With the trade deadline looming Monday, Detroit faced off with the Kraken in Seattle tonight. They featured a roster that could change significantly by the time they next play on Tuesday.
Detroit again sent Nick Leddy to the press box in anticipation of a deal by Monday’s deadline, although other candidates like Staal and Stecher remained in the lineup. The most notable change to Detroit’s roster though was the return of Tyler Bertuzzi following the Canadian road trip and the birth of his new baby. He opened the game with Suter and Zadina, with Zadina perhaps being showcased. That said, Bertuzzi’s name has also popped up in rumours as it seems to every year.
Similar to Leddy, Seattle had Giordano sitting this game out as they look to move the aging defender prior to the trade deadline.
Nedeljkovic got another start following his impressive shutout performance against the Canucks on Thursday. Philipp Grubauer drew the start for the Kraken in the midst of what’s been an awful campaign for him.
The Kraken are battling for the bottom of the league standings as the season approaches the home stretch. While this represented a matchup that Detroit could take a big advantage of, they embarrassed themselves when they played a similarly struggling group in the Coyotes just 11 days ago. The Wings were hopeful to deliver something more evident of the gaps between these clubs tonight.
Namestnikov had a bit of a tough shift to open the game, taking an inadvertent elbow and then a tough hit along the boards at his own blue line. He was no worse for wear but tough start.
Seattle had the early momentum seeming to keep the puck in Detroit’s end for most of the first few minutes of the period. At one point Seattle had a 3 on 1 break against Stecher and it resulted in a near miss by former Red Wing Riley Sheahan. Nedeljkovic was called on early and often in the first period.
As a result of the early pressure, Seattle drew the first penalty when Adam Erne took a hooking penalty just before a wraparound attempt that Nedeljkovic had to make a big pad save on. On the penalty kill, Detroit did a good job of directing away Seattle’s entry attempts. It wasn’t the final 0:30 they were able to get set up and generate a couple of shots including one from the slot that Nedeljkovic made a good save on.
At the 9:58 mark Nedeljkovic produced one of his best saves of the year, robbing Geekie on a cross crease one-timer. Hirose failed to fully tie up Geekie’s stick, getting outmuscled on the doorstep, but Nedeljkovic dove across and made a huge glove save.
At this point the shots were a staggering 11-0 Seattle, just an awful start for the Wings. Nedeljkovic again faced a flurry of shots making another big time save. On a shot that hit the back boards and bounced to a waiting Kraken player at the far side, Nedeljkovic extended his leg back to the far post just in time to seal it before they could tuck the puck in.
Detroit needed a spark and who else but Namestnikov to try and get them going. The feisty forward squared of with Larsson after taking an exception to a hit in the corner. He certainly held his own, throwing several punches, even if many missed the mark.
Following the scuffle, Detroit didn’t appear to be all that inspired as was hoped. Seattle was carrying the play and was also the more physical team banging the Wings around on several occasions.
Raymond came dangerously close to directing a puck in on his own net when he tried to take away a pass across the slot, it luckily ended up behind the net instead. Zadina had what was probably Detroit’s best and maybe only chance of the period with 2:30 left. He received a pass at the blue line and had a lane down the left side. As he loaded his shot the attempt was tipped high though by a defender’s stick. It’s a problem that has plagued him for some time. His release is either a touch slow or he fails to get it past defender’s sticks. Seider bailed Nedeljkovic out on a puck that seeped through the goaltender and trickled towards the goal line before Seider was able to sweep it away.
The period wrapped with Seattle holding a 16-6 shot advantage. It was an awful period for everybody not named Nedeljkovic. Among his 16 saves were some very strong stops. The effort was far too flat for everyone else.
The first few minutes of the period were fairly uneventful with the teams exchanging a couple of shots each, but none of which were of much danger.
With 12:49 to play Larkin, to his dismay, flipped a puck over the glass resulting in a delay of game penalty for the Detroit captain. On the powerplay, Detroit again made it difficult for Seattle on their zone entry attempts. When they did gain the zone, they rarely were able to set up. Nedeljkovic came up with a good glove save just as the penalty was expiring. It was another strong penalty kill for a team that desperately needs that area of their game to improve. Seider was one particular standout on the penalty kill.
But shortly after that penalty kill Detroit took another when Raymond got his money’s worth on a hold on Sheahan to prevent the Kraken forward from getting a good shot attempt. Gourde, for the Kraken took some sort of high stick early on in the powerplay and had to leave the game, but it may not have been a Detroit stick as no penalty resulted. But with 1:00 to go in the Raymond minor, Larkin got called for a cross check when pursuing a Kraken player with the puck. The play was a little overzealous from Larkin to be honest, but one that usually goes uncalled when it puts a team down two men.
So with a 5 on 3 disadvantage now, Gagner won the initial faceoff giving Seider a chance to ice the puck killing the first 0:15 of the 5 on 3. Seattle did get to work after that though, but were forced to work the puck around the perimeter before trying to force shots through. Another clear by Detroit essentially killed the rest of Raymond’s penalty. Raymond was then sprung for a partial breakaway, but with a defender on his back didn’t get much on the attempt and Grubauer was able to make the stop. Detroit again went work after that killing the 5 on 4 with ease.
As Larkin exited the box he jumped on a bobbled puck by Seattle inside their own zone. He quickly drove the net, and then slid a backhand pass to a trailing Veleno who promptly buried the shot off the post and in with Grubauer well out of position to even have a chance at the save, 1-0 Red Wings.
