Wings Torched by Flames, Lose 3-0

Winging It In Motown

Tonight Detroit started their west coast swing with a game against the Flames in Calgary. It was the first of four games along the west coast over the next week, culminating next Saturday in Seattle.

Only a couple games after welcoming Vrana back to the lineup, Detroit would have to go without Robby Fabbri as it was announced he is likely to miss the rest of the season with a suspected torn ACL, the third time he’s suffered the difficult injury in his career. Also missing from Detroit’s lineup and will be for the majority of this road trip, was Tyler Bertuzzi, still unable to play in Canada due to his vaccination status.

In place of those two, Givani Smith made his return to the lineup after being scratched for an extended period, and Luke Witkowski made his season debut seemingly to add some toughness at the bottom of the lineup in what could have been a physical contest.

This game also served as Marc Staal’s 1000th game. Staal overcame a catastrophic eye injury early in his career to get to this point and deserves a lot of respect for working his way to 1000 games.

Against a Flames club currently running red hot at 7-2-1 in their last 10, this would prove to be a stiff challenge for Detroit. Johnny Gaudreau had 10 points in his last 5 games entering the night and with the way the Wings have given up goals lately, it would take all they have to keep him in check.

In goal, Detroit turned to Thomas Greiss in hopes that he could provide strong enough goaltending to make it through the entire game without being pulled, a rare occurrence for Detroit recently. Initial reports indicated Vladar would start for the Flames but they ended up going with Jacob Markstrom, who leads the league with 8 shutouts and has some great numbers with a 2.12 GAA and .927 SV%.

Referees are a consistent lightning rod for hockey fans ire, but it was noted at the beginning of the broadcast that Dean Morton officiating tonight, was refereeing what would be the last game of his lengthy career. The referee ranks are thinning more each year and guys like Morton deserve respect for what he has done.

It was Witkowski creating the first chance of the game when he intercepted an attempted outlet pass by Calgary at the top of the Flames zone. He then sent a pass across the top of the crease to Rasmussen who gathered the puck from in his skate to put a shot on net but Markstrom kept it out. A few moments later it was Gaudreau for the Flames carrying the puck behind the Detroit net, winning a foot race with Hronek, before sending a pass in front to a trailing Lindholm, who dragged the puck across the front but couldn’t beat Greiss with the shot.

Greiss fought off a net front scramble at the 15:00 mark, a sequence started by a rebound he shouldn’t have given up. The Flames continued to pressure as another chance on a net drive by the Flames resulted in the puck creeping towards the goal line before being swiped away.

Detroit took the first penalty of the game when Marc Staal was called for a cross check in the Detroit corner during a puck battle. It seemed like a fairly routine play, but a penalty nevertheless. On the penalty kill, Detroit started strong, steering Calgary away for the first 0:30. But then Lindholm entered the zone through the middle, cutting from left to right, and let a shot go from distance beyond the tops of the circles. But the shot was quick enough that it caught Greiss sleeping a bit and beat him going back against the grain to the top left corner, 1-0 Flames.

Greiss has to be better than he was on that play, no real traffic to speak of as an excuse. Typical problem for Detroit lately. Also of note on the play, Hronek got embarrassed on the zone entry turning the wrong way.

That being said the shots were 10-1 in favour of the Flames at this point and Detroit was failing to mount any semblance of an attack, and just surviving defensively. Greiss at one point did his best Hasek impression when he was sprawled on his back across the goal line to keep the puck out.

Remember that Rasmussen chance noted earlier; with 4:00 to play it remained Detroit’s only shot of the period. That against 18 from Calgary. So despite the weak goal on the powerplay, Greiss was doing his best to keep the Wings in the game.

Raymond had a good look on a one timer from the high slot in the final minute of the period, but fired it wide left of the goal. The period concluded with the shots piled up for Calgary to the tune of 19-1. So the road trip was off to a poor start. Nobody really produced a noteworthy first period other than Greiss, with the exception of the goal he gave up from distance.

Calgary came to close making it 2-0 when Tkachuk tripped at the net front and attempted to go five hole on Greiss with the puck squeaking through but it was cleared just in time from the crease behind Greiss before it could go in. Calgary followed that up with an extended possession in the Wings zone cycling over and over, gassing the Wings, but unable to create a high danger scoring chance despite the efforts.

Detroit did manage to get three shots through the first few minutes of the period, but nothing all that dangerous. Detroit got their first sustained pressure of the game with 12:30 remaining as the top line cycled it around the Flames zone, while one defender was without a stick. But like the Flames Detroit couldn’t get a shot through despite the pressure.

Tyler Toffoli received a breakaway pass at the Detroit blue line on the next shift but couldn’t beat Greiss with a shot low to the goalie’s blocker side that was kicked to the corner by the goaltender.

Greiss made another big time stop when a pass from behind the net by Gaudreau found a crashing Tkachuk who one timed it, but the goaltender came out quickly to cut the angle and absorb the shot.

Later, on a counter attack by Calgary after Detroit turned it over in the Flames zone, Gaudreau and Tkachuk had a 2 on 1 opportunity. But the defender back was Seider who expertly laid out to block Tkachuk’s attempted pass across.

