The Detroit Red Wings did what they could not do in Monday afternoon’s loss to Columbus: the Wings rallied from a 1-0 loss, rallied despite surrendering a 2-1 lead, and fought their way to a hard-earned 3-2 overtime win over the self-same Blue Jackets on Tuesday night.
This Red Wings team is 2-and-2 after 2 games, and it will rest on Wednesday ahead of a 4-game road trip (to Chicago and Dallas) starting on Friday, and if the team were to even approach .500 by the end of this 56-game season, many Red Wings fans would be thrilled, or at least satisfied with a team that appears to be learning and growing “on the fly.”
Now all of that is easy to say after 4 games, and, as we’ve seen in previous seasons, the weight of losing streaks tends to wear on this team’s young (and key) players. But we can at least hope that this year’s Red Wings are a different group of individuals, and all of 4 games in, there is room for progress and room for hope here.
On Tuesday night, put bluntly, the Red Wings won because Dylan Larkin’s shot went off Elvis Merzlikins, then Tyler Bertuzzi’s inner thigh, and sometimes you need that grit and jam to make an ugly game pretty.
All of that happened in that one sequence, as well as over the course of the 60:15 played, and that much is worth celebrating for one evening.
Our friends from Columbus were a little baffled as to how the game could have slipped from their grasp, as The Athletic’s Aaron Portzline noted…
Maybe the Blue Jackets are having trouble adjusting to their new offensive freedom under coach John Tortorella. Maybe they’re searching for chemistry after a short training camp with no exhibition games.
The constant line-juggling. The weird schedule. The absence of fans and atmosphere in the arenas. Hell, there are a million excuses at the ready for every NHL team in this 56-game, virus-shortened season.
But here’s what we can say definitively about the Blue Jackets, who dropped to 1-2-1 with a 3-2 overtime loss to Detroit on Tuesday: If the Blue Jackets’ top offensive players don’t get going, and quickly, this 20th season in franchise history is not going to be memorable.
This is not a club that oozes offensive talent to begin with, so when the leaders go cold, it’s devastating. And they’re plenty frigid to start this season.
“Past couple of games, right on through tonight, we just haven’t developed enough,” Tortorella said. “It’s been sloppy.”
And ColumbusBlueJackets.com’s Jeff Svoboda suggested via his “3 Takeaways” from the game:
2. Sloppy start: Tortorella said it in the lead quote above — the games have been sloppy, and he’s not lying. There really hasn’t been any rhythm for either team in the Jackets’ four games so far. The shortened training camps and lack of preseason games probably haven’t helped, and this seems to be a league-wide phenomenon, so it’s just something the Jackets have to live with. But it also makes it difficult to suss out the root of any issues, and very odd puck luck hasn’t exactly helped. The good news is that water will eventually reach its level. In the meantime, “I think we have to be a lot better in a lot of areas of our game,” Jenner said. “We have to be a lot better to give ourselves a better chance there.”
3. For all the searching for consistency the team has done so far, it was an overtime away from being .500 heading home after its season-opening road trip, but one of the weirdest overtime goals you’ll ever see was the difference. To start, both Max Domi and Cam Atkinson aggressively forechecked a loose puck after Detroit won the faceoff, but when the Jackets couldn’t gain possession, Detroit had an odd-man rush. Credit to Merzlikins for making the initial save on Wings captain Larkin, but he had little chance on controlling the rebound, which went right into Bertuzzi and into the net. It was oddly similar to the game-ending goal Merzlikins gave up in his second start last year in Chicago, as the Blackhawks won when Merzlikins made a save but the rebound bounced in off Jonathan Toews. “It’s just how it is right now,” Texier said.
The Blue Jackets weren’t happy with the way the game ended, as the Columbus Dispatch’s Brian Hedger noted…
“It just (stinks) no matter how it goes in,” said rookie forward Liam Foudy, who assisted on a game-tying goal by Alexandre Texier in the third period. “It was so quick. It happened really quick and, obviously, we saw the light go off (from the bench) and no one was happy. Now we’ve just got to move on and go to the next game.”
The loss concluded a four-game road trip for the Blue Jackets to begin the season, giving them just three out of a possible eight points. After starting with a pair of losses in Nashville, each decided in the third period, this was another tough one to stomach.
