The Detroit Red Wings’ 4-3 OT loss to the New York Islanders wasn’t a microcosm of the Red Wings’ season in the way it unfolded–instead of struggling to score goals, Detroit raced out to a 3-1 lead over New York…
But the Wings’ 3rd period unraveling thanks to defensive errors and poor special teams play were right from the 2017-18 season playbook, as was the Wings’ OT loss and loss on home ice.
The captain spoke for the team after the game, as noted by DetroitRedWings.com’s Dana Wakiji:
#RedWings Zetterberg: Hasn’t gone the way that we definitely hoped for, but the fans have behind us in good times and bad times, not just here in this arena but everywhere we go, we have a lot of fans. We thank them and at the same time apologize for the results.
— Dana Wakiji (@Dwakiji) April 8, 2018
#RedWings Zetterberg: It took a while to admit it, I will say. But we’re in a rebuild. But I think we’re doing a lot of right things. We have a lot of picks this summer, we got to be lucky and get some good players that could be here for a long time.
— Dana Wakiji (@Dwakiji) April 8, 2018
The Red Wings were unable to finish on a high note, but they face considerably less uncertainty going forward than the Islanders, as Newsday’s Andrew Gross noted:
If it was John Tavares’ final play as an Islander, it was a beauty. Tavares, an impending unrestricted free agent, skated in and scored the winner at 3:16 of overtime as the Islanders ended their second straight season out of the playoffs by rallying for a 4-3 win over the Red Wings on Saturday night at Little Caesars Arena.
“Just keep playing right to the end,” Tavares said. “Just a great way to finish.”
Anders Lee scored his 40th goal to become the first Islander to reach the mark since Jason Blake in 2006-07 and Mathew Barzal had two assists to tie Bryan Trottier’s franchise mark for rookies with 63.
The Islanders (35-37-10) ended the season with their first three-game winning streak since Jan. 7-15 and finished seventh in the Metropolitan Division. In the 10th slot for the NHL draft lottery, they have a 3.5 percent chance of selecting first.
Lee lifted a backhander over goalie Jared Coreau (36 saves) at 6:25 of the third period to bring the Islanders within 3-2. Barzal then set up rookie defenseman Ryan Pulock for a power-play goal with 29.7 seconds left in regulation for his 10th goal of the season.
“That was pretty incredible,” Lee said. “The last two games, Dougie [Weight] has pretty much had me out on every other shift and the guys have been feeding me the puck.”
The offseason strategizing starts Sunday as the exit interviews begin. But Weight, sounding as if he expects to return as coach while saying he was “disgusted by failures, it’s unacceptable,” pinpointed one necessary improvement.
“We have to be a team that gets back to our identity of being really hard to play against,” Weight said. “Looking back at the playoff series . . . Florida , we were hard to play against. That’s on me and that will be addressed for sure. Contrary to what the people believe, this is a ship that’s turning around in the right direction.”
Weight sounded a lot like his coaching counterpart, and he accentuated the positive while speaking with NHL.com’s Dave Hogg:
“We had a tough stretch where we fell out of the playoff race, but give these guys a lot of credit for the professionalism to finish with these three wins,” Islanders coach Doug Weight said. “That’s something positive to take into the summer.”
“This wasn’t the season we wanted in terms of results, but we have to put that behind us now,” Zetterberg said. “When we play the way we want to play, we’re a good team, but our inconsistency hurts us. That’s something we have to fix next season.”
Zetterberg gave the Red Wings a 1-0 lead at 11:13 of the first period when his centering pass went off the stick of Tavares past Greiss.
Ladd tied it 1-1 at 3:51 of the second period, scoring from the right circle off a pass from Cal Clutterbuck.
Abdelkader gave the Red Wings a 2-1 lead with a power-play goal at 11:58. The goal was the 100th of his NHL career.
“I think it is fitting that my 100th goal went in off my skate and not my stick,” Abdelkader said.
The Associated Press’s recap will serve as our pivot point between the Islanders and Red Wings’ perspectives:
Mathew Barzal had two assists for the Islanders to give him 63, tying Bryan Trottier‘s franchise record for a rookie set in 1975-76. It also tied Barzal with Penguins star Sidney Crosby (2005-06) for the second-most in the NHL by a rookie since the 1983-84 season. Joe Juneau leads that list with 70 for Boston in 1992-93.
“Those are pretty impressive players to be tied with,” Islanders coach Doug Weight said.
