The Detroit Red Wings’ 6-2 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday afternoon was consequential more for reasons related to the state of the fan base than it was the state of the team.
With 5 “regulars” out of the lineup due to COVID protocols, and the Blackhawks looking to predictably prey upon the Red Wings during an 11:30 AM-local start game, the pitfalls that the Red Wings could fall into were highly visible; the scary part of the team’s second loss and fourth of their past six games was what it did to the team’s momentum–or now, the lack thereof–and what it did to the fan base in evoking so many memories of last year’s untenable, unwatchable season.
This year’s Red Wings team probably won’t make the playoffs, and most of us in the fan base are okay with that. What we want is to see a more competitive team, and, over the past two games, the Blackhawks have exposed the kinds of deep cracks and flaws in the lineup that the first four games gave us hope were mended by Steve Yzerman and the coaching staff.
In other words, the Wings stank on ice Sunday like it was still 2020, and that was terrifying. Fans are already losing hope that the 2020-2021 season will be any better, and the Wings’ patchwork lineup needs to put a significant amount of work in over the next two games in Dallas to prove themselves to their long-suffering fans–and themselves–again.
For our friends from Chicago, Sunday’s game offered a perfect “story” in the break-out of Pius Suter, who scored a hat trick, as NBC Sports Chicago’s Charlie Roumeliotis noted…
Suter scored his first career NHL goal in just his sixth game on Sunday against the Detroit Red Wings but he didn’t stop there. He scored his second one 5:02 later and completed the hat trick in the third period after looking off Patrick Kane on a 2-on-1 and snapping it past Jonathan Bernier.
Suter became the second player in franchise history to score each of his first three career NHL goals in the same game, joining Bill Kendall on Dec. 17, 1933.
“I was pumped up,” Suter said following a 6-2 win. “I was excited cause you know what the next one’s going to mean. Just kind of happy it worked out. You got the chance and put it in. Just really happy. Also to kind of put the game away as well.”
The Blackhawks were reportedly competing with at least eight other NHL teams for Suter’s services but won out because of their track record and the opportunity to play a large role. Another factor was assistant coach Marc Crawford, who served as the head coach during Suter’s rookie season with the Lions. “It’s a good spot for me to earn my spot and be helpful to the team,” Suter said in his video conference call introduction. “At the end, it was just a decision I felt most comfortable with.” Advertisement
The Blackhawks followed Suter “pretty closely,” according to GM Stan Bowman, and head coach Jeremy Colliton acknowledged they watched a lot of film on him. One of the things they appreciated about his game is his willingness to go to the dirty areas.
Suter is only 5-foot-9, 176 pounds but scores most of his goals from up close. Two of his three goals on Sunday came from 12-13-feet out.
And the Chicago Sun-Times’ Ben Pope continued the narrative:
Both of Suter’s first two goals came from driving the net hard and finding dirty pucks. But his third was a highlight-reel beauty, sniping a shot past Detroit goalie Jonathan Bernier from the left wing of a two-on-one rush with Patrick Kane.
“Today, [it was] great to see him break through offensively,” coach Jeremy Colliton said. “I love that he was willing to shoot on that two-on-one; a lot of guys are just looking to give it to ‘Kaner.’ And it was a really good sign that he continues to be a guy to want to make a play himself.”
Even outside of Suter, the Hawks turned in a fantastic effort across the board, out-shooting the Wings 35-27 and pulling away decisively in the third period to complete the two-game series sweep.
“It does a lot,” said Connor Murphy, whose second-period goal turned the momentum permanently in the Hawks’ favor. “Even moreso than the win, [I liked] how we seemed to piece together our game a little better today.”
The Hawks were delighted to see rookie Kevin Lankinen star in the goal as well, as they told the Chicago Daily Herald’s John Dietz…
Awarded a second straight start by coach Jeremy Colliton, Lankinen turned away 30 shots during a 4-1 victory over Detroit at the United Center on Friday. Nine came on the penalty kill, which was a perfect 5-for-5 after an abysmal start to the season.
Afterward, Lankinen admitted the home opener “was a big thing” and a dream come true.