Even more daunting is what’s next, as the Jackets head back to Nationwide Arena to open their home slate with games Thursday and Saturday against the Tampa Bay Lightning – the team that eliminated them in the first round of last summer’s playoffs and advanced to win the Stanley Cup.
Tampa Bay won’t have Nikita Kucherov after offseason hip surgery, but the Lightning is still loaded with talent and the Blue Jackets need to figure out some solutions to their inconsistent play.
“There wasn’t much offense by either team,” said coach John Tortorella, who is mixing and matching forwards his four lines in a frustrating search for combinations he likes. “The past couple games, right on through tonight, we just haven’t developed enough. It’s been sloppy.”
There’s that Tortorella quote again, in no small part because his post-game press conference lasted a whole minute and four seconds.
NHL.com’s Dave Hogg’s recap will wrap up our survey of the Blue Jackets’ remarks, and shift our focus to those of the home team…
Jenner gave the Blue Jackets a 1-0 lead at 1:38 of the second period with a high wrist shot.
“We’ve got to get things going,” Jenner said. “We have got to be better in a lot of areas to give ourselves a chance.”
Mantha scored into an open net off the rebound of a Bertuzzi shot on the power play to tie the game 1-1 at 3:37.
“We’re not getting down this year when we give up a goal,” Bertuzzi said. “We know we have to keep our composure on the bench and just make sure we come back with a good, hard shift. I think we did that again tonight, and we got rewarded.”
Ryan gave the Red Wings a 2-1 lead at 11:17 when he flipped in a loose puck from below the right hash marks. He is the first player to score four goals in his first three games with Detroit.
“I really didn’t have any expectations either way, because I didn’t want to judge him before he got here, but he’s been outstanding,” Blashill said. “I know he worked hard on his skating during the break, and it has been very good. When he’s skating like this, it allows him to use his whole skill set, and those skills are why he was such a high draft pick (No. 2 by Anaheim Ducks in 2005 NHL Draft).”
Texier tied it 2-2 at 5:04 of the third period with a shot from the left point. The Red Wings were assessed a minor penalty for delay of game after Blashill’s unsuccessful challenge for goaltender interference.
The Red Wings managed to kill that penalty with relative ease, and Tyler Bertuzzi and Dylan Larkin’s comments to the Associated Press’s Larry Lage were telling in that regard:
Tyler Bertuzzi scored 15 seconds into overtime and Bobby Ryan became the first player to score four times in his first three games with Detroit, leading the Red Wings to a 3-2 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday night. Bertuzzi was credited with the winning goal after the puck went off him and into the net following a rebound off Dylan Larkin’s shot.
“I’m just going hard to the net and obviously it went in off my body,” Bertuzzi said. “I’ll take it.”
Ryan had a tiebreaking goal late in the second after Anthony Mantha pulled Detroit into a 1-all tie with a power-play goal early in the period.
“Bobby has been unreal for us, obviously,” Bertuzzi said. “But all the new guys have fit in and done a great job.”
Jonathan Bernier made 22 saves for the Red Wings, who split their opening four-game homestand in a relatively strong start after easily being the NHL’s worst team last season.
“We want the puck this year,” Larkin said. “Last year, there was times when no one wanted it.”
As for the specifics regarding the winning of the game, Bertuzzi and Larkin were more than ready to expound upon their remarks while speaking with the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan:
On the winning play, Larkin and Bertuzzi had a partial 2-on-1 rush, the Wings’ captain passed the puck, and it bounced off of Bertuzzi and past Columbus goalie Elvis Merzlikins.
“After the faceoff, I noticed two guys sucked in on Bert and away it went,” Larkin said. “Just got the puck on net and it went off of Bert and it was true Tyler Bertuzzi fashion. Off his behind, off his foot, and maybe his stick and into the net. But big goal for him.”
The Wings are 2-2 through the first four games, splitting each of the two-game series they’ve had thus far.
“Very significant,” said Larkin, of splitting the four-game season-opening home stand. “I’ve liked our process every game. The way we played with the puck, and our confidence, and the goaltending has been great. Just the way we’ve played, it’s repeatable.”
