The Detroit Red Wings earned a much-needed victory on Wednesday night, opening the post-All-Star Break portion of their schedule with a 2-1 shootout win over the San Jose Sharks.
Justin Abdelkader of all people delivered the shootout winner, dekeing and dangling Martin Jones:
The Red Wings got into something of a “shoot-’em-up” with the Sharks, out-shooting San Jose 44-31, but the chances on both ends were so frequent that…well, the game got a little boring at times, because it was pedestrian chance one way, pedestrian chance the other way, lather, rinse, repeat, until the 3rd period.
Eventually, and despite their crappy power play, the Red Wings got around to scoring on Martin Jones and attempting to earn more than a scoreless tie, but the Sharks responded with 4:59 remaining in regulation, and as the Sharks found themselves shorthanded halfway through overtime, the visiting team most definitely played for the shootout.
For the Sharks, NBC Sports Bay Area’s Marcus White duly notes that Martin Jones was excellent in the crease, which is a positive for a team that’s winless in four…
Labanc tied the game, but Jones was San Jose’s best player Wednesday night.
He stopped 43 of 44 shots in regulation, and all seven he faced in overtime while crease counterpart Mrazek faced none in the extra frame. Jones allowed four or more goals in each of his last two starts, and this kind of performance that’s been rare between since December.
The Sharks have only scored three goals in the last two nights, so they may need more nights like this from Jones on the road trip.
Sharks coach Pete DeBoer told the Associated Press that Jones’ play was the highlight of a difficult night for his team…
“He looked good and gave us a chance to win a game that we probably didn’t deserve,” Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said. “The Red Wings looked fresher than we did and played a smart game. Jonesy gave us a chance, but I think getting one point is a fair result.”
To borrow a phrase from DeBoer, the Sharks probably deserve better.
The team is without a win since Thornton suffered his right-knee injury on Jan. 23, but their 0-2-1 record doesn’t reflect the fight they’re showing without their emotional leader.
The Sharks threw up 42 shots against a Pittsburgh Penguins squad that went 9-3 in January Tuesday night and they lost a tight goaltender’s duel in a seven-round shootout Wednesday. The team’s sloppy 6-5 loss to the New York Rangers last week came at the end of a stretch in which it had played eight games in 13 days.
Captain Joe Pavelski said it doesn’t feel like the team is riding a season-high losing streak.
“But we can’t let this go any further,” he said. “If you’re going to be there at the end, you have to break these little streaks.”
Jones told NHL.com’s Dave Hogg that the Sharks are trying to make due with what they’ve got:
“With [Thornton] out, a lot of guys in this room are going to have to step up, and I’m one of them,” said Jones, who made 43 saves. “We can’t just stop playing because he’s hurt.”
The Sharks were playing for the second straight night, having lost 5-2 to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday. Kevin Labanc scored, and Jones played well one night after allowing four goals on 30 shots.
“[Jones] was the reason we had a chance to win that game,” Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said. “A point was probably a fair outcome for us.”
We’ll shift perspectives from those of the Sharks to those of the Red Wings via the balance of Hogg’s recap:
Trevor Daley scored for Detroit (20-21-8), which was playing for the first time since the All-Star break. The Red Wings had a season-high 44 shots.
“I told the team that was a glaring area that had to get better,” Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. “I think we’re ranked 30th or something in shots per game (29.6). You don’t have to be first or second in that stat, but you can’t be 30th.”
Mrazek, who has played 17 games this season as a backup to Jimmy Howard, made 30 saves. He is 3-0-1 with a .968 save percentage in his past four starts.
“When you get to play a lot of minutes you get your confidence and your swagger back,” he said.
Blashill said that Mrazek would start on Friday, and he did so for good reason:
Petr Mrazek made 30 saves through regulation and overtime to improve to 4-1-1 in his last five decisions, posting a 1.88 GAA, .936 SV% and two shutouts over that span. #NHLStats #SJSvsDET pic.twitter.com/ESuzpzkY5M
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) February 1, 2018
Coach Blashill told the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan that he’s going to play the hot hand, and that hot hand is #34 right now…
“He feels real confident right now and everyone in this room has seen him at his best,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “When he’s confident like that, he’s a real good goalie. It’s just not on the goalie, it’s how you play in front of him. There have been times we haven’t played good enough in front of him.
“I talked to both goalies (including Jimmy Howard) out of the break, and if one gets hot, he’ll play. Both guys are very capable of it. We need elite goaltending and that’s what this league is. If you don’t get elite goaltending it’s hard to win on a regular basis. Both guys can give it to us.”
