Game 1: So Wake Me Up When It’s All Over
First Period — ctrl alt del
As my family and I settled into our seats at Little Caesars Arena, we looked around and noticed the differences between this game and others. Half of the rink was tarped off, the seats were all safeguarded to acknowledge social distancing, and the attendance was limited to 500. By the time my son and I were breathing in his eighth birthday celebration, the Florida Panthers had a 3-0 lead. Thomas Greiss was battling the puck, and the Detroit Red Wings already had a deficit above the two goals they average each game. Just over halfway into the opening stanza, the game appeared to be over. Bobby Ryan did breathe some temporary life into the team with a goal on a slap shot that beat Chris Driedger. The momentum lasted just over a minute as Alexander Barkov beat Greiss for the fourth time in just 15 minutes. A dejected Detroit team retreated to the locker room with the score looking like they had already played 60 minutes.
Second Period — Kill The Clock
Jonathan Bernier came out to start the second period. The spark that this provided however did not last very long. The second period was a perimeter game that saw limited chances for both teams. Bernier stood strong early, and Driedger responded, shutting down the limited chances he faced. The game remained at 4-1 until Aaron Ekblad beat Bernier with a slap shot to close out the period. This was a game reminiscent of the matchup against the Tampa Bay Lightning that they lost 5-1. It appeared to combine the inability to compete, matched by a lack of desire to do so. The only question would be, how bad would it get?
Third Period — Padding Stats
The Red Wings came out in the third period, getting on the board again less than three minutes in. Normally this would be good news, except that the goal came just after a powerplay expired. The expiration of the powerplay marked a continuation of an embarrassing draught. This draught is so embarrassing, that their expected goals for per 60 minutes is actually higher at 5 on 5 than when they have the man advantage. It was clear by the reaction of the players that they just saw this as a consolation prize in a game that was already lost. The Panthers were able to have some players pad some stats before the game ended, as Patric Hornqvist and Anthony Duclair got on the score sheet before the misery finally ended with the final buzzer which ended a 7-2 game.
Game 2 — Bounce Back
First Period — Stop Showing Off
The second game of the series between the Panthers and Red Wings felt different after the drop of the puck. Detroit did not look lost, and Florida superhuman. The Panthers did get the first tally though, leading off with a powerplay goal (must be nice). The chances went back and forth, and unlike the previous game, this felt like just a 1-0 hockey game, not an insurmountable deficit. Detroit was back to playing boring hockey, which is right where they wanted to be going into the first intermission.
Second Period — Dominance
Okay, so the title is in jest, slightly. The Red Wings scored two goals in the period, which is a normal game’s worth of output for this squad. Any goal from a Detroit player is typically impactful to a game. They have more one-goal losses than any team in the league, they average only two goals each game, and they cannot score on the powerplay. So, the first meaningful goal came off of the stick of Patrik Nemeth for his first of the year. The game-tying goal was one that did give the Red Wings some life in this game. Their newfound confidence in addition to Bernier shutting the door carried them until Mathias Brome scored his first goal as a Red Wing with just over two and a half minutes left in the second period. Brome’s long overdue first goal would be the game-winner in this matchup.
Third Period — Clamp Down
The Red Wings were able to come into the third period with a lead. This plays right into this team’s strength. Play great defensive hockey, capitalize on bad bounces, and rely on good defense and sound goaltending. All of this played out in the third period. This game would prove to be exactly the script that this team strives for. It creates a tough game to cover, but that is exactly what this team strives for. On this night, they executed it perfectly over the Panthers.
Florida Series Conclusion
As horrific as the first game was, the ability for this team to bounce back and win the second game should be equally impressive. This team, although outmatched from a skill standpoint most nights, competes hard. This matters a great deal as a team that sits at the bottom of the standings, looking up at the rest of the division. They could just mail it in, and be the team from last year that was not competitive. This team does not do that. Most nights, this team battles. The problem with this team is a skill problem, and that will be fixed in time as prospects ascend the ranks. Overall, a split in the series is not a bad way to end the weekend.