Henrik Zetterberg, Justin Abdelkader and Dylan Larkin scored for the Red Wings (30-39-13), who are also missing the postseason for a second straight season after making it in 25 straight. Larkin’s goal was his seventh in the last 10 games. Coreau finished with 35 saves.
The loss was Detroit’s 27th one-goal setback of the season.
“We’ve kind of seen it before,” Zetterberg said. “There’s probably a lot of things that can change. I think the inconsistency we have is hurting us.”
Lee started the comeback with a backhander over Coreau’s shoulder at 6:25 of the third to pull the Islanders to 3-2. He became the franchise’s first player with 40 goals since Jason Blake in 2006-07.
“That’s a big number in today’s game,” Weight said. “Forty goals is something not a lot of people in our league can say they did.”
The Red Wings sort of fell apart after Lee scored the 3-2 goal, and the Red Wings’ inability to hold a one-goal lead stung them many times this season, as they told the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan:
This was a familiar loss. It was the 27th one-goal defeat this season (10-14-13) for the Red Wings.
“That’s a large part of the league now, one-goal games,” said coach Jeff Blashill of the narrow losses. “Certainly we’ve been in tons of them over the last three years. We won a lot of them my first year, more of them last year, and this year not enough of them.
“What do you need to do? Just make plays at critical moments. It’s just the maturation process of young players becoming elite players in their prime. The elite players seem to separate from the league in those moments. We need to have some of those guys (Red Wings’ young players) to take that next step to find that goal at critical moments or find ways to make defensive plays in critical moments.”
The close losses were clearly frustrating for a Red Wings team, which finished 24 points out of the playoffs.
“It’s not a fun position to be in,” forward Justin Abdelkader said. “We finished on the losing end of a lot of close games. Tonight is another example. We just have to learn from our experiences this year.”
Islanders defenseman Ryan Pulock (power play) scored with 29.7 seconds left in regulation for the Islanders, tying the game 3-3, after Anthony Mantha was called for tripping.
“We’ve been standing here many times after games, and I’m probably repeating myself again, but when we’re playing well and doing the right things we’re a good team,” said captain Henrik Zetterberg, who left little doubt he’ll be returning next season. “The inconsistency we have is hurting ourselves more so in games.”
Zetterberg continued, in a contemplative vein, while speaking with the Free Press’s Helene St. James:
“We are in rebuild, but I think we are doing a lot of the right things,” Henrik Zetterberg said after Saturday’s 4-3 overtime loss to the New York Islanders in the season finale at Little Caesars Arena. “We have a lot of picks this summer. We have to be lucky and get some good players that can be here for a long time.”
It was an eventful day at the arena: One last morning skate, then a hastily called evening press conference to announce a two-year extension for general manager Ken Holland. The Wings finished the season 30-39-13, with 73 points — 24 points out of the playoffs. There were stretches of encouraging hockey, and stretches where they self-destructed — often within the same game.
“When we are playing well and doing the right things, we are a good team,” Zetterberg said. “The inconsistency we have is hurting us. More so in games. I don’t think we have that many awful games, except in Montreal. It’s more periods in games where we go from playing really good to all of a sudden we spend a lot of time in our own end.”
Coach Jeff Blashill spoke for nearly 11 minutes after the game as he parried questions about the direction of the team.
“You guys make fun of me for the word process,” he said. “That’s the reality of life. This stuff doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time. And you take steps forward and you take steps back and you take steps forward. That’s just the reality of growth. We’re going to keep working towards that growth.”
Larkin headlines the growth group: he finished with a team-high 63 points (pouring nine points into the last six games) and made those around him better. He doesn’t need anybody to push him because nobody does it better than himself.
“I still want to be better,” he said. “I want to be a player where in one-goal games next year and I’m out there and we are holding onto that lead and winning games, and then we are in the playoffs. I still want more for myself and for our club. I said I wanted to make my linemates better and I want to have the puck a lot and be hard for the other team’s top centerman to play against and I think accomplished that and had fun playing and working hard and doing all the little things. I feel like I took a big step.”
DetroitRedWings.com’s Dana Wakiji will take us out with a few more “trending” quotes from and about the captain:
Henrik Zetterberg: For the third consecutive season, Detroit’s captain played in all 82 regular-season games. It’s a remarkable feat considering he was coming off major back surgery in 2014. Zetterberg finished the year with 11 goals, 45 assists, 56 points and was plus-1. His ice time average of 19:31 per game was second to Larkin’s 19:50 among Detroit’s forward corps.
