The Games That Weren’t is one of many projects simulating the games lost by the NHL lockout. In the absence of actual games to write about, I’ll be checking in periodically on the fictional Red Wings’ season.
Two weeks after sitting in a tie for the top spot in the National Hockey League, the Detroit Red Wings have dropped seven consecutive games and are eight points back of the Carolina Hurricanes for the league lead. The Los Angeles Kings are six points up on the Red Wings in the Western Conference. Detroit remains tied with the Nashville Predators atop the Central Division, with the Columbus Blue Jackets one point back and the St. Louis Blues two points back, each with three games in hand.
The Wings’ abysmal seventh week of the season began with a 3-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday. Deryk Engelland, Matt Cooke and Chris Kunitz each scored for the Penguins before the Red Wings got on the board with a third-period Johan Franzen goal. Jimmy Howard made 24 saves on 27 shots in taking the loss. Detroit lost forward Pavel Datsyuk to a knee injury in the first period after taking a charge from Brandon Sutter, who was ejected on the play.
With Datsyuk out on Wednesday, the Wings dropped a 3-1 decision to the St. Louis Blues. Patrik Berglund and T.J. Oshie scored in the game’s first 5:43 before Kyle Quincey got the Red Wings on the board with 6:24 left in the second. Kevin Shattenkirk re-extended the Blues’ lead with 2:47 left in the period to round out the game’s scoring. Howard stopped 23 of 26 shots on the night.
Datsyuk returned to the lineup as the Red Wings visited the Florida Panthers on Friday night but his return couldn’t prevent a rout, with an explosive second period propelling the Panthers to an 8-2 win. Jack Skille and Valtteri Filppula traded first period goals to keep the game even after a period but former Detroit prospects Shawn Matthias and Tomas Fleischmann scored three goals in the first 6:16 of the second to put the Wings out of it. Marcel Goc scored just past the game’s halfway point to chase Howard from the net, then Jonas Gustavsson allowed goals by Peter Mueller and Matthias just 18 seconds apart to make it 7-1. Mikael Samuelsson got the Wings’ a second goal late in the second and Fleischmann wrapped up the hat trick late in the third to round out the scoring.
Howard stopped only six of 11 shots in 30:09 of play while Gustavsson stopped eight of 11 in 29:51.
Howard didn’t fare much better on Saturday in Tampa, where the Red Wings took a 4-2 lead into the third period only to lose, 6-4. Filppula gave the Wings’ the lead just 3:41 into the game but Vincent Lecavalier tied things up 34 seconds into the second. Darren Helm and Franzen put Detroit up by a pair with goals at 5:45 and 7:23. Ryan Malone pulled the Lightning back to within one with 2:56 left in the middle period but Drew Miller’s first of the season made it 4-2 with 58 seconds left.
Malone’s second of the night cut the lead again at 4:13 of the third and J.T. Wyman tied things up on the power play at 9:00. Teddy Purcell chased Howard from the net just 59 seconds later with another power play goal and Lecavalier rounded out the scoring with a third power play tally with 4:48 remaining.
Howard faced 22 shots and made 17 saves in 49:59 while Gustavsson stopped three of four shots in 10:01. Captain Henrik Zetterberg was lost to a shoulder injury in the first period and did not return to play.
After the disastrous seventh week, Howard has fallen off the NHL leaderboard in all goaltending categories. Filppula remains one of the league leaders in scoring, with his 28 points putting him behind only Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin (31). Despite missing time to injury, Datsyuk sits fourth with 25 points, with Los Angeles’ Anze Kopitar (27) in third. The pair lead the league in assists with 18 each, tied with Carolina’s Eric Staal.
The next week will see the Red Wings return from their Florida trip to host a trio of Pacific Division teams in the Phoenix Coyotes, Los Angeles Kings, and San Jose Sharks.