“I always wanted to play here,” said Lankinen, who lost his NHL debut 5-4 in overtime at Florida on Tuesday. “I’ve seen the crowd. I’ve seen all the history that goes in this building. I’ve been around a couple years learning, learning to know the boys, (getting) to know the organization. They’ve done a really good job of bringing me in and making me feel comfortable.
“This night has been on my mind for a long time.”
Lankinen sounded like a goaltender who was in the beginning moments of a promising career, if only in his own mind…
Detroit’s only goal Friday came on a nifty move by Dylan Larkin with 7:38 left in the game. It ruined the shutout, but it definitely didn’t damper Lankinen’s mood.
“I would lie if I said (the shutout) didn’t cross my mind. It always does,” said Lankinen, who spent four seasons in the Finnish Elite League and most of the last two in the AHL with Rockford. “But most importantly I didn’t think about the score. I just wanted to win. I wanted to win so bad.
“I came in here prior to the game and prepared myself to win whatever it takes. Because I think today we can turn this thing over, get a fresh start at home.
“This can be a start of something good.”
And the rest of the Hawks talked with “swagger” after the game, as noted by ChicagoBlackhawks.com’s Carter Baum:
The Blackhawks are rolling, not only with two straight wins over the Red Wings at the United Center — most recently Sunday’s 6-2 victory — but on offense with 14 combined goals in the last three outings, nearly three times the total from the opening three games of the year.
“Winning does that to you,” Mattias Janmark said of the growing confidence in the group. “We weren’t really happy with the game last game, especially the first half of the game. Glad we got out of there with a win and I think we kept building on that today. Today was a much better game and it’s nice winning, but we we’re going to (face) a challenge on the road here again and we’ve got to start winning and climbing the board here.”
“Even more so than the win, just kind of how we seemed to piece together our game today a little better than did the last game against Detroit to start in the first,” added Connor Murphy, who scored and assisted on the afternoon. “At this point in the year, it’s important to keep growing as we talked about in Florida, wanting to make sure our team game gets a little bit better that that we all seem to mesh and grow and put something together here.”
Pius Suter scored his first NHL hat trick in the victory, while Murphy, Janmark and Kurashev all found twine as well. Kevin Lankinen drew in goal for a third straight game and got his second consecutive victory with 25 stops on the afternoon.
The most telling remarks, however, came from Murphy, via The Athletic’s Mark Lazerus and Scott Powers…
Murphy didn’t exactly mince words when comparing the challenge of facing Detroit at home to facing Nashville (or any other Central Division team) on the road.
“Obviously, a small sample size tonight,” Murphy said. “We have big tests coming up against better teams on paper, for sure. Those are the games that seem to show what you have and what you don’t. So it’ll be fun to get back on the road and see what we have.”
And Lazerus and Powers themselves:
All kidding aside, the Blackhawks did exactly what you’re supposed to do against bad teams — which was no sure thing, because a lot of people had the Blackhawks “contending” with Detroit for worst team in the division, if not the league. It’s only two games, so take it for what it is, but since the start of the second period Friday night, the Blackhawks generally dominated the Red Wings with more shots, more attempts, more scoring chances, and yes, more goals.
Yes, Detroit is awful. Yes, Lankinen got a much better draw than Malcolm Subban and Collin Delia did. But yes, the Blackhawks looked pretty darn good these past two games. And they’re getting production and good performances from a lot of the new guys, not just Kane and Duncan Keith. We’ll learn more about this overhauled team with every game, and a back-to-back in Nashville will give us an even better idea of what they are and what they can do. But after a disastrous first few games, the Blackhawks are 2-0-1 in their past three. And they’ve looked pretty good doing it. That’s not nothing.
NHL.com’s Adam Cain will provide our final survey of the Blackhawks’ takes on the game…
“I was happy to get the first [goal], finally,” said Suter, who was playing in his sixth NHL game. “[It] made it easier after. Then after the second one, I felt like, ‘Yeah, now you need to get that third one,’ especially when the second one is that early. So I had some chances then at the end it worked out. It was a great feeling. It was fun. Gave me some confidence too. It’s a good start of something.”
Suter signed a one-year contract with the Blackhawks on July 16 after he was the leading scorer and most valuable player of the top professional league in Switzerland. Playing for ZSC, Suter led National League A with 30 goals and 53 points in 50 games.
