Ever wake up and feel dread on the horizon?
Some people feel it every Monday morning before work. Others encounter it on the last day of vacation. The Detroit Red Wings seem to have become inundated in a sea of dread over the last few games. They gave both the Calgary Flames and the Montreal Canadiens their first wins of the season while scoring one goal between the two games.
Entering Sunday night’s game felt like one of those coming storms of dread. The Chicago Blackhawks had been embarrassed by nearly every team they played. Marc-Andre Fleury looked like a ghost of his Vezina-winning season. Seth Jones was a defensive nightmare. Indeed, it appeared like the Blackhawks were much worse off than Detroit. Dread or not, this game appeared to be a very easy-to-win game for the Red Wings.
The good news is, dread did not claim victory today. The Red Wings put on a game that was both parts dominant and frustrating, scoring six goals in a steamrolling of Chicago.
The first started almost immediately with a Chicago penalty. The power play didn’t result in much, but Raymond had a nice shot that almost made it. Fortunately, his efforts weren’t for naught — Chicago’s complete defensive collapse led to a beauty of a Raymond goal. The “Detroit Sucks” chants in Chicago became awfully quiet after that one.
Tyler Bertuzzi was the primary driver of the offense with that first goal. His absence was very noticeable last night, and his presence tonight played a key factor in nearly every chance in the first period.
The majority of the first period had a back-and-forth momentum to it. Both teams would skate from their defensive zones, go for a shot, turn over the puck, and repeat. Good for cardio, bad for everything else.
Unsurprising to none, Tyler Johnson was the one who broke the scoring for Chicago. The guy’s like Detroit Kryptonite. DeKeyser offered very little in terms of resistance against Johnson, who quickly overpowered the defenseman for a gorgeous goal. Shortly after, Michael Rasmussen took an ugly high stick, giving the Red Wings a four-minute power play. The momentum came to a sharp halt as Larkin picked up a penalty for holding the stick. Yet again, the captain was cross-checked in the back of the head.
Nedeljkovic came up big, stopping a 3-on-2. Larkin, jumping out of the penalty box after a Robby Fabbri penalty, made a huge defensive play to stifle Chicago’s scoring. The period ended at the perfect time as Leddy outmuscled multiple Hawks players from the puck.
The second started the same as the first: an early Chicago penalty led to an underwhelming power play. Alex Tanguay’s power-play through this point of the game has been surprisingly ineffective after a strong showing at first. In a similar fashion, a goal immediately followed, this time by Carter Rowney off a fantastic scoring chance from Michael Rasmussen. Rasmussen has needed a good showing for a while; this assist may be the spark he needs to get back into form.
After a couple of Grade-A saves from Alex Nedeljkovic, the Red Wings put on a nice offensive show, with Fabbri nearly playing the hero on three separate occasions. The Blackhawks’ defense was so porous that it would be enough to make even the 2019-20 Red Wings blush. A few cognitive lapses from Hawks defensemen gave Vlad Namestnikov a great goal, putting Detroit up 3-1. It’s hard to tell if Chicago’s shortcomings fall solely upon their defensemen or if Fleury is playing below his level. Either way, it’s to the benefit of the Wings.
Lucas Raymond made his night a two-pointer, feeding Larkin for a wraparound assist that resulted in a Bertuzzi tip-in. Raymond and Seider both have five points in six games to start their rookie seasons off. Not bad by any means. In addition to a 4-1 lead, this goal led to one of the funniest Jeff Blashill moments I’ve seen.
It’s important that I add here that Blashill is absolutely unstoppable on coaches’ challenges. I don’t know how he does it, but he’s nearly flawless at it.
If you thought the power play was bad, the penalty kill was worse. Dominik Kubalik’s rocket of a shot cut into Detroit’s scoring, making it a 4-2 game. Despite their best efforts, however, the Red Wings couldn’t stop the Blackhawks from netting yet another NHL record:
With 16:32 passing in the second, the Chicago Blackhawks officially hold the record for the longest time without a lead to start the season
— Jake Rivard (@RivardNHL) October 25, 2021
Alex Nedeljkovic has shades of Mike Vernon and Petr Mrazek with his play style. He takes aggressive pinches, leaps out of the net, and does things that would make any coaches’ hair turn grey. His efforts thus far have turned out fruitful, but the way he leaps from post to post is a little stressful to watch.
If you like goals, you probably love this period. Lucas Raymond scored his second of the evening, chasing Fleury from the net to make it 5-2. This is Raymond’s second goal and third point of the night, putting him at a point-per-game pace to start the season off. The period came to a close with Lucas Raymond Hat Trick Watch on full focus.
The third period bucked the trend. This time, the Red Wings ceded an early goal to Henrik Borgstrom, who set the scoring at 5-3. A penalty followed shortly, with yet another cross-checking call made on Chicago. The power play yet again remained stagnant, this time featuring a few big lapses from Zadina. He’ll need to work on his timing if he wants to make an impact on the power play.
Raymond noticed the audience get too comfortable after the Chicago goal and decided to silence them, putting his first career hat trick on the record books. He’s the first Red Wing aged 19 or younger to do it since Steve Yzerman. I’m not one for making assumptions, but that sounds like a good thing.
Two dangerous penalties occur back-to-back, putting the Red Wings on a 5-on-3. A Toews goal is quickly overturned, and Alex Nedeljkovic does his best Dominik Hasek impression, making some of the best saves the Red Wings have seen in years.
Tonight was the Game of Penalties. After serving two minors, another strange call occurred. Mickey Redmond called it “the worst call I’ve seen in 50 years”. A scrap saw Moritz Seider ragdoll Alex DeBrincat; it reminded me of Brendan Smith’s would-be confrontation against the titanic Zdeno Chara.
I’ve heard funerals with more energy than the United Center during the last few minutes of the game. Lucas Raymond & co. completely drained the once-energetic building of any life it had. The Blackhawks ended the night with a broken sellout streak, a six-goal loss, and yet another game without a lead. The Red Wings left with a Raymond hat trick and a boatload of excitement.
This game was as frustrating as it was fun. The team brought the offense but came dangerously close to losing their lead several times. The power play was as stagnant as their discipline, both of which will need serious work for future games. If they can build on the successes of this game, they’ll be in good shape for the future.