Columbus forward Alexander Texier tied the game 2-2 at 5 minutes 4 seconds of the third period, but the Red Wings didn’t wilt or panic. They carried a fair share of the play the rest of regulation, and quickly won it in overtime.
“We played a real good 60 minutes and we really deserved that win,” Bertuzzi said. “Everyone is battling and making smart plays and driving the net.”
Larkin sounded like a coach while delivering this line to DetroitRedWings.com’s Brett McWethy:
“I mentioned it last game, I liked our process every game, the way we played with the puck, our confidence,” Larkin said. “Our goaltending’s been great. I think starting the season here 2-2 is huge. It’s huge for our confidence. The way we’re playing is repeatable and I feel like we can play like that every night. It was a big win tonight and a great home stand.”
The coach himself had this to say about Bobby Ryan, who set a team record by scoring his fourth goal in 3 games with the team…
“When (Ryan’s) skating well, he can use his skillset,” Blashill said. “He’s got really good hands; he’s got a really good offensive mind. I’ve been really impressed with his leadership. He’s been great to have around. He’s a guy that was a really, really high pick for a reason. He’s got lots of talent, and I think he’s done a really good job here, both in his approach, his leadership and also his play.”
McWethy looked forward in his recap, noting that the road gets harder for the Wings from here on out–literally and figuratively…
The Red Wings will hit the road to face a familiar foe this weekend, starting a two-game series against the host Chicago Blackhawks on Friday from the United Center.
Despite some defensive lapses, Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill was pleased with his team’s effort, especially in an effort that resulted in two points.
“We’re still giving too many rush chances up against, so there’s still areas we need to get better at,” Blashill said. “But I thought our puck support was really good, I thought we moved the puck pretty well to each other. We’ve just got to keep working at it and keep getting better.”
And, among the Free Press’s Helene St. James’ observations in her quote-free recap were this about the Wings’ heretofore powerless power play…
The Wings had gone 0-for-6 through three games with man advantages, showing little cohesiveness from either unit until second power play in Monday’s game. When Pierre-Luc Dubois was called for hooking, Larkin’s unit with Mantha, Bertuzzi, Ryan and Filip Hronek got set up and were rewarded when Mantha got to a puck that had squirted out after hitting a player in front of the net. Mantha had an open net, and his first goal of the season.
And it’s worth noting that we’re at a point where Jeff Blashill’s line-shuffling has actually worked, if only for one game:
Lines were tweaked in an effort to generate goals from players other than Larkin and Ryan, who entered the game with two goals and three goals, respectively, and with Robby Fabbri unavailable because of COVID protocol. Larkin centered Vladislav Namestnikov and Filip Zadina. Mantha was put on a line with Ryan and Michael Rasmussen, and Bertuzzi started the game with Luke Glendening and Mathias Brome. Valtteri Filppula was with Sam Gagner and Frans Nielsen.
The defense pairs remained the same, which meant Danny DeKeyser played in back-to-back games. That’s a good sign considering he has undergone back surgery and missed more than a year of hockey.
It’s still early, and the Hawks are 0-3-and-1 (Dallas hasn’t played yet due to coronavirus issues), so the Red Wings are going to have their hands full with the rebuilding Blackhawks on Friday and Sunday (Sunday’s game is an…11:30 AM local start?)…
But the Red Wings are showing some promise early, and as they prepare to play 6 games in 12 nights, they’re looking competitive and determined, and we couldn’t say that last year in early October.
Highlights: NHL.com posted a highlight clip (don’t worry, the header is from a Buffalo-Philadelphia game; it’s Wings highlights) and an extended clip:
Sportsnet also posted a highlight clip:
Post-game: The Blue Jackets’ website posted clips of comments from Liam Foudy…
And coach John Tortorella:
Fox Sports Detroit posted clips of Dylan Larkin, Tyler Bertuzzi and coach Jeff Blashill’s remarks…
The Free Press posted clips of Larkin and Bertuzzi’s remarks…
And the Red Wings posted a blended post-game clip:
Photos: The Free Press posted a 14-image gallery;
The Detroit News posted a 26-image gallery;
The Blue Jackets’ website posted a 22-image gallery;
NHL.com posted a 36-image gallery;