The Detroit Red Wings dropped a 2-1 overtime decision to the 3-and-0 Dallas Stars on Tuesday evening, and the entire season’s worth of frustration for the 2-4-and-1 Red Wings could be summarized in the ways in which Troy Stecher, Anthony Mantha and Vladislav Namestnikov were hemmed into a tiny triangle of players on the Stars’ OT-winning goal:
That’s the Red Wings this season. They have more talent, they have more grit and determination, they’ve got more poise–at times–but they don’t have the self-confidence to get in the shooting or passing lanes as the Stanley Cup Finalist Stars work the puck deep, nearly lose the puck, regain control, cycle and find a top shelf shooting angle because the team isn’t on the same page, nor are the players on their different pages demonstrative enough to get shit done.
That’s not a bad thing, per se. The concept that a 2-4-and-1 team views losing to the Stars in overtime, after blowing a horrible game to Chicago on Sunday, as a disappointment is a big step forward in the expectations department.
A year ago at this time, Wings fans would have been completely satisfied with hanging in there vs. the Stars. This time around, Wings fans are disappointed, baffled at some of the ice time and player usage decisions, and expecting the team to somehow come out with a split on Thursday.
Now we need the team to expect the same kind of results. If the Wings as a team can generate the collective confidence to send the Stars to their first loss on Thursday, the fan base might feel some…hope? Is that the term?
Our friends from Dallas, of course, were elated to “win ugly,” and it’s not like their lineup is star-studded at present, as the Dallas News’s Matthew DeFranks noted:
“Every game is not going to be a Picasso,” Stars coach Rick Bowness said. “We’ve said that before, and sometimes you just have to dig down and find a way to win a game, and we did that.”
Jason Dickinson scored the game-winning goal 1:32 into overtime to keep the undermanned Stars undefeated, lifting a makeshift lineup that coach Rick Bowness cobbled together as if he were Dr. Frankenstein.
There was no Tyler Seguin. No Jamie Benn. No Roope Hintz. No Blake Comeau. No Joel Kiviranta. No Ben Bishop.
It was a group of players that included five of the team’s top nine forwards, and its usual No. 1 goaltender — though Anton Khudobin has certainly filled in more than fine. The result was a lineup that featured a defenseman playing forward (Mark Pysyk), a forward playing his second NHL game in 31/2 years (Tanner Kero), and Justin Dowling and Rhett Gardner as two of Dallas’ four centers.
“[The win is] huge for us,” defenseman John Klingberg said. “We’re a big family here, and everyone steps up when it’s needed. Some guys go down, and some guys are stepping up and being a big part of this team.”
There were no Filip Zadina, Robby Fabbri, Sam Gagner, Jon Merrill, Adam Erne (okay, not so much there) or Darren Helm for the Red Wings, either, but I digress…
Anyway, the Stars got to speak about their depth of talent due to their injuries and absences, as DallasStars.com’s Mike Heika noted…
The Red Wings have been struggling and fall to 2-4-1. The Stars have played all three games at home and have been fortunate to have a red hot power play at the time.
But these wins are also a sign that Dallas has earned a lot in its run to the Stanley Cup Final and can endure, survive and manufacture wins. They did it in the Edmonton bubble, and they’re doing it now.
“It shows that we’ve been drafting well and signing good free agents,” said Klingberg of the input from the new guys. “We’re a big family where everyone steps up when they need to. When some guys go down, other guys step up.”
And DeFranks found that the Stars, as winners do, gave themselves moments to be self-critical as well, as Klingberg and Dickinson both admitted some “boo boos” made over the course of the plays leading up to Dickinson’s game-winner:
Klingberg said: “He probably thought that I was going to shoot it, so I was trying to fake him out. I actually lost the puck, I wanted to shoot myself. But after that, Dicky found a way to be open right back, so it was good to see it go in.”
Dickinson knows it could have ended differently. Moments before his winner, Dickinson was beat wide by Anthony Mantha, but Klingberg came over to poke the puck away and keep the Stars alive.
“If we’re being honest with ourselves, I got absolutely burned by Mantha to start the 3 on 3,” Dickinson said. “That could have easily gone in the net, and we’d be sitting here having a whole different conversation. I’m lucky I have guys out there that are protecting my back.”
It was Dickinson’s third overtime goal of his career.
“Sometimes, you just get lucky, if we’re being honest,” Dickinson said.
The Stars continued while speaking with NHL.com’s Dave Hogg…
“I felt like I had a lot of ice, and I’m sure [Mantha] thought I was going to shoot,” Klingberg said. “I tried to fake him out, but then I lost the puck when I actually wanted to shoot. [Dickinson] did a great job of getting open, and it was good to see it go in.”
“There are nights you just have to dig down and find a way to win a hockey game,” Stars coach Rick Bowness said. “We’re playing so many games in a condensed schedule and you just have to get it done. That’s our approach.”
