The Detroit Red Wings face a particularly nasty end to their stretch of 11 games to be played over the course of 17 nights this week. Tonight’s game against the Columbus Blue Jackets (7 PM EST start on Bally Sports Detroit Plus/Bally Sports Ohio/97.1 FM) is the first of 2 games to be played over the course of 2 nights, 3 games to be played over the course of 4 nights, and 4 to be played over the course of 6 evenings.
Long story long, the next four games will be a ton of hockey to be played over the course of a very short period of time, and the 4 games will be played in 4 different locales as well.
This road trip should serve as a big test for the 8-6-and-2 Red Wings, who have proven to be excellent at home, but shaky at times on the road.
Monday’s opponent, the Columbus Blue jackets, are no slouch. Columbus stands at 7-and-5. They’re currently on a 2-game losing streak, having most recently dropped a 5-3 decision to the New York Rangers on Saturday, but the Blue Jackets always play well against Detroit.
Neither team practiced on Sunday, and both teams have injuries (Patrik Laine, Adam Boqvist and Max Domi are out for Columbus, and Kevin Stenlund was injured during Saturday’s game; Mitchell Stephens is out for Detroit), so we won’t know either team’s lineup until closer to game time, but we can go back and examine the teams’ previous games to discern what trends we might be seeing in Monday’s game.
For Columbus, the Blue Jackets haven’t lost 2 straight games until this past Friday and Saturday, so avoiding a 3-game losing streak is imperative as they wrap up a 4-game home stand. Columbus lost 5-3 to the Rangers in no small part due to giving up 3 goals in 63 seconds, as the Associated Press’s recap of Saturday’s game noted:
Jakub Voracek, Eric Robinson and Alexandre Texier scored for Columbus, which has lost two straight at home. Elvis Merzilikins had 36 saves.
With the score tied 1-1 after the first period, Robinson put the Blue Jackets ahead at 6:56 of the second with his second of the season.
The lead didn’t last long as the Rangers scored three times in a 63-second span to take the lead.
Kreider redirected Trouba’s pass from the goal line past Merzilikins to tie it at 7:39, Panarin’s second goal of the game off a laser shot between the circles at 8:15 put the Rangers ahead, and Trouba had a wraparound 27 seconds later to make it 4-2.
It was the quickest three goals by the Rangers in a regular-season game since Nov. 16, 1993, and the fastest trio of scores against the Blue Jackets, breaking the previous mark of 1:15 set by Tampa Bay in 2019.
”For one minute everyone went to sleep,” Blue Jackets coach Brad Larsen said. ”That cost us the game. Then we were just chasing. We lost a lot of wind in our sails. It got pretty ugly there for a while.”
Coach Larsen continued while speaking with NHL.com’s Craig Merz:
Blue Jackets coach Brad Larsen said, “You have to gather yourself. You have to calm your mind when the storm hits. We were not able to do that tonight.”
Kreider scored the Rangers’ fourth straight goal when he tapped in a pass from Mika Zibanejad on the power play 52 seconds into the third period for a 5-2 lead. Kreider has scored 11 goals this season, seven on the power play.
Merzlikins blamed himself for the loss after he did not play in the 4-3 loss to the Washington Capitals on Friday.
“The guys had a good game last night. I feel like I was the cheater today,” he said. “They played really good last night. I was the only guy who was fresh. They were tired. They played back to back.
“We all know how it is. I should give more for the team. I was the only one who was rested, who didn’t play, who had the fresh legs. I should be the difference-maker and I had to stop all of those three shots (in the second period).”
Blue Jackets defenseman Zach Werenski also suggested that Columbus could have played a steadier game, as he told the Columbus Dispatch’s Bailey Johnson:
Werenski, Larsen and Boone Jenner all pointed to defensive zone coverage lapses as the key factor that allowed the Rangers to score three goals in such quick succession.