Quotable: “A little surprised. I thought last year I felt really good. That I played 82 this year, I’m happy about but I didn’t practice since January. I have to be able to practice to be able to do something out there. Hopefully I can have a good summer and come back stronger. It’s a tricky balance, I think. I wish I could practice every day and go out and fly around like some other guys do in here but I know that I can’t do it. But you never know, have a good summer and I might be flying around.” – Zetterberg
Quotable II: “He was sick of hearing from you guys that he couldn’t play 82 games. He said I’m gonna show you and he did. Henrik hasn’t practiced in probably three months. There was days where I wasn’t sure if he was going to be able to play. He’s as tough a person as you’ll ever be around, like true toughness, being able to handle pain and endure that. Lots of days he’s good, so I don’t want to overdo it, but I think that that impressive thing isn’t that he’s played the games, but it’s the level at which he’s played. He’s still lots of nights an elite two-way player. I think that’s the more impressive thing but it just speaks to the level of player he is and the type of toughness that he has.” – Blashill
Highlights: NHL.com posted a 4:35 highlight clip…
Fox Sports Detroit posted David Booth’s in-game interview…
The Detroit News posted a 39-image gallery;
Michigan Hockey posted a 57-image gallery;
ESPN posted a 17-image gallery;
Here’s the Game Summary…
And the Event Summary:
The final shot attempts were 70-70 in a free-wheeling game.
Red Wings notebooks and also of Red Wings-related note: From DetroitRedWings.com’s Dana Wakiji:
Holland said his work on rebuilding the team actually began a couple of years ago and will continue with the 11 current picks they hold in this year’s draft, seven in the first three rounds.
“I’d like to think you can see the makings of where we’re going, the importance of some of the young players up front,” Holland said. “Certainly we got to overhaul the defense going forward. Again, I think we started that a couple years ago. We took a first-round pick with Dennis Cholowski, he’s playing really good out west; a second-round pick in (Filip) Hronek; we used another second-round pick in another year for (Gustav) Lindstrom. So we’ve got four picks in the top 31, 36-37 picks this year. So we’re going to continue to add some young players going forward. But obviously we have to rebuild the team. It’s going to take some time.”
Here’s some player/coach reaction from CBS Detroit’s Will Burtchfield:
“I think at that point he saw that while we wanted to make the playoffs, while we wanted to do those things, he had the vision enough to say let’s not waste any future assets. We haven’t proven we’ve been good enough to do that. And now over the last couple years his plan has been, let’s do what you have to do to be successful in this league — get as many draft picks as possible,” Blashill said following the Red Wings’ season finale, a 4-3 overtime loss to the Islanders.
After years of gunning for Stanley Cup championships amid a 25-year playoff streak, Holland has shifted his focus to the future. He sold at each of the last two trade deadlines, and the Red Wings now have an NHL-high 11 picks in this year’s draft, including seven in the first three rounds. They also have up to 10 picks next year.
“We have to do a good job, we have to draft the right guys and we have to develop the right guys, but I think the number of picks that we’ve had over the last number of years speaks volumes to what his plan has been,” Blashill said. “I know I’m excited about a couple of the guys that we’ve drafted, for certain, and I look forward to hopefully getting out and seeing some of those guys play. I think Ken’s done an excellent job that way, and now we have to make sure that we hit (on those picks) and hopefully end up with some elite players in their prime.”
Captain Henrik Zetterberg, one of many diamonds in the rough the Red Wings have drafted during Holland’s 21-year tenure as GM, is likewise encouraged by the organization’s long-term outlook.
“It took a while to admit it, I will say, but we’re in a rebuild. But I think we’re doing a lot of the right things, we have a lot of picks this summer. Have to be lucky and get some good players that can be here for a long time. Looking in the past we’ve been lucky late in rounds, so luck has a lot to do with (a rebuild), but I also know you have to be able to develop the players that you get and get the most out of them,” said Zetterberg.
Of alumni-related note from WTOL 11:
The Detroit Red Wings Alumni Team will be taking on the hometown Toledo Police Department Hockey Team in a charity game on Saturday April 21.
The game will take place at 7 p.m. at Tam-O-Shanter in Sylvania.
Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for kids and will benefit the Family and Child Abuse Prevention Center.
A 50/50 raffle and Jersey raffle will also be held.
In the past, former players like Darren McCarty, Mickey Redmond and Joe Kocur have played in games.
The roster for the Red Wings team should be announced in the weeks ahead of the game on the Red Wings Alumni Team Facebook page.