With the looming threat of becoming the first Detroit Red Wings roster to not make the playoffs in 22 years, coach Mike Babcock‘s injury laden team has gone from the potential of golfing in the middle of April to holding down the first wildcard position in the Eastern Conference.
For the Red Wings, two points on the has never meant so much.
Detroit had the opportunity to widen the wild-card gap between themselves and the steadily climbing Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday night at the Bell Centre, taking on goalie Carey Price and the Montreal Canadiens. Despite scoring three goals in the third period, the late rally would not be enough to best Montreal (currently in a fight themselves for home ice advantage in the playoffs against the Tampa Bay Lightning).
With veteran Pavel Datsyuk, who opened up the scoring for Detroit, back in the lineup after injury, finding offense was not the cause for crumble in the Red Wings’ game Saturday, but rather Detroit’s lackadaisical defense.
Despite starting goalie Jimmy Howard having the night off, backup goalie Jonas Gustavsson stood tall in net to make every save possible in an attempt to keep the struggling Wings in the game; if anything, the puck was working in Detroit’s favor granting every lucky bounce away from the goal line as possible.
But the puck can only bounce away from the post so many times before a few, or in Saturday night’s case five, eventually go in at the cost of an unmindful defense, all of whom finished the game with a minus one or greater rating, except for defenseman Brendan Smith, who finished with a plus-one rating.
Detroit’s ice in front of Gustavsson was left virtually open most of the night, making the chances at rebounds far too easy to take advantage of for the gliding Canadiens. Add open ice to poor puck management in the neutral zone and Montreal’s offense had no problem stealing the show away from Detroit in their home building.
While the loss is not season ending for the Red Wings, defensive play this careless could turn into something more because as the folks in Toronto could tell anyone, blaming the goalie gets old very fast.