Postgame: Lightning @ Red Wings – 3/30

This game was at times awesome, infuriating, and terrifying.

They’re all must-wins from here on out and Detroit played like it early, showing a lot of jump after playing less than 24 hours earlier. They controlled play for almost the first ten minutes and got the game’s first six shots. Of course, former Red Wing Valtteri Filppula got Tampa on the board with just their second shot, so it looked like it was going to be one of those nights.

The Wings responded, though. Joakim Andersson‘s backhander from down low bounced off goalie Ben Bishop to tie things up and then Gustav Nyquist‘s incredible individual effort put them up 2-1.

I think that first period really decided the game. If the Wings hadn’t rebounded then, they wouldn’t have later on.

The second and third were somewhat sloppier but with each team adding one goal, Detroit was able to hold on for the win.

Johan Franzen drives me nuts. Jonas Gustavsson drives me nuts. The officials drive me nuts. But it’s okay if I’m nuts at the end of the night as long as the Wings come away with two points.

It should also be noted that Justin Abdelkader was pretty invisible in his return from injury, which I’ll take as a good thing given his role tonight. He slotted in on the bottom six, didn’t make any egregious mistakes, that’s good enough.

The win ends Detroit’s run of 10 games in 17 days, during which they went 6-3-1. They’ve got two days off before they finish the season with seven games in 12 days.

Postgame: Red Wings @ Maple Leafs – 3/29

Well, with the late penalty the Red Wings certainly didn’t make it easy on themselves, but for once a one-goal lead heading into the third period didn’t herald a collapse as they actually padded the lead for a 4-2 win in Toronto.

With his first career hat trick, Darren Helm is easily the game’s number one star and top story. I joke a lot about how he can’t finish (in fact, he was stoned on a breakaway just seconds before scoring his first goal of the night off a steal and feed from Joakim Andersson) but his backhand was good tonight, accounting for his first and third goals. The second was a right-place-right-time deflection of a Jakub Kindl shot that actually broke his stick.

Second star of the night I’m going with Jimmy Howard. He made some fantastic stops to keep his team both in it and out front, depending on the time. I know he’s played a ton lately but with how crucial points are right now and how well he’s been playing, I think you have to give him the nod again tomorrow.

Third star normally would be Gustav Nyquist with a goal in seven of the last eight games. Instead I’m looking at Brendan Smith. How different is this game if he doesn’t clear the puck off the goal line on that goofy-ass play when Nyquist sent it back to Howard and it slipped through him? Three or four months ago, Smith watches that go in because he’s not paying enough attention to make the jump in that he did tonight.

Huge two points, as the Wings retain the Eastern Conference’s eighth seed. Columbus beat Carolina in OT and Washington fell to Boston so the four-way tie has become a two-way tie and the Blue Jackets have the tiebreaker against Detroit.

Not to be forgotten (though I’ve been harping about it on Twitter so that’s not likely), the win gives Mike Babcock 410 regular season wins as head coach of Detroit, tying him for second-most overall with Scotty Bowman, just three back of Jack Adams for first.

Postgame: Canadiens @ Red Wings – 3/27

I ranted a lot about officiating and breaks during the game on Twitter but let’s be real here, Detroit’s 5-4 loss to the Montreal Canadiens tonight was deserved.

They shot themselves in the foot enough that a Montreal goal on an offsides play just seems like piling on. Especially since the Kid Line almost did enough to make up for all those stupid mistakes. For a brief period of time, Tomas Tatar put this team on his back and said “I got this.”

Overall, though, if you were in red and your name wasn’t Tatar, Nyquist, Sheahan, Jurco or Howard, you didn’t do enough tonight. And that includes goal-scorer Johan Franzen, because one shot doesn’t make up for the rest of the game.

Yeah, I include Howard on the plus side. Not often you can allow five and not send any blame to the goalie but every Montreal goal was screened, deflected, off a bad giveaway, or some combination of the three. As an elite goalie you want to stop more but I don’t think there are any of those he specifically wants back.

Going by projections, the Red Wings can only lose two more games this year if they want to make the playoffs. I’m not feeling positive.

Postgame: Red Wings @ Blue Jackets – 3/25

I’m unhappy with the game-winner tonight but to focus entirely on that is to ignore the problems the Red Wings have.

Coming down the stretch, needing a goal to get even, how many unscreened shots from the blue line got straight through to McElhinney to grab for a stop in play? No second chances, no tips in front. And if it wasn’t the Gustav Nyquist / Riley Sheahan / Tomas Tatar line, there was no offense. They really are the new Eurotwins.

It’s not just Nyquist and Tatar, though. Sheahan is becoming a force. His move to get the puck to Nyquist on the first Detroit goal was beautiful.

