The Detroit Red Wings took on the Columbus Blue Jackets for the second time in the young season looking to take a 2-0 season series lead over the Blue Jackets after a shutout victory on Oct. 16. A quick start for the Red Wings gave them a 2-0 lead, but the Blue Jackets tied the game up before the end of the first period. Two back-and-forth periods in the second and third ended with the Red Wings pulling out a 5-4 victory over the Blue Jackets. But what can fans take away from the Red Wings victory?
Goaltending & Defensive Struggles Continue
Even with pulling out the victory, the netminding and defensive play by the Red Wings continues to be spotty at best. In net, Ville Husso faced 22 shots during the game and looked to be lost at times, getting caught out of position on the Blue Jackets’ second goal of the game. Husso found himself spun around facing the back of the net when Adam Fantilli knocked the puck out of the air to score the game-tying goal at the time. On the season, Husso has a 6-3-1 record but has a lowly .885 save percentage (SV%) and a 3.61 goals-against average (GAA) and has not been able to make the return to the goalie that he was with the St. Louis Blues that led to GM Steve Yzerman acquiring him in 2022.
Through 15 games, the Red Wings have yet to use Alex Lyon in net to this point after signing him in the offseason. Keeping him either on the bench as a backup or scratched as the third goalie has led to fans calling for him to get at least a chance in the net to see if his play can be better than Husso’s and fellow free agent signee James Reimer. The goaltending for the team has been a constant inconsistency over the last few seasons and seems to be following the same trend this season.
Defensively, the Red Wings continue to shoot themselves in the foot with untimely turnovers in their zone, whether it be on clearing attempts not being successful or bad passes on the breakout leading to continued pressure for their opponents. This trend continued just like the goaltending struggles did against the Blue Jackets, turning the puck over a total of seven times. While most of these turnovers did not end up costing them in the end, they continue to be an issue.
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The biggest turnover they had in the game came when Andrew Copp attempted to ring the puck around the boards for a clearing attempt that was unsuccessful with Patrick Laine picking the puck up off the attempt and beating Husso to get the Blue Jackets within one in the third period. The continued struggles on the defensive side of the puck by the Red Wings are killing their chances at either getting themselves back into games or expanding on their leads over teams to put games away.
Fabbri Shows His Capability When Healthy
Since being acquired by the Red Wings in 2019, Robby Fabbri has battled numerous injuries that have limited his playing time in a Red Wing jersey. But when healthy, Fabbri has shown that he can be one of the team’s most productive players and makes a major impact in the game on both ends of the ice. Coming back from yet another injury this season, Fabbri found himself back in the lineup against the Blue Jackets and further proved what he is capable of doing when he is healthy.
Not only was Fabbri able to get himself on the scoresheet with a first-period goal to help push the team’s early lead to two, but he also made an impact in the defensive zone, showing a willingness to sacrifice his body to block shots in crucial times of the game. As much as fans cringe when he does something like this, knowing his injury history, he shows the willingness to put his body on the line for the betterment of the team. If he can stay healthy, Fabbri adds another level of depth to the forward lines that seems to be much needed with the top line not being able to produce nearly as much as they did during the beginning part of the season (even with Alex DeBrincat getting his first goal in eight games).
Special Teams Are on Opposite Sides of the Spectrum
Coming into the matchup with the Blue Jackets, the Red Wings’ powerplay had gone 0/10 in its previous two games and looked to get off their skid but were going against the league’s best penalty kill over the last handful of games. The Blue Jackets penalty kill had successfully killed off their last 15 penalties over their six previous games. That number would be pushed to 0/13 for the Red Wings and 18/18 for the Blue Jackets by the end of the game.
Even with head coach Derek Lalonde making adjustments and shuffling players between the powerplay units once again, the team could not get any major chances on Blue Jackets goalie Spencer Martin, only tallying three total shots on the man advantage. While on the powerplay, the Red Wings struggled to get the puck even into the offensive zone, and when they did, it seemed like they were still trying to force the puck into spaces they should have just taken what the defense was giving them. After a hot start to the season, the team’s powerplay has struggled mightily and will need to be a talking point and fix for the team if they want to have success throughout the season.
On the flip side, the penalty kill continued to do its job while only having to kill off three penalties in the game. They were able to keep the Blue Jackets powerplay consisting of Laine, Zach Werenski, and Johnny Gaudreau at bay with solid defensive positioning and having their sticks in lanes to limit the chances Columbus could get on the net. Mixed in with the solid defensive play was the willingness from other players outside of Fabbri to get in front of pucks, leading to a total of 24 blocked shots in the game. While the powerplay struggles, the Red Wings penalty kill has been able to stay solid and keep them out of trouble for the most part when called upon.
What’s Next for the Red Wings
The team will head to Sweden for two games this week, facing off against the Ottawa Senators on Nov. 16 before taking on the Toronto Maple Leafs on Nov. 17.