Red Wings-Blue Jackets Game 1 wrap-up: Wings’ learning process wasn’t pretty on Monday, but they are learning

The Detroit Red Wings weren’t able to hold on to their 1-0 lead over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday, and their 3-2 loss to the no-longer-winless Blue Jackets team was ugly in spots…

But the Red Wings also displayed some moxie over the course of the final half-period’s worth of attempt to rally from their deficit, and the fight between Dylan Larkin and Zach Werenski was less of a highlight than the muck-and-grind goal that preceded it:

Yes, ultimately, the Red Wings lost–and lost in a game where they gave away the puck 13 times–but their sloppy effort did display a level of self-awareness and learning through the mistakes made that we all want to see the Red Wings display this season.

The true barometer reading will come when the Wings face Columbus tomorrow night at 7:30, but there were enough positive signs in this game to indicate that tomorrow’s tilt will be that much more competitive.

We will get “right to the point” regarding the awkwardness that was the Werenski-Larkin fight, however, via the Columbus Dispatch’s Brian Hedger:

Werenski and Larkin are close friends, who played together growing up in the Detroit area and at the University of Michigan. Larkin also arranged for Werenski’s family and a few friends to attend the game through tickets allowed by the Red Wings for their players’ family and friends.  It was surreal to watch, even for the combatants. 

“I was kind of laughing behind the net,” Werenski said. “We weren’t holding back. I was trying to win a fight and I think he was, as well. It’s part of the game. Once I realized it was him, with everything going on and him getting tickets for my family, you know, my parents being here, my friends … pretty funny, just how it all worked out.” 

Larkin was more succinct. 

“As I try to jump in, I elbowed Zach and he wasn’t happy about it so we fought,” Larkin said. “It wasn’t our first fight. We’ve had a lot of battles.” 

As for who ‘won’ the fight?

“I won’t go into it,” Werenski said. “He didn’t hit me. I didn’t get anything. I didn’t feel anything. So, I won’t say much, whether I hit him or not. I don’t really know, but I didn’t get hit, so I’ll take it as a win.”

I’d call it a fair draw, but what do I know?

Anyway,’s Jeff Svoboda took note of a trio of points of emphasis from Monday’s game

1. Sweet victory. After two losses to start the year, the Blue Jackets were at a point where it didn’t really matter how they got a win as long as they got one, and Monday’s game fit the bill. It was a sloppy start — Detroit was up 12-6 in shots on goal late in the first period — and a finish that ended a little closer than the team would have liked, but in the end it’s a win. The positive is that the team seemed to settle some things down as the game went on and found some line combinations — including splitting Werenski and Jones as a defensive pair — that resulted in some chemistry. Through two and a half games, the Blue Jackets looked like they were seeking some confidence; they seemed to gain it as the game went on against Detroit. “We started to play faster,” Bjorkstrand said. “We got some momenutm, so we just kept doing that int he third. That’s how we have to play.”

2. Through nearly eight periods of this season, the Blue Jackets had zero points from first-line forwards Grigorenko, Dubois and Bjorkstrand; zero points from the Werenski-Jones pace-setting defensive pair; and zero points from bounce-back candidate Cam Atkinson and new acquisition Max Domi. It was a small sample size, of course, but if any team in the NHL is going to be competitive, it needs points from its top players. So to see Bjorkstrand nab a pair of points and Dubois tally what ended up as the game-winning goal was a good sign for a CBJ team that stared to find some offense as this game went on. “It’s important,” Bjorkstrand said. “Every season, you want to get going with a goal or an apple early on. It always gives a little bit of a spark, and it’s obviously a positive thing that we all got one here tonight.”

3. What is it about afternoon games that makes things weird? OK, we’re not sure if we can blame the noon start — the Jackets’ only scheduled one this year — for all that happened Monday, but it was a definitely one of those games. You don’t see goalie assists very often, and who would have expected Bjorkstrand to end the game with a Gordie Howe hat trick? Add in a scrap between childhood friends Werenski and Wings captain Dylan Larkin and it was a wild day at the rink. Will the intensity of that final minute scrum carry over to Tuesday night’s rematch? That’s one of the unique things about this 2021 season that we’re about to learn. “Everybody is fighting for points,” Dubois said. “It’s a short season, so every game matters even more than in an 82(-game season). When you play the same teams — maybe you get a cross-check or a slash from a guy and you don’t forget about him, usually you have to wait two months before you play him again. Now you play him the next day.” 

Pro Hockey Talk’s Adam Gretz also focused on the Blue Jackets’ play in his recap…

• Dubois found the back of the net. He is going to be the story in Columbus this season due to his desire for a “change of scenery” (translation: He wants traded) and the way it is going to be handled. At one point in the second period he found himself glued to the bench for more than eight minutes before getting more regular playing time in the third period.