Bertuzzi made it 2-1 41 seconds into the second period when he redirected Dylan Larkin‘s shot from the left circle on a 5-on-3 power play.
Murphy extended the lead to 3-1 at 17:18 of the second with a wrist shot from the hashmarks of the right circle.
“We played well for a lot of the game,” Blackhawks coach Jeremy Colliton said. “Second period, we got a bit up and down, bit scrambly with our puck plays, but the Murphy goal was big for us to go in with a little more breathing room. But overall, the start, the third period [were] very solid, professional approach and we were rewarded for it.”
The Associated Press’s recap serves as our pivot point between the Blackhawks and Red Wings’ perspectives:
”We were way too loose defensively,” coach Jeff Blashill said. ”We’re going to have to be a team that does it way better in terms of defending. We can’t give up lots of chances.”
Chicago got off to a fast start behind Suter, a Swiss forward who agreed to a one-year contract in July. He sent a rebound into a wide-open net 4:42 into the first period, and then added a power-play goal off a nice pass by Janmark.
Chicago went 1 for 2 with the man advantage to move to 8 for 19 on the year. It has scored at least one power-play goal in its first six games for the first time since it opened the 1990-91 season with an 11-game run.
”I think the big part of it is execution,” coach Jeremy Colliton said. ”We’re being cleaner with the puck, breaking pressure.”
Detroit got one back when Bertuzzi redirected a Larkin shot past Lankinen during a 5-on-3 power play 41 seconds into the second. But Murphy responded for Chicago, making it 3-1 when he sent a wrist shot through traffic with 2:42 left in the period.
After Bertuzzi’s power-play goal trimmed Chicago’s lead to 4-2 in the third, Suter sent a wide-open shot from the left circle under Bernier’s glove with 7:32 left.
”We just weren’t good defensively,” Bertuzzi said. ”We needed to be better on the power play, and I thought we did a good job of that. I thought our PK wasn’t too bad either. Just 5-on-5, we just needed to bear down a little bit more.”
MLive’s Ansar Khan duly noted that the Wings were actually missing six regular players from the lineup…
The Red Wings (2-4-0) were missing six players – Robby Fabbri, Filip Zadina, Sam Gagner, Adam Erne and Jon Merrill due to COVID protocol and Darren Helm with an injury.
But coach Blashill told Khan that he wasn’t happy with the performances of the players who did take part in the game…
“We need more out of more people; both games in Chicago we didn’t have enough guys going,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “Guys have to raise their games. It starts with guys who are regulars, and guys that get opportunities (because others are out) have to play at a high level. Too many of the regulars haven’t raised their game.”
Blashill did not want to single out any individual, but it was a particularly rough day for Anthony Mantha. His poor decision to try to clear the puck through the middle of the ice resulted in Connor Murphy’s goal that gave Chicago a 3-1 lead at 17:18 of the second period. Mantha then failed to cover Mattias Janmark at the net, resulting in a 4-1 lead 58 seconds into the third period.
That resulted in Mantha getting only one shift in the final 19 minutes.
“I think everything is related, any of the actions that have happened throughout the season, and then we make decisions as we’re in games, as to who to put out there,” Blashill said. “But to shoulder it on one person would not be fair. Our whole team has got to be better.”
The Red Wings (2-4-0) need to be better physically in games against Dallas Tuesday (8:30 p.m., Fox Sports Detroit) and Thursday (8:30 p.m., FSD Plus).
“We had a good second (period) and they picked up the physicality and started laying the body on us,” Larkin said. “We got to have guys go out there and play physical, play like they want to be here. We got to get on the forecheck and make their (defense) pay. They got some small, skilled forwards and we just let them do what they wanted. If we do that in Dallas — don’t play hard, don’t play physical, we’re not engaged in battles — it’s not going to go well.”
And Larkin was blunt while speaking with the Free Press’s Helene St. James:
“We left our goaltender out to dry and lost battles,” captain Dylan Larkin said after earning two assists. “It was a quiet building. There was no talk. We had an opportunity against a team we thought we could beat twice and we didn’t show up. We have to turn it around before we go to Dallas or else it’s going to snowball. They are a good team waiting for us down there and we need to figure it out fast.”