Also on the personnel front, Mitch Callahan looked acceptable in his NHL debut. Better than Landon Ferraro, probably worse than Teemu Pulkkinen. Didn’t do enough to make me want to see more of him if Tomas Jurco comes back on Thursday but I wouldn’t expect that.

That said, let’s come back to that game-winner. I have issues with it on multiple fronts.

First is the call, that the net came off because Brendan Smith pushed Cam Atkinson into it. Yes, Smith pushed Atkinson. He didn’t push him that much.

Second is that Atkinson was standing in the space normally occupied by the post while he handled the puck. If he wasn’t able to be in that spot, he wouldn’t have been able to score. If he was able to be in that spot, clearly the net being off its moorings had an affect on the play.

Third, goes back to last weekend, when this goal was waived off but then Columbus’ is allowed to stand. Just feels like the Wings are the only team that can’t get away with anything around the net.

But coming out of the night Detroit still holds a playoff spot, sitting in eighth due to tiebreakers as they’re tied for seventh with Columbus, Toronto and Washington. Big games coming up against Montreal and Toronto later this week.

More Thoughts on Columbus’ Disputed Goal and the Human Element

In my postgame notes last night, I talked a bit about Cam Atkinson’s disputed game-winning goal for the Blue Jackets, scored after the net had come off its moorings. I want to come back to that, briefly.

When the goal first happened, I was sure they were going to allow it as the position of the goal at the time the puck crossed the line had no impact on the play. The puck crossed the line solidly between where the posts would have been and at ice-level, you could have seen that even if the goal itself was in the zamboni tunnel.

As I said after the game (and brought up on Twitter at the time), I wondered if the fact that Atkinson scored while standing where the post should have been would make a difference. I would assume not but we didn’t get an answer for that, instead we were told it didn’t matter because Brendan Smith was at fault for the net coming off in the first place. And that’s fine, we can’t expect a March game between the Red Wings and Blue Jackets to set a precedent on such an edge-case play.

So what we get is the proper result but a stupid reason for it. That goal should have counted but whether or not Smith pushed Atkinson enough to knock the net loose is not as definite as we were told.

It also brings to mind Smith’s apparent goal against the Minnesota Wild last weekend. In that case, Johan Franzen was pushed into goalie Darcy Kuemper by defenseman Marco Scandella, leading to Smith’s goal being called back due to incidental contact.

Four days ago, when Franzen gets pushed it’s his fault for making contact. Last night, when Atkinson got pushed it was Smith’s fault for doing it.

I think some of the outrage at Atkinson’s goal standing is because of the little bit of cognitive dissonance required for both of those cases to be true.

That said, that’s what baseball fans call the “human element,” isn’t it? The referees won’t always get it right and the game is better for it?

It’s an idea I strongly disagree with. As I said last night, missing calls doesn’t make the game better, it just makes the refs look worse.

Of course, there’s a certain amount of double-think required in being a sports fan. We saw Drew Miller take a high stick, he had to be helped off the ice, but because neither ref saw it, it officially did not happen. Because officials are treated as infallible, there’s not even an admission of having missed it. Video of the play exists but it never occurred.

That’s a bit of hyperbole. You hear mention all the time of even-up calls but that’s not quantifiable, it’s just another manifestation of the human element.

So maybe the outrage comes from expecting an even-up here, one that didn’t happen. Maybe it comes from looking at how Detroit lost a goal against Minnesota and how Columbus scored one against Detroit and not being able to process the double-think, figuratively throwing up your hands, and saying, “This is a joke.”

Assorted Monday Notes

I don’t usually do daily notebook-style posts but there were a few items of note worth mentioning today.

Roster Moves
After demoting center Landon Ferraro to the Grand Rapids Griffins overnight last night, the Red Wings called up forward Mitch Callahan today. It’s still unclear whether or not Callahan will play on Tuesday against the Columbus Blue Jackets. If he does, he’ll be the first Red Wing to wear number 57.

The Wings also assigned defenseman Max Nicastro to the Griffins from the Toledo Walleye and the Griffins signed Detroit prospect MarcMcNulty to a try-out contract.

Nyquist Named First Star
The NHL named Detroit forward Gustav Nyquist its first star of the week. Nyquist scored six goals and added an assist as the Red Wings went 3-0-1 over the week.

Babcock Approaching Record
Detroit head coach Mike Babcock is approaching a record and I’m not seeing anyone making note of it. Babcock currently sits at 409 regular-season wins as head coach of the Red Wings, only one behind Scotty Bowman‘s 410 for second-most in franchise history. Jack Adams sits at first overall with 413. With five more wins, Babcock becomes the all-time winningest coach in Detroit history.