While Detroit did manage a few shots to open the period, they went a long time without another. With 7:00 to play in the 2nd period the Wings had a total of 4 shots in the game, to Calgary’s 27. It was miracle to only be down 1-0, they were playing poorly enough to be embarrassed like they were against Arizona less than a week ago.

With 6:52 to play Detroit would get their first powerplay to turn things around when Zadorov high-sticked Raymond. On the powerplay, Detroit while maintaining good zone possession couldn’t get any pucks through to the net. They ended the powerplay with zero shots. To add insult to injury, Zadorov was sprung for a breakaway coming out of the box. But Greiss once again came up with another save.

It wasn’t until there was 3:10 left Detroit put their 5th shot on goal. A scrum ensued where Tkachuk got in Smith’s face, stirring the pot as he does. But when Smith challenged to him a fight, tossing his gloves, Tkachuk shied away, as he does. Tkachuk forever tough until the gloves come off.

Raymond created the first chance in an eternity for Detroit when he zipped a pass from the boards while on the rush, and it found its way across the crease area to Namestnikov who couldn’t quite get the redirect attempt on net. he had plenty of net available if he got a better stick on it.

The period wrapped with Calgary holding an overall shot advantage of 31-5. Simply an unacceptable effort to this point from the team, even without Fabbri and Bertuzzi. Have to show some desire to get to a puck. Raymond may have been the only noticeable Wings player aside from Greiss in this period.

Early on, Larkin took advantage of a miscommunication by the Flames at their own blue line and pounced on a puck, driving down the right side, and tried to find a hole in Markstrom but was unable to.

This period certainly had some better pace than the first two through the first few minutes. the intensity picked up a notch when following a drive down the wing and a backhand on net by Coleman on Greiss, Coleman and Seider got into a brief shoving match over a disagreement on the drive to the net following the shot. Seider never seems to back down in these situations while also not letting his emotions force him into a penalty.

Detroit appeared to come to life early in the 3rd period, doubling their shot total to 10 in the first 5:00 of play. Raymond had a great look to tie this game when a puck kept in at the left point found its way to him at the right hashmark. Raymond sailed it just high to the left side of the net.

The Wings mounted some really good pressure through the first few minutes of the 3rd period, more than they had the entirety of the rest of the game. But the momentum was killed on an offensive zone trip by Namestnikov behind the Flames net. With a powerplay to try and tilt the momentum back their way, the Flames got setup immediately. Off a faceoff win, Tkachuk received a pass down low and after holding it briefly slid a hard pass across the crease to an open Toffoli who quickly tucked it past Greiss who couldn’t get across in time, 2-0 Flames.

All it took was another penalty to kill Detroit’s slowly building momentum, and 2-0 was at the very least a justifiable score at this point. Greiss couldn’t do much to stop that one, it could be argued Oesterle had to do a better job cutting off that pass option.

Things got heated again when Witkowski first put a hit on Coleman in the neutral zone on a dump in. The puck came back up the board to Witkowski afterwards and Monahan certainly wanted to get a shot back as he hit Witkowski from behind into the boards. A scrum ensued, with Smith and Lucic eventually squaring up. Lucic probably got the better of Smith in this tilt, the second time those two have squared up this season. But Smith held his own enough against the burly Lucic.

Detroit did come away from the scrum with a powerplay, due to the Monahan hit on Witkowski. Witkoski ended up leaving the game as a result of the hit. The powerplay looked lethargic despite desperately needing a goal to make this interesting with less than 10:00 left. Calgary killed off the penalty to keep it a two goal game.

With 4:22 to play, Calgary was getting sustained pressure in the Detroit end, and the puck was worked across to Coleman just to the right of Greiss. Veleno was right on top of him but Coleman still steered the puck on goal, it hit Greiss, and then Coleman and Veleno crashed into Greiss. After initially being waved off, the referee eventually called it a goal when he determined the puck crossed the line. Blashill, with the score being 3-0 otherwise, challenged the play for goaltender interference. It definitely appeared Coleman drove Greiss and the puck into the net. But it also looked like Veleno was at least partially responsible for driving Coleman in. The end result was a call that stood. But then the referees then received a call from upstairs after assessing Detroit a penalty, but prior to dropping the puck. Seemingly the review was for if the puck crossed the line, but again the goal stood, 3-0 Flames.

Detroit did kill off the resulting penalty from the failed challenge. Detroit pushed in the final couple of minutes to find a way through Markstrom with Greiss pulled. But the end result was a 3-0 loss for Detroit, Markstrom earning his league leading 9th shutout.

Despite a bit of a push through the first half of the 3rd period, it was an overall brutal effort by Detroit tonight. Greiss looked good for long stretches, and only the first goal was one he should have, amongst several saves he perhaps shouldn’t have made. Maybe that will be enough to boost his stock just before the deadline, but doubtful one game makes a large difference on what’s been a difficult stretch for him.

Something else that stood out was Detroit seeming completely unmotivated yet again. That’s too many times in a short period. The once promising season of improvement could be turning into a downward spiral with still over a quarter of a season to play. Yzerman likely doesn’t want to make a coaching move until at least the summer, but games like this, this often, could force his hand sooner, if for nothing else than sending a message to the team.

Detroit returns to action Tuesday in Edmonton to take on McDavid and the Oilers. They’ll looking for an exponentially better effort in that game as their west coast swing continues.

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