It was there that he displayed all of the skills that are going to make him an attractive trade option for teams as he used his speed and power to get behind the Red Wings’ defense to beat Thomas Greiss for his first goal of the season.

That goal came just after Texier had given the Blue Jackets their first lead of the game, and it will officially go in the books as the game-winner.

• Bjorkstrand finished with a Gordie Howe hat trick for the Blue Jackets, and it is fitting that it happened in Detroit.

His goal tied the game for the Blue Jackets late in the second period, which was followed by him assisting on Texier’s third period goal.

He then found himself in a late game fight with Detroit’s Bobby Ryan (who scored both Detroit goals, giving him three already this season) in the closing minute.

And’s Dave Hogg will serve as our “pivot point” recap, navigating through both the Blue Jackets and Red Wings’ perspectives on the game:

“It was a matter of time before we got a win — we just haven’t been playing our best hockey,” Dubois said. “This is good for our confidence.”

Bobby Ryan scored twice, and Thomas Greiss made 26 saves for the Red Wings (1-2-0), who have lost five straight games to the Blue Jackets dating to the 2018-19 season.

“We competed hard today, which we need to do every day, and I thought we played really well in the first half of the game,” Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. “They weren’t at their best early on, and I thought they got better and outskated us in the second half of the game. We started turning the puck over too much and that means you are doing a lot of defending.”

Texier broke a 1-1 tie at 5:10 of the third, scoring on a wraparound off Patrik Nemeth‘s skate.

“It’s easy for me to put [Texier] on the ice, because he works so hard on his game,” Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella said. “He’s playing hard every shift he’s out there.”

Dubois finished a breakaway at 6:26 of the third for a 3-1 lead.

“Every game is going to be like this,” he said. “We saw the intensity level in the bubble (during the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs), and now we’re going to be playing two games against teams a lot of the time. The end of the first game and the start of the second game will be important.”

The Associated Press offers another balanced recap, as well as a questionable quote from Tortorella regarding what happened on the 3-2 goal…

“We’ve been more dangerously offensively the last two games, but we’ve given up too much,” Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said.

Texier’s wraparound goal 5:10 into the final period put the Blue Jackets ahead for the first time. Dubois beat Greiss on a breakaway at the 6:26 mark to help them win after dropping the first two games of the season at Nashville.

The Red Wings pulled Greiss with a few minutes left to add an extra skater. Many players ended up in the crease and the puck was in the net with just less than a minute remaining.

After some fights broke out, video review determined the goal was good because of the actions of a Columbus defenceman Zach Werenski against Ryan.

“I think it was a slight push by Z and Bobby swan-dived,” coach John Tortorella said.

The Red Wings readily admitted to the Windsor Star’s Jim Parker that their effort was not even…

“I thought we competed hard,” Red Wings’ head coach Jeff Blashill said. “We have to compete at that really, really high level. We have to be better as the game goes along. Second half of the second period, we turned too many pucks over.”

The Red Wings got caught on a long shift and Oliver Bjorkstrand pulled the Blue Jackets even at 1-1 after 40 minutes.

“Still fighting the puck a little bit,” Red Wings’ captain Dylan Larkin said. “We’ve got to find a way to create more o(ffensive) zone time and more o(ffensive) zone pressure and more Grade A chances in the o(ffensive) zone.”

Alexandre Texier, on a wrap-around goal, and Pierre-Luc Dubois, on a partial breakaway, scored 76-seconds apart in the third period to give the Blue Jackets a 3-1 lead. Ryan scored his second of the game and third in two games to close the scoring in the final minute, but Detroit could not produce the equalizer.

Detroit (1-2-0) has lost four-straight games to Columbus (1-2-0) and 11 of the last 12 and had to hit the ice Monday without Robby Fabbri and Adam Erne, who were placed on the COVID-19 protocol list. Frans Nielsen and Michael Rasmussen moved into the lineup.

“It’s a unique situation, a unique year,” Ryan said of dealing with COVID-19. “It’s just one of those things where you have to roll with the punches.”

Ultimately, however, the Wings’ special teams weren’t good enough, as MLive’s Ansar Khan noted:

In 12 minutes of power-play time, the Red Wings have managed only three shots on goal. But that is not so much from over-passing or a reluctance to shoot as it is from lack of zone time due to trouble with the entries.

“I think we’re not valuing the puck enough, on our unit at least,” Dylan Larkin said following Monday’s 3-2 loss to Columbus at Little Caesars Arena. “I think the other unit has done a great job creating and understanding those second pucks; when they’re loose pucks, get those back, because if not you got to go 200 feet to get back in the zone and that’s where our unit is struggling.”

Coach Jeff Blashill made an adjustment Monday by using Filip Hronek on both units. He played the left flank on his regular unit and was used at the point on the other unit.

