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    Heading Into The Series

    Things were not going well for the Detroit Red Wings as they arrived in town to play the Florida Panthers.  They were on an eight-game slide in which they were outscored a combined 33-13. The Florida Panthers were on the other end of the spectrum as they had not lost in regulation to that point in the season. Jonathan Bernier was still injured, and Thomas Greiss had not been playing well, with a save percentage (SV%) under .900 and a goals-against average (GAA) over 3.00. Going in, this series appeared to have all of the ingredients to keep the losing streak intact.

    Game 1

    First Period

    It was announced before puck-drop that Anthony Mantha would be scratched. Jeff Blashill noted that he would provide an update on Mantha’s status after the game. With the wording Blashill used, it allowed everyone to use their imagination until it was confirmed that he was a healthy scratch. Mantha had looked like he was coming out of a rough stretch, so the decision came as a surprise. It was apparent that the move motivated the team, as they came out buzzing. The energy and physicality were at a level seldom seen this season. Although the first period ended in a scoreless tie, the ice was tilted in Detroit’s favor.

    Second Period

    Hard work paid off in the second period as Marc Staal of all people led off the scoring three minutes in. Troy Stecher wristed a shot on net that banked off of Sam Gagner’s shin, onto Staal’s stick for an easy tuck. Staal’s first goal as a Red Wing and Greiss’ play in net maintained the energy level for Detroit. With under three minutes to go in the second period, Bobby Ryan made a great play from behind the net to Givani Smith to make it 2-0 Red Wings. They took this lead and newfound confidence into the locker room as the buzzer ended the second period.

    Third Period

    The Panthers capitalized just over two minutes into the second period.  Florida scoring so early was troubling with how this season has gone. Earlier games this season have seen the ice tilt in the favor of the opposition after converting. Detroit was undeterred in this game. The Red Wings maintained their composure, playing with urgency. Their energetic, physical play continued through the third period. Robby Fabbri added to the one-goal lead just over nine minutes in, scoring on a rebound off of the stick of Smith. The assist was Smith’s second point of the night, but not his last impact on the game. Smith fought Aaron Ekblad just after the Fabbri goal to complete his Gordie Howe hat trick. This was a career night for the former second-round pick. Vladislav Namestnikov iced the game with an empty-net goal making it 4-1, giving Detroit their first regulation win this season.

    Game 2

    First Period

    After getting a chance to speculate on the Mantha situation, Red Wings fans got to see him reenter the lineup. It was a welcome sight, as the sustainability of Detroit’s offense without Mantha is questionable at best. The first period was another example of a hungry Detroit team dictating the pace of play. The physicality was not as apparent as the previous game, but the energy remained. Detroit was able to get a power-play early on that generated chances. They scored soon after the man-advantage when Filip Zadina beat Sergei Bobrovsky with a shot that appeared to go through him. The ice started to tilt after a few minutes of a back and forth affair. Greiss saw a flurry of chances before Alexander Wennberg scored with just under 16 minutes played. The Red Wings played a good period but found themselves even after one.

    Second Period

    Greiss was once again the best player for the Red Wings during the second period.  He saw a barrage of quality chances as Florida controlled the play. Greiss held them off of the scoresheet for almost half of the period before a shot bounced off of Patric Hornqvist and over Greiss to make it 2-1. Florida continues to pour it on Greiss until the buzzer went. Both teams retreated to their locker rooms in a close 2-1 game that favored Florida.

    Third Period

    The game seemed to flow back and forth before Detroit saw a power-play. Once again they held decent possession while passing the puck around the perimeter. There were multiple attempts to get Mantha the puck in his office at the left faceoff dot. Mantha was able to release a couple of shots, but none made it to the net. The play went back and forth before Aaron Ekblad put the Red Wings on another power play when he slashed Dylan Larkin. The ensuing power play saw Detroit maintain possession again, passing around the perimeter. They were not able to get any shots of note on this power play either. It seemed apparent that the lack of movement was allowing Florida to sit in their lanes, limiting quality chances. The lack of chances on the power play would be the story of this game. Florida attempted to limit the time of possession for Detroit, playing a puck-possession style.  Greiss left the net with just over two minutes to play in regulation. The Red Wings were able to generate some chances, getting the puck to the net, but were unable to capitalize ending the game 2-1.

    Florida Series Conclusion

    Detroit split the series against Florida 1-1, but looked worlds better than the Red Wings team that flew out of Tampa Bay. They skated fairly even with a Florida Panthers team, handing them their first regulation loss of the season. Greiss was the clear MVP of the series for this team. He played well in both outings but turned out a gem in the victory. Although Detroit played well in this series, they will not be happy with the split. Losing a close game while not generating any quality chances on the power play will undoubtedly be on the players’ minds as they fly to Nashville.

     

    Brandon Gunn
    I am a husband, and a father of two that along with my family has rescued two dogs. I am an avid, lifelong Detroit sports fan for better or for worse, Red Wings season ticket holder, and live in a house divided (I root for UM, she roots for OSU). I have played hockey my entire life, and help coach my son’s hockey team. If you aren't laughing, you arent living. Beware of sarcasm.

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