On the tying goal, Kreider was all alone at the bottom of the right circle in front of goaltender Elvis Merzlikins and tipped home a pass from Trouba that the Jackets couldn’t break up.
The go-ahead goal, Panarin’s second of the night, came with all five Columbus skaters deep in the defensive zone and Panarin with plenty of time and space in the slot to pick his spot.
“We were kind of scrambling a little bit, weren’t really playing our game,” Werenski said. “We were kind of leaving the slot open. Panarin scores one from there, untouched, just standing there with the puck. Trouba’s (on the) back door. Just kind of plays that we don’t really make usually. We had some breakdowns and they made us pay for it.”
If you wish to explore further, the AP’s recap of Saturday’s Blue Jackets-Rangers game, NHL.com’s recap (with Game Summary, Event Summary and Rosters available), and Sportsnet’s highlights are all available for your perusal:
Field Level media also posted a game preview which encompasses both teams’ outlooks going into tonight’s game…
The Red Wings now begin a four-game road trip, while the Blue Jackets close their own four-game homestand looking to hit the road on a high note. The Jackets are on their first losing streak of the season, having dropped games on back-to-back nights to the Washington Capitals and New York Rangers.
Saturday’s 5-3 loss to the Rangers boiled down to one catastrophic 63 seconds of action in the second period. With the Blue Jackets leading 2-1, New York scored 7:39 into the period, then again 36 seconds later, and again 27 seconds after that, establishing a new Columbus franchise record for shortest span between three goals.
“For one minute there we just went to sleep, and it cost us the game,” Columbus coach Brad Larsen said. “We lost a lot of wind (from) our sails there. It got pretty ugly there for a while.”
Elvis Merzlikins didn’t receive much help from his defense while stopping 36 of 41 shots. Merzlikins will likely be back in net on Monday, and perhaps due for a better performance with his New York nemeses out of town. The goalie has allowed nine goals in two starts against the Rangers this season but is 5-0-0 with a .951 save percentage in his other five starts.
Blue Jackets forwards Jakub Voracek and Oliver Bjorkstrand are each on five-game points streaks. Voracek has seven points (one goal, six assists) during his streak, while Bjorkstrand has six (two goals, four assists).
Monday’s game is the second of three meetings between the Red Wings and Blue Jackets this season. Their first game marked one of the Wings’ strongest performances of the season, as they outshot the Jackets by a 45-23 margin in a 4-1 victory in Detroit on Oct. 19.
The Associated Press boils down tonight’s game to brass tacks…
BOTTOM LINE: The Columbus Blue Jackets host Detroit after the Red Wings knocked off Montreal 3-2 in overtime.
The Blue Jackets are 2-5-0 in Eastern Conference games. Columbus is fourth in the Eastern Conference averaging 3.1 goals per game, led by Boone Jenner with six.
The Red Wings are 4-5-2 in Eastern Conference play. Detroit is seventh in the Eastern Conference recording 8.1 points per game, averaging 2.9 goals and 5.2 assists.
Detroit beat Columbus 4-1 in the last meeting between these teams on Oct. 19.
TOP PERFORMERS: Jenner leads the Blue Jackets with six goals, adding two assists and totaling 8 points. Jakub Voracek has nine assists over the last 10 games for Columbus.
Tyler Bertuzzi leads the Red Wings with 16 points, scoring nine goals and collecting seven assists. Lucas Raymond has six assists over the last 10 games for Detroit.
LAST 10 GAMES: Blue Jackets: 5-5-0, averaging 2.7 goals, 4.8 assists, 3.3 penalties and 6.8 penalty minutes while giving up 3.2 goals per game with a .910 save percentage.
Red Wings: 5-4-1, averaging 2.6 goals, 4.6 assists, 3.1 penalties and 6.2 penalty minutes while giving up 2.8 goals per game with a .919 save percentage.
INJURIES: Blue Jackets: Max Domi: out (health protocols), Adam Boqvist: day to day (undisclosed).
