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The “right” kind of loss, Pens beat Wings in OT 2-1

January 17, 2020, 11:28 PM ET [3 Comments]
Jeremy Laura
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Jimmy Howard played his best game in a very long time. Even in a loss, Howard stopped 35 of 37 shots and pitched a .946 save %. Pittsburgh also got exceptional goaltending from Matt Murray who stopped 28 of 29 to a .966 save %. The duel was reminiscent of some of the better battles between these teams years ago.

For the season Detroit finds it in, the right things happened. Zadina scored again, which puts him at a pace of roughly 20 goals if he’d played a full season. Smith had some good shifts, and Jimmy Howard looked way better. The bad news was seeing Larkin potentially get injured on a bit of a weird play. Bertuzzi also absorbed the brunt of a Filip Hronek slap shot. It would not be good to see either of those guys get seriously hurt.

Pittsburgh is an impressive study of “next man up” mentality. Sid goes down, Malkin’s production goes up. Rust takes a huge step forward. The team just seems to figure it out internally. A bit reminiscent of the “glory days” gone by in Detroit. It’s easy to forget just how good Malkin, Crosby and Letang can be.

No loss is enjoyable, especially to this particular rival. Seeing the Penguins dads partying and having a blast at Detroit’s expense was a bit much to take. But, it is indicative of the times. The pain of these losses is part of developing the hunger to win as the team is built. It’s not enough to bring in talent, you have to build hunger. The balance between “moving on” and hating the way this season has gone is a tough one that the players have to work through. It can galvanize a locker room or cause incurable complacency.

In the end, this will all be forgotten if Detroit has a high enough pick at the draft. Older religious texts talk about the forgotten labor pains that are supplanted with joy of what is new. Dare I say it, Lafreniere would be an immense healing balm. However, it’s best to temper any hope with the reality that Detroit is worse at the lottery than any team I can think of.

Interestingly, Joe Veleno admitted that he and Lafreniere talked about what it would be like if Detroit pulled his number. The two loved the idea, but tempered it with “he’ll be happy with whoever picks him”. Unlike the awkward and unforgettable look on McDavid’s face when Edmonton won that draft lottery. That was a good reason to get Botox for the draft. Best if your face isn’t working when the cameras are on.

Still, this was as entertaining a game as I can remember. A lot of hitting, a long stretch between whistles. The result wasn’t ideal, but from a pure hockey perspective, it didn’t look like two teams going in opposite directions.

Detroit has zero time to dwell on this one. Florida is on the docket and that team can burn you. Interestingly out of a playoff spot by just a couple points, the Panthers have a plus 15 goal differential. Goaltending has not been what they’d hoped it would be. Toronto is keeping a close eye as it will be a tight race for the third place spot in the Atlantic. The division is weaker than the Metro, and whoever falls out of the top three may miss altogether. And, whoever is lucky enough to get a wild card spot will face either Boston or Washington (most likely). I doubt Leafs nation could stand another first round of a Bruins team that looks even better this year.

The relevance of this, Florida is going to come out swinging. They will be fighting for the post season for 30+ more games, and that is a grinding affair. Detroit will need to match tonight’s intensity and get just as miraculous a performance in net to compete in that contest. We’ll see what happens.

Thanks to everyone who stops by. Let me know what you thought tonight, and how you think Zadina/Hronek/Smith are developing. It’s been interesting to watch. I’ll be back with post game thoughts after the Panthers come to town.
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