Frans Nielsen

Detroit Red Wings: This season’s biggest surprises and disappointments

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With the 2019-20 NHL season on hold we are going to review where each NHL team stands at this moment until the season resumes. Here we take a look at the surprises and disappointments for the Detroit Red Wings.

Robby Fabbri has had a nice bounceback in Detroit

It was just four years ago that Fabbri looked like he was on his way to becoming an outstanding top-six player for the St. Louis Blues. Then an unfortunate run of devastating injuries completely crushed the early part of his career and left him as the odd man out in St. Louis.

The Red Wings, in need of talent anywhere they can find it, took the low-risk gamble on trading for him earlier this season.

The early returns have been promising.

Fabbri has been one of the Red Wings’ most productive offensive players since arriving in Detroit earlier this season with 31 points (14 goals, 17 assists) in his 52 games with the team. That’s a 20-goal, 50-point pace over 82 games and a nice bounce-back for a once promising player whose development was sidetracked through no fault of his own.

Jimmy Howard‘s tough year

Howard has been a rock in the Detroit crease for parts of 14 seasons now, and just last season was one of their few bright spots. All of that is what makes his 2019-20 season so hard to watch.

In his 27 appearances this season Howard has an .882 save percentage — the worst mark in the NHL by a fairly significant margin — to go with a 2-23-2 record.

Here is the complete list of goalies that appeared in at least 25 games in a single season and won two or fewer games:

  • Jimmy Howard (2019-20 Red Wings)
  • Jeff Hackett (1992-93 San Jose Sharks)
  • Michel Dion (1983-84 Pittsburgh Penguins)
  • Wilf Cude (1930-31 Philadelphia Quakers)
  • Daniel Berthiaume (1992-93 Ottawa Senators)
  • Michel Belhumeur (1974-75 Washington Capitals)

Howard is one of the most accomplished goalies in franchise history, sitting in the top-four of games played (third), wins (third), save percentage (third) and shutouts (fourth) but not even he was immune to the struggles the rest of the team faced this season.

Another injury for Anthony Mantha

Mantha has played like a bonafide top-line power forward the past two seasons when he’s been healthy and in the lineup. The only thing that has slowed him down are the injuries that robbed him of 43 games since the start of the 2018-19 season.

It’s so disappointing because it’s probably robbed him of a couple of 30-goal seasons.

Over the past two years he has scored at 30-goal, 65-point pace while posting outstanding possessions numbers (better than 53 percent shot-attempt share) on a team that has been completely dominated at even-strength. He is an outstanding player in the prime of his career, and one that probably does not get a lot of attention due to the circumstances around him as well as the fact he has missed so much time to injury.

The continued offensive declines of Frans Nielsen and Justin Abdelkader

Age and injuries continued to add up for two of Detroit’s biggest remaining contracts, at least when it comes to their offensive production.

Nielsen and Abdelkader count nearly $10 million against the salary cap for each of the next three seasons (while Abdelkader has a fourth year remaining on his deal) and combined for just four goals (all belonging to Nielsen) and 12 total points this season. With both players having already celebrated their 33rd birthdays there is little reason to believe those downward trends offensively will rebound in the coming seasons.

You can’t really blame the players themselves because it’s certainly not for a lack of effort and they didn’t offer themselves the contracts. They can also still contribute quite a bit defensively with both being among the Red Wings’ best performing defensive forwards. The disappointment just comes from the fact that their biggest long-term investments are with players that can not really drive their offense in a meaningful way.

More:
Looking at the 2019-20 Detroit Red Wings
What is the Red Wings’ long-term outlook?

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Injury updates on Red Wings’ Green, Mantha

Red Wings injury
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Not much is going right for the Detroit Red Wings this season. They have what is by far the worst record in the league, are on track for one of the worst seasons in franchise history and of the entire modern era in the NHL, and enter Wednesday’s game against the Minnesota Wild (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN) on a five-game losing streak.

They will also be without two more veterans in that game as defenseman Mike Green and forward Frans Nielsen will be sidelined after exiting Monday’s game in Colorado.

Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill announced on Tuesday that Green will likely be sidelined for a few weeks, while Nielsen’s injury seems to be more short-term.

