Red Wings at Tampa Bay Lightning: GAME 33
Time: 7:30 pm Eastern Time
Location: Amalie Arena
Broadcast/Streaming: TVAS, SUN, FS-D
Opponent SBNation Site: Winging it in Motown
Last night was a bit of a tire fire for the Carolina Hurricanes. The Canes’ PNC Arena had trouble cooling the ice, and without ice, there can be no hockey. Here’s the Canes Country article about it, and here’s the Red Wings “recap.”
In honor of the back-to-back that wasn’t, we’ve interviewed Winging it in Motown’s KyleWIIM about where the Red Wings are, as a team and a franchise.
Raw Charge: One question that Winging it in Motown writer Prashanth Iyer recently asked on twitter regarding Steve Ott was, "If his fights spark good plays, why doesn't he fight every game?" How do you see this relating to the current Red Wing regime?
KyleWIIM: Well, I'll say this. [Fighting is] a new movement for the Wings. They have pretty consistently been a team that doesn't fight, or used fighting as some sort of pseudo-fairy dust that magically sprouts goals-for. I mean, back in the glory days of 'The Grind Line,' it was big, but it was a part of hockey culture back then. Ott does fight pretty often, and only sometimes does it coincidentally have goals come afterwards. At the end of the day, it is what it is -- Just a 'rah rah' moment to get the fans excited. Does excitement from the crowd ignite team performance? I think if that is a reality, then you have a serious team problem.
Raw Charge: What are you proud of right now?
KyleWIIM: Personally, I am proud of myself for dealing with this season so far! HA! No, but I am proud of Anthony Mantha. Since he became a pro, he's been seemingly subjected to unfair criticism from the organization. He's come up to the big club this year and has been a bonafide top-line talent, and I'd argue that he's been the best player on the team.
Raw Charge: The Bolts are even more out of a playoff spot than the Wings today. What's the best case scenario for your season?
KyleWIIM: I'll be honest, I don't see Tampa staying in the position for very long. The Red Wings have been very fortunate for great play by Jimmy Howard. If his save percentage slips up at any point and regulates to league average, or his career average -- The team is up a creek without a paddle. