After all those years of being juggernauts, it’s weird to label the Detroit Red Wings as “underdogs,” but that’s the undeniable case in their second-round series against the Chicago Blackhawks. Whatever you want to call them, the league’s gold standard franchise now has a 2-1 series lead over the Presidents’ Trophy winners after a 3-1 win in Game 3 on Monday.
Let’s bat around some topics.
So, where do we start with controversial calls? Fans of both teams have plenty of reason to beef, but which calls bother you the most? Did one team receive greater benefits in your opinion?
To be more specific, how do you feel about the Blackhawks goal that was disallowed because of goalie interference and the Patrick Kane goal that happened despite Johan Franzen’s injury? Are those rare instances of make-up calls on tallies?
The Blackhawks power play struggles overshadow their perfect penalty kill (28 for 28 so far in the playoffs). What should Joel Quenneville do to improve the output of the special teams unit? Is Mike Haviland secretly smiling?
This year’s Chicago team hasn’t faced many bumps in the road beyond injuries. Are they in big trouble right now? Could a season full of success become a problem in a way now that they’re down 2-1 in a series?
Speaking of rare struggles, Jonathan Toews is still without a goal in the postseason and only has three assists. How much longer will things go before pundits wonder if he isn’t as great of a leader as he’s been billed to be? Is it just a matter of bad puck luck?
Which Red Wings players deserve the most credit for this great work? Is it as obvious as Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk being premier two-way forwards?
How much is this about Mike Babcock’s brilliance? Detroit is finding ways to smother one of the most dangerous offensive attacks in recent memory.
So, who wins this series? It’s more up to question than many expected.
If someone told you that the New York Rangers started a goalie on back-to-back nights, and that goalie wasn’t Henrik Lundqvist, you’d probably wonder if he was hurt or retired.
Nope. It just so happens that Antti Raanta is playing at an incredibly high level, Alain Vigneault noticed, and that decision paid dividends on Friday night. Raanta won both nights of a back-to-back, allowing a single goal (with the Rangers protecting him, being that he only needed to stop 43 of 44 shots during that span).
Raanta and the Rangers blanked the Chicago Blackhawks with a 1-0 overtime win, at least briefly climbing to first place in the massively competitive Metro Division:
1. Rangers – 39 points in 29 games played
2. Penguins- 37 points in 27 GP
3. Blue Jackets – 36 points in 25 GP
4. Capitals – 35 points in 26 GP
5. Flyers – 35 points in 29 GP
Nick Holden ended up scoring the only goal of the game:
Meanwhile, the Blackhawks lost but at least salvaged a standings point and it seems like Patrick Kane is OK after this injury scare:
Raanta improved to 7-1-0 on the season, allowing two goals or less in all but one of his appearances so far this season. That’s the kind of work you’d expect to see if you’re going sit a guy who’s, you know, a living legend.
Blue Jackets remain in thick of things in Metro on tough night for Red Wings
As the Columbus Blue Jackets keep rolling, the Detroit Red Wings are probably just happy to get Friday behind them.
For the second straight game, the Blue Jackets beat their opponent 4-1.
They’re now on a five-game winning streak, and like the climbing St. Louis Blues, things look great if you go back a little further. They’re 10-1-2 in their last 13 games and 13-2-3 since November began.
The New Jersey Devils have been incredibly difficult to beat at home. Lately, the St. Louis Blues have been on a roll just about anywhere.
On Friday night, the Blues were the hotter team, handing the Devils their first home loss in regulation in 2016-17. And it wasn’t particularly close, with St. Louis winning 4-1.
It’s a convenient time to note that the Blues rank among the hottest teams in the NHL. Most recently, they’re 5-1-1 in their last seven games, but they’ve been especially impressive since they flirted with .500 at 7-6-3. Beginning with a 4-1 win against the Buffalo Sabres on Nov. 15, the Blues are on a 8-2-1 tear.
This leaves them second in the Central with a 16-8-4 record.
That’s impressive stuff.
This 4-1 win was quite the showcase for Robby Fabbri and Vladimir Tarasenko, in particular. Tarasenko collected three assists while Fabbri scored two goals on Friday night. His second goal was particularly slick:
The Blues are right in saying that this was a pretty fitting opportunity to drop a “Holy Jumpin.”
Minnesota Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk has been the most difficult goalies to score against this season. Leave it to a high-level player like Leon Draisaitl to make it look this, well, “easy.”
Draisaitl scored his 13th goal of 2016-17 by capping this pretty give-and-go play with Benoit Pouliot. You can see the frustration from Dubnyk at the end of the tally, as if he was saying “How was I supposed to stop that?” (though probably with more colorful language).
Draisaitl came into Friday with five goals and three assists in his last five games, so he’s been almost unstoppable lately.