And even I will readily admit that John Klingberg’s 1-1 marker was a thing of beauty:
Klingberg tied it 1-1 with a power-play goal at 5:27 of the second period, scoring with a point shot through traffic. It was Dallas’ ninth power-play goal in the first three games, one short of the NHL record set by the 1975-76 Montreal Canadiens.
“If you go back to the playoffs in Edmonton, [Klingberg] was our best defenseman, and that hasn’t changed,” Bowness said. “He wants to be out there in every key situation, and he wants the puck. That’s when he’s at his best.”
Klingberg has six points (one goal, five assists) in three games.
“I don’t think my job is to sit back and wait for the game to come to me,” Klingberg said. “I wasn’t overly happy with our game tonight. We got the two points, but we have a higher standard and we need the intensity to ramp up when we play them again [Thursday].”
The story for the Red Wings was a little different, as the Associated Press’s recap noted:
Detroit dropped a fifth straight game in Dallas but gained a point for the first time that stretch. The Red Wings are winless in four of their past five games this season.
Anton Khudobin stopped 20 shots to improve to 3-0. Greiss also had 20 saves.
The Stars had their first two games called off because of COVID-19 protocols before beating Nashville twice while tying an NHL record with eight power-play goals in their first two games.
The only goal in regulation for the Stars was again with the man advantage, making Dallas the first NHL team with at least nine power-play goals through the first three games since Vancouver in 1983-84.
Dallas trailed for the first time this season when Vladislav Namestnikov scored his first goal for the Red Wings, catching Khudobin unprepared and slipping a soft backhander between the goalie’s legs on a pass from Taro Hirose in the first period.
“Maybe scoring the goal is a weight off his shoulders,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “He’s definitely somebody who feels that he’s hard on himself. We just talked about just playing and not worrying about points and goals. When you’re a forward you worry about that stuff, and so it was good for him to get it.”
And coach Blashill, whose team is starved for both consistent defensive play and offense, saw some improvement in his team’s play, as he told DetroitRedWings.com’s Josh Berenter:
“Better defensively for sure,” Blashill said about Tuesday’s performance. “I thought we did a better job of our structure. Defensively, five-on-five, I thought we did a better job overall. Protecting middle ice, I thought we did a better job in our neutral zone, in our gaps, in our neutral zone forecheck. Those things were positives. There’s certainly was a lot of areas we can get better at, though.”
Namestnikov has had several chances this season but was held off the scoresheet until Tuesday. The nephew of former Russian Five member Slava Kozlov said he was elated to score his first goal with the Red Wings and end his frustrating cold streak, but he said he’d rather have the win.
“I’ve had plenty of opportunities to score, but that’s sometimes how hockey goes, they just don’t go in. (And then) a goal like that squeaks in there,” Namestnikov said. “So I’m glad to get that first one, but it would have been nice to get the win tonight.”
Ultimately, this year’s Red Wings team is about improving and learning, and they told the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan that they did some improving and learning, at the very least:
“There are things to build on,” forward Luke Glendening said. “In Chicago, we had a pretty tough time. But there are things to build on and we have to continue to get better. We weren’t good enough tonight.”
The Red Wings were significantly better defensively, limiting Dallas to 22 shots (the Wings only had 21 in the grinding game) and not giving the Stars much space to skate.
“We weren’t very good in Chicago, it was way too wide open,” said forward Vladislav Namestnikov, who scored the Wings lone goal, his first this season. “We talked about how we wanted to come out and make it hard on them and a play a tight defensive game.
“And for 60 minutes, we did that.”
This time of tight, tough-minded defensive style is the type of game the Wings need to play, especially with the offense missing out of the lineup.
“It’s the type of game we have to play regardless of who is in the lineup, and certainly with the people we have out of the lineup, it’s critical we play that way,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “If you think back to the Columbus game in overtime we won (January 19), there were very few chances both ways. That’s the way we’ll have to play. We have to make sure we’re a good team defensively that protects that critical ice and is good structurally and we get our offense having the puck more.”
Ultimately, if you’re a Red Wings fan, and you’re angry about the way that Tuesday’s game turned out, that’s a good thing. It’s good to hear that the players–and the coach(!)–aren’t completely happy with the result, either.
Highlights: Here are Sportsnet and NHL.com’s highlight clips:
Post-game: The Stars’ website posted clips of post-game comments from John Klingberg…
And coach Rick Bowness:
Fox Sports Detroit posted short clips of Luke Glendening, Vladislav Namestnikov and coach Jeff Blashill’s post-game remarks…
And the Red Wings posted a 5:21 combined clip of Glendening, Namestnikov and Blashill’s remarks:
Photos: The Dallas News posted a 19-image gallery;
The Free Press posted a 21-image gallery;
The Detroit News posted a 16-image gallery;
And NHL.com posted a 65-image gallery.