howard. After four excellent starts to kick-off the season, Howard was yanked tonight after surrendering three goals on just four shots. Things didn’t get any better with Petr Mrazek between the pipes, as just 40 seconds later Connor Brown scored on the first shot that Mrazek faced. Detroit heads to the break down 4-1.

After a sluggish start to the second period, Dylan Larkin got things jumpstarted by flying up the right wing, stopping up and finding Tomas Tatar, who fired a shot on McElhinney, chased his rebound and scored his 100th career goal.

You’re going to think I’m lying, but about a minute and a half later Jonathan Ericsson made it 4-3. The goal was initially waved off because of suspected goaltender interference, but upon further review the refs announced it was a good goal.

Yep, Ericsson scored a hockey goal. Obviously it was his first of the year and just 22nd of his pretty much disastrous career. The goal was once again generated by Larkin’s speed and Nick Jensen picked up his third assists of the game.

Entering the third period, still down one goal, the Red Wings continued to out-chance the Maple Leafs, but McElhinney made some timely saves and kept Toronto ahead by one. In the final 10 minutes, the Red Wings outshot the Maple Leafs 9-2, but the theme of the night was Toronto scores on limited chances and that continued as William Nylander found the empty net after Jeff Blashill pulled Mrazek super early.

The Stats

From a numbers perspective, the Red Wings vastly outplayed the Maple Leafs, outshooting them 33-26, winning the Corsi battle 56-38 and had an Expected Goals For (xGF) of 2.51 versus Toronto’s 2.02. Unfortunately, the Red Wings could get the saves they had been getting from Howard and the game got away from them early.

However, it’s a positive that the Red Wings continue to out chance or hang with teams that are expected to be in the playoffs come April. There are going to be tough nights, but there might be less than most prognosticators originally expected coming into the season.

Motor City MVP

I couldn’t pick between Larkin or Jensen, so they will be my co-MVPs tonight. Jensen was noticeable on the back-end, for the right reasons. He recorded three assists, two hits and blocked shot in 18:05 TOI. As for Larkin, he used his speed efficiently all night and added another two helpers, giving him eight points (1G / 7A) in the first seven games of the season—he didn’t have eight points until 23 games in (Nov.29) last season.

What’s Next?

The difficult week continues on Friday when the Red Wings return home to host Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals. After a 4-1-0 start, they’ve dropped the last two games and sit at 4-3-0 entering Friday. Washington comes in at 3-3-1 and rank 13th in the NHL in scoring (3.14 GF/PG) so far.