If you skipped Saturday afternoon's game in Detroit, you chose wisely.
The New York Islanders lost a soul-draining sleeper, 4-1, in a game that hardly appeared to entertain the 20,000 Red Wings fans in attendance.
It was a low-event, monotonous affair, with the Wings getting an early lead via power play and then choking the life out of the neutral zone and the game itself, mid-'90s style, against an Isles team putting up precious little resistance.
Final shots were 23-19 in a professional performance from the Wings, which is far more than can be said for their opponent and the equally sleepy officiating crew. If there was any good news for the Isles, it was that Lubomir Visnovsky returned, looked good and healthy, and scored during one of the brief stretches where the game's outcome was still in doubt.
[ Box | Game Sum | Event Sum | Fancy/Shifts: War-on-Ice - Natural Stat Trick - HockeyStats.ca | Recaps: | Isles | NHL |
Mikhail Grabovski took the first penalty five minutes into the game when he failed to stop in time (and yet somehow failed to Kreider too) on a rush to the net. The Wings scored immediately, not so much through a great power play setup as through a great exploitative drive with the puck by Tomas Tatar after the Isles failed to clear.
Something probably happened during the 35 minutes between that goal and the final minute of the second period, but you needn't bother trying to find it.
To provide a sense of just how sleep this was: Brendan Smith's goal to make it 2-0 at 19:13 of the second period was Detroit's first shot in roughly 13 minutes of play. They had four, total, in the middle frame. Shots at the second intermission were 14-12 for the Isles.
Yeah, eventful game.
The Wings are generally very good at pushing the envelope on the whole behind-the-play and before-the-forecheck obstruction maneuvers, almost daring the refs to have to make calls in a game where they'd rather not.
The refs preferred not to for the first two periods, instead focusing their calls (three on the Wings, one on the Isles) on a pair of goalie interference calls, a slash (because it broke John Tavares' stick, and sticks are more valuable than bones in the NHL) and a dicey too many men. Not like that mattered: The Isles power play hardly posed a threat on its first three tries.
Brief Moment of Life, Because Odds are That Happens in a 60-Minute Game
But five minutes into the third, Smith took an interference call for sticking too long with Cal Clutterbuck after a chip-in, and Visnovsky laced a blistering top-corner wrist shot to bring it to 2-1 just 10 seconds into that power play.
If there was any excitement for Isles fans, it came soon after. John Tavares broke into the zone and forced a good save from Petr Mrazek, and Danny DeKeyser kicked the rebound back toward the net...but through Mrazek's legs and wide. A little more chaos ensued with some near-chances around the net before it all ended with an offensive zone penalty.
Suddenly awake, the officials ended that brief stretch of good Isles pressure by whistling Calvin de Haan for a holding call, probably the worst of many head-scratching calls on the afternoon ... to that point. The Wings didn't technically score on that power play, but their insurance goal came as de Haan was still working his way back from the box toward the zone.
With the Isles about to receive a mercy call for some reason, Chris Rooney doubled down by calling Brock Nelson for "embellishing" after he fell when he stepped on a loose stick. The more officials mess with diving and embellishment calls, the more you start to wonder whether they can be trusted to ever bother.
With 40 seconds left in that 4-on-4 situation, Travis Hamonic was sent off probably for doing to Henrik Zetterberg some variation of what Smith had done to Clutterbuck. Gustav Nyquist made it 4-1 with 12 seconds left in that one.
When Johnny Boychuk went down in the corner on an honest incidental board battle with Pavol Datsyuk, stopping play as Boychuk stayed down, the Isles bench let the refs have it -- though the rant was probably more of a frustrated "you've screwed up every call tonight, might as well screw up that one" way.
Sorry If You Watched That...Or Read This
The pre-game show mentioned over and over that the Isles had won five consecutive in Detroit, though everyone who sat through those games over the last several seasons knows that run was mostly due to the random weirdness that hockey offers about 30 percent of the time, rather than any sort of dominance.
Today, the pendulum swung back hard, yet sleepily.
The Isles were simply flat throughout, their penalty kill was typically awful, and the Red Wings were brilliant at slowing the game to a dull afternoon slog. The officiating circus was more of a footnote than a factor in what never looked to be the Islanders' day.
In a long season of 82 games, this was certainly one of them.