Green and Nielsen are two of the veteran players on the Red Wings’ roster and are both struggling to produce when healthy. The Red Wings as a team have missed more than 200 man-games due to injury this season. Along with Green and Nielsen, the Red Wings are also currently without Anthony Mantha (more on him in a second), Andreas Athanasiou, Danny DeKeyser, and goalie Jonathan Bernier.

Mantha still at least a month away

Mantha’s injury has been one of the most significant. He has been sidelined on two different occasions this season, and most recently since mid-December with an upper-body injury.

Blashill said on Tuesday that Mantha is still at least a month away from returning and that it’s “going to be a while before he is healed.”

Even though Mantha has played in just 29 games for the Red Wings this season he is still the team’s third-leading goal scorer (12 goals) and fifth in total points (24 points). He scored 25 goals (with 48 total points) in 67 games a year ago. Since becoming a regular in the Red Wings’ lineup he’s scored at a 30-goal pace over 82 games. The 25-year-old forward is a restricted free agent after this season.

Related: NHL Injury Round: Adam Lowry to miss four weeks; Schultz, Krejci nearing returns

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

The Buzzer: Lightning score 9 goals; Predators lose big in Hynes debut

NHL Scores
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Three Stars

1. Carter Verhaeghe, Tampa Bay Lightning. They are back. The Lightning won their eighth game in a row on Tuesday night by running the Vancouver Canucks out of the building in a 9-2 win. There were a lot of players that could have been a star in this one, including Brayden Point (four points) and Steven Stamkos (two goals). But top star honors go to Verhaeghe for his first career hat trick. Entering play on Tuesday the 24-year-old rookie had just two goals and four assists this season in 28 games. He topped that goal total against the Canucks. The nine goals tied a franchise record for the Lightning.

2. Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Arizona Coyotes. The Coyotes were able to inch back ahead of the Vegas Golden Knights for first place in the Pacific Division (tied in points, but Arizona has played one fewer game) thanks to their 5-2 win over the Florida Panthers. Ekman-Larsson was a beast in this game with a goal, two assists, four shots on goal, and finishing as a plus-two while playing a game-high 24 minutes. Phil Kessel and Taylor Hall also had big games for the Coyotes were able to get two points while playing with their third-string goalie (Adin Hill).

3. Zach Werenski, Columbus Blue Jackets. As if the free agent departures were not enough to deal with, the Blue Jackets have also been dealing with a seemingly never-ending list of injuries. Despite all of that they are still right in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff race, and this guy is one of the biggest reasons why. He scored two third period goals on Tuesday to help lead the Blue Jackets to a 4-3 win over the Anaheim Ducks. They are now tied with the Philadelphia Flyers for the second Wild Card spot in the East with 50 points. Werenski now has 15 goals for the season, tops among all NHL defenseman. That puts him on pace for 30 goals this season.

Other notable performances from Tuesday

  • Artemi Panarin had three points for the New York Rangers as they were 5-3 winners over the Colorado Avalanche. Read more about their win here.
  • New coach, same result for the Nashville Predators. They lost John Hynes’ coaching debut in the music city by a 6-2 margin to the Boston Bruins. They have now lost five out of their past six games.
  • Alex Ovechkin scored two goals for the Washington Capitals as they were big winners over the Ottawa Senators.
  • Anders Lee scored the overtime winner for the New York Islanders as they were winners over the New Jersey Devils.
  • The Montreal Canadiens lost their seventh game in a row, this time losing to the Detroit Red Wings. Frans Nielsen scored two goals for the Red Wings while Filip Zadina continued his strong play with another goal.
  • Another game-winning goal for David Perron as the St. Louis Blues snapped their three-game losing streak with a win against the San Jose Sharks. The Sharks lost Logan Couture to injury in that game. Read more about it here.
  • On the same day they were added to the NHL All-Star Game (read more about that here) Kris Letang and Tristan Jarry played great games for the Pittsburgh Penguins in a 4-3 win over the Vegas Golden Knights.
  • Elias Lindholm provided all the offense for the Calgary Flames in a 2-1 win over the Chicago Blackhawks. For Lindholm, it was the 500th game of his NHL career.

Highlights of the Night

Dougie Hamilton might be the best defenseman in the NHL right now (read about it here), and he scored a beauty in overtime for the Carolina Hurricanes. They also signed Justin Williams to a one-year contract on a big Tuesday night for them. Read more about that here.