Detroit rode the massive momentum wave off the big penalty kills to jump out to the lead, despite being largely outplayed in the game. Larkin certainly redeemed himself setting up the icebreaking goal after serving two penalties in tight succession in the period.
At this point the shots were still tilted at 25-11 in Seattle’s favour. But with four powerplays for Seattle to Detroit’s zero, the standard narrative dictated that Detroit should be expecting the next couple of powerplays. Sure enough, a few minutes later Seattle got called for interference when a hit was delivered to Suter before he played the puck.
With their first man advantage of the game, Detroit went to work quickly. Seider slid a puck across the point to Raymond. Raymond used the space given to slide into the high slot with the puck. From the top of the right circle he slid a hard pass down low to Bertuzzi who redirected it towards the goal. Grubauer kicked it out to the slot with his pad, where Taro Hirose found the puck in traffic and steered the puck into the goal just past the outstretched pad of Grubauer, 2-0 Wings.
The goal was a nice reward for the recently called up Hirose, who’s bread and butter are his abilities on the powerplay. The quick movement of the puck between Seider, Raymond, and Bertuzzi around the zone was key in creating the goal, getting the Kraken players moving and just enough out of position to stop Hirose’s shot.
Seattle carried a 27-16 lead in shots to the break, but it was Detroit with a 2-0 lead after a late burst in the period. Detroit did well to capitalize on the penalty kill momentum. They used a brief window of good play over the first 40 minutes to establish a two goal lead. It’s usually a losing strategy, but when a team like the Kraken struggle as they do, sometimes that’s all it takes to pounce on them.
Detroit started the 3rd period like they had played most of the game, poorly. Seattle had the early pressure, and with 18:20 to play they drew a tripping penalty from Hronek. On their fifth powerplay of the game, Detroit’s penalty kill again came to play. Nedeljkovic had to make a couple of saves but Detroit’s skaters kept Seattle to the outside and allowed Nedeljkovic to see the shots.
Seattle continued to carry the play following the penalty kill, creating a couple of chances on odd man rushes, but still shots from outside that Nedeljkovic could handle with relative ease. Detroit jumped on a counter attack rush off a Seattle turnover, with Bertuzzi sliding a pass back against the grain to Zadina who hammered a one timer, but Grubauer made a great glove save as he pushed hard to get across the top of his crease.
Detroit was once again electing to use the full defensive shutdown mode of play with 14:00 to play and a two goal lead. It’s a tactic that has worked terribly for them all year. It again bit them in the ass when Larsson received a pass to Nedeljkovic’s right, drove the net and flipped a shot, that got under the goaltender’s arm, gently touched the post and barely crossed the goal line. Stecher was nearly able to swipe it away, but not quite, 2-1.
With 12:50 to play, it was up to Detroit to not try and sit on a one goal lead, and instead try to apply some pressure of their own. But that was not in the cards as Seattle continued to apply pressure. On a bit of a fluke play, a dump out up the glass slowed down just enough for Seattle’s Schwartz who had a step on Stecher, at the Detroit blue line. He grabbed the puck and with Stecher trying desperately to slow him up, beat Nedeljkovic with a backhand just over the pad to tie the game at 2-2.
Stecher got caught in poor position on this one, and he knew it, slamming his stick into the glass after the goal. Regardless, the Wings again blew a lead, something they have done plenty of this season. In a game where they likely didn’t deserve the lead to begin with, it only took them 10:00 through the 3rd period to lose it.
When it rains, it pours as they say. With 6:57 to play Seattle gained the Detroit zone and Gourde threw a puck towards the net from the right wall. It deflected off Seider’s skate who was tying a man up driving to the net. The puck found a hole between Nedeljkovic’s legs and into the net, 3-2 Kraken.
Nedeljkovic’s body language said a lot after that lead changing goal. Even though it was one of those quick redirect plays where there’s not much he could do, the puck just found a hole. But he sat with his head down for a moment before getting to his feet. He’s had two great games but is carrying a lot of weight from his recent play prior to these games.
Detroit finally showed a bit of a push after going down. But that was more so out of necessity with only a few minutes to play and needing a tying goal. Even then that could be largely attributed to Seattle going into full trap.
With 1:55 to play Detroit pulled Nedeljkovic. Raymond nearly assisted on a game tying play to Vrana by faking a shot and sending a pass through the crease area. But Vrana’s shot hit the outside of the net with Grubauer diving to try to make the save. But that was it for Detroit, the puck was cleared shortly after, and they could not gain the zone again really. With 0:18 left, Gourde scored the empty netter to seal this game 4-2.
A tough result for Nedeljkovic who did his best to keep the Wings in the game. Add to that the classic Blashill 3rd period shutdown with the lead, and this is the result you get. Not that the Wings were flying through the first two periods, but it was deliberate in the 3rd period. The only other positive for Detroit was the penalty kill looked great in this game, which was desperately needed, given just how bad its been. The final shots were 42-24 Seattle. That includes 3 or 4 late shots after Detroit fell behind.
This game was frustrating on multiple levels. Between again being clearly outplayed by a bottom feeder like Seattle, and then completely falling apart with a lead in the 3rd period. Especially given Nedeljkovic’s performance through most of this game.
The calls for answers from Blashill will continue to grow with displays like this one. This game marks the last for Detroit before Monday’s trade deadline. We’ll see how different this team looks by then.