Blashill isn’t sure if he’ll continue that. Hronek also kills penalties and he already is logging more ice time (25:59 on Monday) than they would like.

“There’s some concern because it’s not easy if you’re not in the zone a long time,” Blashill said. “It all depends on if you can stay in the zone or are constantly going back on breakouts. I really like him on the flank, where he’s been at the beginning of the year. He’s certainly a solid guy up top, too. Just trying to get him out there as much as we can.”

Bobby Ryan has certainly proved his worth over the course of the Wings’ second and third games, however, and Ryan told the Free Press’s Helene St. James that he’s aware of the pressure he’s placed himself under this year:

“For me personally,” Ryan said, “I guess this was a prove-it year and an opportunity for me to take the step that I should have taken years ago, but hadn’t been able to because of the outside stuff. It means a lot.”

Ryan is,early on, showing good return on investment. He’s scoring goals while providing valuable leadership.

“I can’t say enough good things about him,” Larkin said. “He’s come to play for our team and that’s huge. He’s a guy who understands the value of the puck, understands the value of time in the offensive zone. He understands the game. He understands when to take his chance of creating something and when to lay it in.

“He’s a smart hockey player. He’s been our best player the past two games. When he has the puck, he is dangerous. When he doesn’t, he makes the right things happen and makes the right play. A lesson for guys like myself and our line to learn from.”

Ryan also imparted a lesson Monday about engaging, or trying to engage, an opponent in a fight. When a melee erupted in the final minute, Ryan scrapped with Oliver Bjorkstrand, but not for long. Ryan didn’t want to aggravate his arthritic hands.

“They just hurt all the time at this point,” Ryan said. “That’s why I kind of made sure the fight ended quickly, so I don’t have to sit 4-to-6 (weeks) again. I never want to miss time for a broken finger again — there is nothing more annoying.”

(Ryan has battled hand injuries on-and-off for the latter half of his career)

Ultimately, the Red Wings believe that they’re on the right track, even if they’re taking the “long way” toward wins right now, as they told the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan:

“The second half of the game we stopped getting behind them and defended a little more, but we certainly had our chances,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “Two games in a row we’ve given up too many chances. We have to make sure we limit some of those chances against.”

Monday’s game was tied at 1 in the third period, the Wings very much with an opportunity salvage a point in the standings. But they quickly allowed two Blue Jackets goals, 1 minute, 16 seconds apart, and suddenly Columbus was in control.

Bobby Ryan scored with 55.4 seconds left during a mad scramble near the Blue Jackets net. It was Ryan’s second goal of the game, accounting for all the Wings’ offense, and Ryan’s third goal in two games.

But the Wings weren’t able to get the equalizer.

“We’ve given up some goals but we’ve played the right way,” forward Dylan Larkin said. “We’ve had lots of communication, lots of puck support. We’ve got out of our zone pretty efficiently. If we continue to do that, the results will come as well.”

Coach Blashill just wants to see his team continue to improve as the game goes along, as he told’s Brett McWethy:

For the second consecutive home series, the Red Wings (1-2) dropped the opening game. Detroit and Columbus will wrap up the series on Tuesday night at Little Caesars Arena.

In a tightly contested game between the new division rivals, Detroit outshot the Blue Jackets, 37-29. Columbus goalie Joonas Korpisalo made 35 saves to record his first win of the season, while Red Wings’ netminder Thomas Greiss stopped 26 shots, but fell to 0-2 in the early campaign.

“I thought we competed hard, to a pretty good level,” said Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill. “We’ve got to keep competing at that really, really high level. I thought the first part of the game, we played real good. I don’t think they were playing to the top of their game in the first (period), but I thought we were skating really good. I thought the second half of the game, they seemed to find their legs and skated us a little bit as the game went along. So we’ve got to be better as the game goes along.”

Multimedia: and Sportsnet posted highlight clips from the game:

There was the Werenski-Larkin fight, too:


Highlights: The Blue Jackets posted clips of comments from Zach Werenski…

Pierre-Luc Dubois…

Oliver Bjorkstrand…

And coach John Tortorella:

Fox Sports Detroit posted short clips of comments from Dylan Larkin, Bobby Ryan and coach Jeff Blashill:

And here’s the Red Wings’ post-game clip:

Photos: The Free Press posted a 17-image gallery;

The Detroit News posted a 32-image gallery;

And posted a 35-image gallery.

Statistics: Here are the game summary and event summary:

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George Malik

My name is George Malik, and I'm the Malik Report's editor/blogger/poster. I have been blogging about the Red Wings since 2006, when MLive hired me to work their SlapShots blog, and I joined Kukla's Korner in 2011 as The Malik Report. I'm starting The Malik Report as a stand-alone site, hoping that having my readers fund the website is indeed the way to go to build a better community and create better content.