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.
The Detroit Red Wings opened up their first four-game Western Canadian road trip with a win in Winnipeg last week and continued their streak into Vancouver and Calgary before dropping the final game of the swing in Edmonton.
Former Canuck Mikael Samuelsson was the hero in his return to Vancouver on Tuesday, scoring a hat trick that included the game-winning goal in the game’s final minute. Vancouver’s Mason Raymond had opened the game’s scoring at 8:33 of the first before Samuelsson responded at 11:40. Niklas Kronwall made it 2-1 for the Wings at 9:15 of the second. Keith Ballard tied things back up 39 seconds into the third, then Samuelsson put the Wings ahead again at 4:47. David Booth knotted it at three at 9:50. Samuelsson potted the game-winner on a power play with 46 seconds left in regulation.
Samuelsson notched another game-winner on Thursday in Calgary, when his second-period goal put the Wings ahead in an eventual 4-2 win. Roman Horak opened the game’s scoring for the Flames at 2:50 of the first period and Detroit’s Pavel Datsyuk responded just 53 seconds later. Henrik Zetterberg put the Wings out front 1:09 later before Mike Cammalleri tied it back up at 5:19. Samuelsson scored at 4:04 of the second to put Detroit back out in front and Danny Cleary added an insurance marker on the power play at 3:27 of the third.
Again, Howard faced 23 shots, stopping 21. Calgary’s Miikka Kiprusoff made 30 saves on 34 shots.
On Saturday in Edmonton, the Oilers got out to a strong start and the Red Wings couldn’t recover. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins opened the game’s scoring at 7:00 of the first and Ryan Whitney added another goal at 10:07. Ben Eager made it 3-0 in Edmonton’s favor just 53 seconds into the second period, with Samuelsson finally getting Detroit on the board with 1:25 left in the middle frame. Zetterberg pulled the Wings to within a goal with 9:04 left in the third but they’d be unable to pull even. Howard stopped 27 of 30 shots on the night and Edmonton’s Devan Dubnyk made 24 saves on 26 chances.
After four weeks, the Red Wings sit atop the Central Division and team-leading scorer Valtteri Filppula (seventeen points) is atop the league in assists with twelve. Howard has a 1.92 goals against average and a .914 save percentage, having made every start (though he was pulled in favor of Jonas Gustavsson at the end of the first game of the season).
The fifth week of the schedule will see rematches with the Oilers and Flames and a visit from the Minnesota Wild.