What an incredible individual effort here by New Jersey Devils young star Nico Hischier.

The Lightning scored six goals in the second period, including these three in under a minute.

 

Blooper of the Night

It takes a lot of confidence to try this move in a game, especially when you are losing at the time. It will probably make your coach pretty unhappy if you end up losing the game. Fortunately for Andrei Svechnikov, the Hurricanes won.

Factoids

  • Pittsburgh Penguins coach Mike Sullivan gets his 200th win with the team. [NHL PR]
  • Alex Ovechkin’s two goals move him into a tie with Teemu Selanne for 11th place on the NHL’s all-time list. [NHL PR]
  • Boston Bruins forward David Pastrnak now has an 11-game point streak, the longest active point streak in the NHL. [NHL PR]

Scores

Tampa Bay Lightning 9, Vancouver Canucks 2
Arizona Coyote 5, Florida Panthers 2
New York Islanders 4, New Jersey Devils 3 (OT)
Washington Capitals 6, Ottawa Senators 1
Carolina Hurricanes 5, Philadelphia Flyers 4 (OT)
New York Rangers 5, Colorado Avalanche 3
Detroit Red Wings 4, Montreal Canadiens 3
St. Louis Blues 3, San Jose Sharks 2
Boston Bruins 6, Nashville Predators 2
Calgary Flames 2, Chicago Blackhawks 1
Pittsburgh Penguins 4, Vegas Golden Knights 3
Columbus Blue Jackets 4, Anaheim Ducks 3

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Isles’ Tavares: ‘We needed two points, especially at home’

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The New York Islanders moved into the second seed in the Metropolitan Division with a 5-4 win over the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday.

The Islanders win coupled with the Ottawa Senators loss means New York’s magic number to clinch a playoff spot is six points.

After falling behind 2-0, New York scored three straight to take a 3-2 lead. The Islanders chased Red Wings’ started Petr Mrazek 16 seconds into the second period when Frans Nielsen gave New York a 4-3 lead.

Mrazek allowed four goals on 11 shots and was replaced by Jimmy Howard.

“It wasn’t the way we wanted to start, but I think credit to our team and everyone digging deep and sticking together,” said captain John Tavares, who had three assists in the win. “We responded right away.”

Brock Nelson, Kyle Okposo and Ryan Strome had first period goals. Cal Clutterbuck had the game winner.

New York’s power play went 3-for-4 in the win.

“Our power play is pretty underrated,” said Okposo. ”Everyone is yelling shoot all the time but we have pretty good structure.”

Added Tavares: “Our power play… it was good to see we got rewarded. We’ve been doing some decent things, I think. Obviously when you don’t score, sometimes the pressure can mount.”

Tomas Tatar and Drew Miller scored on Detroit’s first two shots giving the Wings a 2-0 lead before the two-minute mark of the first period. Niklas Kronwall and Pavel Datsyuk had to other Wings’ goals.

With the loss the Wings remain seven points behind the Tampa Bay Lightning for second place in the Atlantic Division. Detroit has a three-point lead on the Boston Bruins.

Howard made 15 saves in relief and was saddled with the loss.

Jaroslav Halak improved to 36-16-2 with a 25 save performance.

The win snapped the Islanders’ three-game losing streak. It was the Islanders first home win since Feb. 27 snapping a streak of seven straight losses.

“We really needed two points, especially at home,” said Tavares. “Just a character win. I don’t think it’s the way we drew it up, but we did some really good things again. The second half of the game we didn’t give up much. We need to build on it now.”

Wings’ Mrazek hooked after allowing 4 goals on 11 shots

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After falling behind 2-0 before the two minute mark of the first period, the New York Islanders scored three straight to take a 3-2 lead.

The Islanders added a fourth goal 16 seconds into the second period to end Wings’ starter Petr Mrazek’s night early.

Mrazek allowed four goals on 11 shots and has been replaced by Jimmy Howard.

Brock Nelson, Ryan Strome and Kyle Okposo scored first period goals.

Frans Nielsen added his 14th of the season early in the second.

Islanders captain John Tavares has three assists moving him one point back of Sidney Crosby for the league-lead.