Well, this was pretty much the game that I feared, but it didn’t start that way.
The Red Wings came out strong in the first period, which was really good to see. Thomas Vanek looked fantastic around the net, with two goals to show for it. The power play moved the puck well, leading to Vanek’s first. Petr Mrazek was sharp in net.
Then, like too many games last season, all those good things disappeared.
Early in the second period, the Lightning took over. The Wings were on their heels, taking too many penalties. Tampa was the faster team. Yeah, Frans Nielsen got his first goal in a Detroit uniform, but it was on a broken play that you can’t really credit the systems for or anything. But the Wings still had a 3-2 lead after 40 minutes.
Things only got worse in the third period. More penalties. Four goals against. Only one fluke goal for.
There were good things to take away from this but they were mostly early. Vanek looked great early on. Nielsen looked good. Darren Helm looked fast, as did Dylan Larkin (who seemed to be having trouble controlling the puck). Mrazek made some amazing stops.
Unfortunately, there was a lot of bad. Mrazek allowed a couple awful goals. The penalty kill was 3-for-6 (despite the Wings rolling a fourth line assembled specifically for their PK ability). Two (TWO!) too many men on the ice penalties.
There was fun with reffing, of course. Steve Ott squared off with Jonathan Drouin, only for Brayden Coburn to jump in. But because Drouin hadn’t actually dropped his gloves yet, Coburn wasn’t the third man in. Later, Steven Stamkos appeared to reach in and grab Jonathan Ericsson while Ericsson fought Ondrej Palat. No call in either case.
Ott going after Drouin in the first place was pretty stupid, as you had to know the Lightning weren’t going to let a young scorer get into a fight with a grinder. That’s why fighting doesn’t work as a deterrent, it’s always two fighters going at it because that’s their job. Likewise, Ericsson going after Palat was ill-advised, cancelling out a pending Detroit power play (that said, as I said via Twitter, it’s rare to see the instigator called in that case, but in retrospect I think it was the right call).
That fourth line that is supposed to make the Wings so much harder to play against and kill all the penalties? I’ll close with their fancystats courtesy of WIIM’s Prashanth Iyer:
Notable, but perhaps not surprising – the OMG line (Ott-Miller-Glendening) were DESTROYED in their 7 minutes of 5v5 TOI pic.twitter.com/jfEGsaw547
— Prashanth Iyer (@iyer_prashanth) October 14, 2016