The Wings played a much better second period, but then came the giveaway, and it was 4-1 on Janmark’s goal a minute into the third period.
“We had a good second and they picked up the physicality and started laying the body on us,” Larkin said. “They scored that goal, which is what it is. We have to have guys go out there and play physical, play like they want to be here. They have some small, skilled forwards and we just let them do what they wanted.”
Five Wings — Robby Fabbri, Filip Zadina, Sam Gagner, Adam Erne and Jon Merrill — are in COVID protocol. That’s the same number at which the Carolina Hurricanes had games postponed. But even with a patched lineup the Wings could have shown a higher level of competitiveness, could have made it hard on the Blackhawks.
“No. 1, we didn’t do a good enough job of putting pucks in behind people and being on the same page that way, and No. 2, I just though we were way too loose defensively,” Blashill said. “We have to be a team that does it way better in terms of defending.
The Wings were willing to admit that they plain old didn’t play well, as they told the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan…
“Not good enough,” Blashill said. “I don’t think we were competing like crazy out there. We were competing OK, but OK doesn’t cut it in this league and it won’t cut it for us, for sure. But today starts with work and compete and our work and compete wasn’t elite at all. Not close. If that’s not great, nothing will help you at that point. You have to play with that to have a chance in this league.”
Chicago’s Connor Murphy, Mattias Janmark and Philipp Kurashev added Blackhawks goals.
Goaltender Jonathan Bernier stopped 29 shots, while Chicago goalie Kevin Lankinen made 25 saves, completing an impressive two-game run against the Wings.
The Wings fell to 2-4 on the season, and continue this four-game road trip with games Tuesday and Thursday in Dallas.
“We just weren’t good defensively,” Bertuzzi said. “We needed to be better on the power play and we did a good job with that. Just 5-on-5, we have to bear down a little more.”
And Kulfan pointed out that coach Blashill wasn’t in the mood to pile on Anthony Mantha, who was -2 in only 12:50 played…
“I wouldn’t single anybody out, because we have many guys, we have a whole group of guys, that have to be way better,” said coach Jeff Blashill, regarding Mantha’s play. “Guys have to play at a way higher level and certainly it’s the whole group.”
Mantha signed a four-year, $22.8 million contract in the offseason. He was a restricted free agent, and many analysts suspected a big offensive season was forthcoming.
But Mantha has yet to get going, as has been the case with many Wings offensively (Namestinikov, Sam Gagner, Valtteri Filppula, Mathias Brome are all looking for their first points).
“Again, to me, to shoulder it on one person is not fair,” Blashill said. “Our whole team has to be better.”
And DetroitRedWings.com’s Matthew Falkenbury reminded us that the Red Wings will need a short memory here, with the Stars hosting Detroit on both Tuesday and Thursday:
“We just weren’t good defensively. We needed to be better on the power play, and I thought we did that,” said Bertuzzi. “In five-on-five, we needed to bear down a bit more.”
Givani Smith and Taro Hirose were called up from the taxi squad prior to Sunday’s game and each made their season debuts. The Red Wings also announced that Riley Barber was added to the taxi squad from the Grand Rapids Griffins.
Game one of the Dallas series will begin at 8:30 p.m. ET on Tuesday. The Stars were the Western Conference representative in the 2020 Stanley Cup Final in Edmonton, and had the start of this season delayed due to COVID-19 protocols.
As Larkin alluded to, and according to Bertuzzi, the Red Wings will need to mentally move past the pair of losses in Chicago as soon as possible.
“A short memory is a big key to this season,” said Bertuzzi. “Forget about it and move on to the next series, and try and get better every night.”
Here’s hoping that the Red Wings remember all the things they have to do right on Tuesday, and none of the many, many things they did wrong on Sunday.
Highlights: Here are clips from Sportsnet and the NHL:
Post-game: The Blackhawks’ website posted clips of Pius Suter…
And coach Jeremy Colliton’s post-game remarks:
The Red Wings posted a clip of remarks from Dylan Larkin, Tyler Bertuzzi and coach Jeff Blashill:
Photos: The Chicago Tribune posted a photo gallery from the game;
The Free Press posted a 16-image gallery;
The Detroit News posted a 12-image gallery;
NHL.com posted an 81-image gallery.