And the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan posted a subscriber-only Sunday notebook discussing the Red Wings’ outlook going into their 4-game road trip:
“We sat in Buffalo (Nov. 6), and we talked on the ice in practice,” said coach Jeff Blashill, about the Wings’ three-game losing streak. “We talked about the fact that the week prior, we had a ton of confidence and all of a sudden, we had not much confidence. That third period in Buffalo was huge, the end of it, how good Tyler (Bertuzzi) played (two goals, assist) there. We’ve picked up steam from there.”
Saturday, the Wings saw Montreal — a team that had walloped the Wings twice this season — tie the game late. But in overtime, Larkin scored his second bad-angle goal of the game, and the Wings swiped a victory, their third in four games.
The Wings were able to pick themselves up after a disappointing loss Thursday to the Washington Capitals, another sign of maturity and the strength of a deeper, better roster.
“Through a long season you’re going to go through tough stretches,” Larkin said. “Our response has been great. It’s something that in the past few years, we haven’t had that response where we weren’t able to dig ourselves out of holes where three games would have gone to five or seven games. We came home and turned it around. We didn’t play as good as we wanted to against Washington, but we responded (Saturday). We played hard.”
Now, the Wings open a four-game trip Monday in Columbus, followed by games Tuesday in Dallas, Thursday in Vegas and Saturday in Arizona.
While possessing a 5-2-2 record at LCA, the Wings have a mediocre 3-4-0 mark on the road. Its better success on the road than the last few seasons, but for a team that wants to continue to surprise people and remain strong the standings, there is a need to win more away from home.
“You have to be able to win on the road and we have some tough opponents and a tough trip,” Blashill said. “We have to go out and have a good showing against Columbus. We have better hockey in us. I’m glad we won (Saturday) and learned lessons while getting points, but we have better hockey in us.”
Edit/update: While I was writing this, ColumbusBlueJackets.com’s Paul Svoboda posted a Wings-Blue Jackets preview, and we’re going to actually use his takes on the Red Wings as something of a scouting report on our own team here:
Could this be the year the Red Wings rebuild ends up with a playoff berth?
We’re a long way from that, but after six straight seasons without postseason hockey, it’s at least fair to say Detroit is making progress with an 8-6-2 record through 16 games, including victories in four of five.
Perhaps most encouraging, the team’s youth is leading the way. A pair of first-round picks – 2019 defenseman Moritz Seider and 2020 forward Lucas Raymond — are off to impressive starts and look like keepers, while 2016 second-rounder Filip Hronek, 2017 first-rounder Michael Rasmussen and 2018 first-round pick Filip Zadina are pitching in as well.
Add in bounce-back seasons for Tyler Bertuzzi and Dylan Larkin, plus a solid campaign from trade acquisition Alex Nedeljkovic in net, and Detroit is in the mix in the Atlantic Division. The overall stats haven’t been super impressive, though, with the Wings checking 18th in the league in scoring (2.88 goals per game), 25th in team defense (3.13 goals allowed per game), 24th in power play (15.4 percent) and 24th in penalty kill (75.9 percent).
Bertuzzi played just nine games last year because of injury, but he’s come back with a vengeance, placing tied for sixth in the NHL with nine goals and 11th with 16 points in just 13 games to lead the way for the Wings. Raymond has been a revelation as the Swedish rookie has posted six goals and nine assists for 15 points. Seider adds a 2-10-12 line and plus-6 rating from the blue line, while Larkin has a 6-5-11 line in 12 games. Vladislav Namestnikov has seven goals as well while Hronek has seven helpers from the blue line.
In net, Nedeljkovic came over from Carolina in the offseason and has gotten off to a strong start, going 4-2-2 in nine games (eight starts) with a 2.78 goals-against average and .919 save percentage. Thomas Greiss has 27 starts against the Blue Jackets — most against any team in his career — and is 12-9-4 in those games; this year, he’s 4-4-0 with a 3.09 GAA and .909 save percentage.