Red Wings at Penguins: Recap, Grades and Opinions

Feb 18, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Detroit Red Wings goalie Petr Mrazek (34) makes a save against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the first period at the CONSOL Energy Center. The Penguins won 6-3. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 18, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Detroit Red Wings goalie Petr Mrazek (34) makes a save against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the first period at the CONSOL Energy Center. The Penguins won 6-3. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

The Detroit Red Wings are stuck in a defensive rut after a tough road loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday night.

After a few days off, the Detroit Red Wings headed off to Pittsburgh in hopes to shake off their loss against the Islanders. Unfortunately, things didn’t go all too well for the team in red, causing some panic in fanbase. The game as a whole was not pretty by any means, but games like these do happen.

Let’s take a look at what went down in Pittsburgh last night:

First Period Synopsis:

It took no time for this game to reach a fast paced momentum in both directions. Breaks and odd man rushes were not hard to come by in the first period.

The momentum seemed to be evenly distributed for the moment… until things changed halfway through the first.

Ben Lovejoy takes a shot from the point and Darren Helm decides to make a bad attempt to block it right in front of Petr Mrazek. When his attempt to block the shot failed, he accidentally tipped the puck with the blade of his stick. No chance for Mrazek on that one, leaving both with looks of anger as the Penguins celebrate. 1-0 Penguins

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

With that goal, it seemed as if the Penguins had taken a bit of the momentum from the Red Wings as they began to dominate.

BUT WAIT! In comes Andreas Athanasiou with his stellar speed, right into the zone breaking through the Pittsburgh defense. He dishes it off to Nyquist along the right boards, who then completes a perfect, tape-to-tape backhand pass to Jurco. He wastes no time with his shot and it’s in the back of the net. We now have a 1-1 game on our hands.

Late in the first period, the puck decided to bounce in the favor of the Penguins after a rebound was given up. The defense failed to eliminate the surrounding sticks, leaving Matt Cullen‘s stick available to tap in the rebound. 2-1 Penguins

The period couldn’t end without a questionable call by the refs. Sidney Crosby had Kyle Quincey in a headlock position. No call. Quincey retaliates with some shoves. No call there either. Both proceed to a board battle for the puck, and Quincey’s physical dominance over Crosby was perhaps too much for the refs. The arm is up and it’s a roughing penalty. Interesting call, especially with the missed calls preceding it.

On the powerplay, the Penguins get a few good looks, but nothing to show on the scoreboard as the period comes to a close.

Shots: 14-10 Penguins

Sentence to Describe the Period: Bouncy, bouncy…the defense no pouncy.

Grade: C. Not horrible, but nowhere near good. Average play in general.

Second Period Synopsis:

The Penguins start off the period on the remaining 44 seconds of their Power Play, but the Wings’ penalty kill shuts them down.

Once again, the baby hometown hero comes in clutch. Dylan Larkin does Dylan Larkin things by scooping up a rebound and putting it in the net with ease. TIE GAME 2-2

Precisely 24 seconds later, Sidney Crosby brings it into the zone, causing a miscommunication within the Wings’ defense. With 3 players covering Sidney, it leaves Phil Kessel with ample space to skate by both Quincey and DeKeyser and release a quick one on Mrazek. Not a characteristic goal for Mrazek to allow, but it’s in and the Penguins retake the lead, 3-2.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

After the quick response, the Red Wings attempt to apply some pressure on the Penguins, but all they get is iron.

Things get a bit wild when Pavel Datsyuk misses a few shifts and the lines become jumbled up. Red flags were sprung when the line of Glendening-Helm-Larkin emerges (Come on… Really?), and everyone went looking for the missing player: Which turned out to be Datsyuk. Panic ensued (reasonably so), and was relieved when Pavel returned to the ice after a TV Timeout.

Back at it, the Wings difficulty to execute a proper breakout continues as it had been all game. A bad turnover by Nyquist puts the puck along the boards behind the net. Conor Sheary wins the board battle against Green, flips the puck back to an uncovered Scott Wilson (Who?). With a quick and slightly overdramatic release, Wilson finds the twine for his first NHL goal to make it 4-2.

That would be the last of the action for the period…Woof…

Shots: 27-20 Penguins

Sentence to Describe the Period: Turnovers are not a method of support; unless they’re apple turnovers for emotional support.

Grade: D-. Oh boy, what a bad period on the defensive end. No support for Mrazek as his defense collapses in front of him time after time. Penguins dominance has greatly hindered the Wings offensive ability as a whole.

Third Period Synopsis:

Wings come out strong and ready to put the pressure on the Penguins by obtaining the majority of the puck possession. Things quickly change as the Penguins pick up on the Wings mistakes… once again.

Kessel finds a way in, exploits the defense which in turn leaves Mrazek out to dry (as they have done all night long). The puck made its way into the net to make it 5-2, leaving Petr to find his way to the bench. Yeah.. Mrazek was actually pulled. Things weren’t looking too great from a Detroit standpoint.

Being down 3 goals, Detroit attempted to cut the Penguins’ lead in a classic comeback fashion. The comeback was never complete, but the game didn’t end without the Red Wings striking back once more. With this goal starting with an entry created by Pavel Datsyuk, it has to be a beauty. Datsyuk casually broke through the 2 Penguins attempting to stop him in the neutral zone. He then flipped the puck to an open Justin Abdelkader on the left wing. Abby skates it into the zone and sends it across to Captain Henrik Zetterberg. 

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

At this moment, Zetty evolved into the one and only Z-Boss. He was away from his dungeon, but that didn’t stop his snip show from ensuing. He finished it off by going bar down on Marc Andre Fleury. Z-Boss’s pal, PD Slayuh, comes into the frame yelling “YOU SEE HOW FILTHY THAT WAS?”

(This game was “Cringier” than the D-Boss video. If you don’t know what I’m talking about click here)

A little time after that goal, the Wings received their first and only powerplay of the game with 2 minutes remaining in the third. Though they had some good chances, they didn’t capitalize on it: the game finally ends with a Sidney Crosby empty netter.

** Side note: I didn’t catch if Phil Kessel was on the ice for Sid’s empty netter, but if he was… LEARN TO SHARE, SID THE KID.

Shots: 39-38 Penguins

Sentence to Describe the Period: Apparently, playing defense is just an option when Petr Mrazek is in net.

Grade: D. I liked the offensive pressure the Wings put on the Penguins at the start and end of the third, but it didn’t make up for the amount of defensive mishaps that occurred.                                                               

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

Takeaways From The Game:

This was a wild game from start to finish, and very disappointing for that matter. The way the defense imploded tonight really concerned me. Without Ericsson or Kindl to blame the poor play on, it’s finally time to come to terms with the atrocious back end play we have going on. Mrazek not standing on his head has really put a light on how bad the Red Wings’ defensive issue is. I don’t know whether it’s going to take some pair shuffling or a new asset; but the way the defensive core is running is not working.

The fact I have become so used to the defensive collapse that I have found it humorous is quite alarming. Many Wings fans, myself included, have always resorted to blaming our issues on the deadweight of the team, but are the issues based solely on one or two players? I think not. It’s games like these where I hope Blashill heads back to the drawing board, because this isn’t working anymore.

Next: Red Wings should get Saarijarvi out of Flint

The lines they have rolling are fine, but the defensive pairings could use some work. This entire game was all about defense, or the lack thereof. If Mrazek is going to come down to earth, then the defense needs a makeover because the Red Wings won’t be winning many games in a 6-5 fashion.