Mrazek is trying to keep the roll going.
“When you get to play a lot of minutes you get confident and you get the swagger back,” Mrazek said. “I’m trying to build on that.”
As the Free Press’s Helene St. James noted, the Wings played pretty darn well in front of Mrazek, too:
It helped Wednesday how well the Wings played in front of Mrazek — the Sharks didn’t get much in the way of grade-A chances, while the Wings poured a season-high 44 shots at Sharks goalie Martin Jones.
“We did as good a job as we have in a while of just trying to shoot pucks and get pucks on net and that created a lot of havoc and some rebound chances for us,” Justin Abdelkader said.
It was Abdelkader who finally ended the game, at 10:54 p.m., when he closed it out in round 7. Seven players scored in the shootout, and that made for an edgy bench.
“It’s nerve-wracking,” Abdelkader said. “It’s tough to watch those. Obviously we had to score more than usual, but we found a way to win.”
One of Mrazek’s best saves came when he caught Brent Burns’ rising shot from the left circle late in the second period of a 0-0 game. It’s the kind of save that inspires teammates.
“When his confidence is going, he sees the puck, he’s out of his crease, he moves really well and really can read where the play is going,” Abdelkader said “It’s good to see – he’s had a bit of a rough stretch, but a lot of guys do. It’s good to see him dig himself out and bounce back.”
If there’s any, “I hope this is a sign of things to come” indications from this game from my perspective, I hope that Trevor Daley is slowly finding his game again after half-a-season’s worth of acclimating to the Red Wings’ systems and style of play. Daley was excellent at both ends of the ice against the Sharks, and the Wings need Daley to fulfill his contractual expectations if they are to “make a push” (regardless of whether it succeeds).
DetroitRedWings.com’s Dana Wakiji took note of Daley’s play:
Trevor Daley: Sometimes the most innocent-looking shot will be the one that makes it into the net. That’s what happened in the third period when Daley drove to the net and backhanded a shot at Sharks goaltender Martin Jones. The puck trickled past Jones and the goalie ended up kicking it back into the net with his right skate. It was Daley’s fourth goal of the season and second in his last three games. Daley returned from missing three games with a lower-body injury. He played 29 shifts for 19:01, had four shots on goal, four blocked shots and was plus-1.
Quotable: “I think Niels (Frans Nielsen) gave me a pass break and it was a great pass. I didn’t have nothing to shoot at and it just trickled in. I just put in on net and I got lucky. Sometimes good things happen.” — Daley
Highlights: NHL.com posted a rare YouTube-based highlight clip:
Fox Sports Detroit posted Trevor Thompson’s post-game interview with Justin Abdelkader…
The Red Wings posted a combined clip of comments from Trevor Daley, Petr Mrazek, Abdelkader and coach Jeff Blashill:
Photos: The Free Press posted a 20-image gallery;
The Detroit News posted a 35-image gallery;
ESPN posted a 46-image gallery;
And NHL.com posted a 67-image gallery.
Here’s the Game Summary…
And the Event Summary:
The final shot attempts were 67-62 Detroit.
Red Wings notebooks and also of Red Wings-related note: The Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan kind-of-sort-of examined the possibility of the Wings trading Petr Mrazek and/or Jimmy Howard:
The main issue, when thinking about the trade deadline, is the lack of contending teams with any sort of goaltending issues.
The New York Islanders have been the most obvious candidate in need of a goaltending upgrade, but the Islanders haven’t indicated they’re aggressively looking for a goaltender.
The Islanders, also, are on the cusp of playoff contention and aren’t a lock to make the postseason anyway, which might keep them from being a buyer at the deadline.
Chicago was a team considered a distant possibility of needing goaltending depth, but with starter Corey Crawford (upper body) returning to practice, the Blackhawks likely aren’t going to make a move.
The Red Wings might be content to keep both goaltenders, and particularly with Mrazek.
The organization must make a decision as to whether to keep Mrazek beyond this season or let him go this summer, not qualifying his contract and making him an unrestricted free agent.
Hockeybuzz’s Bob Duff discussed the Wings’ “return to health,” and he got a great quote from Trevor Daley:
“You know you’ve got to go on a run right now,” said Daley, who missed three games. “Now is the time to get it done. There’s still a lot of games left with a lot of points out there.
“It’s one game, one shift, one period at a time but we realize how desperate this is right now. The time’s right now. We’ve got to get it done right now. We put ourselves in a tough position, but we could take ourselves out of it, too. It could be real good around here.”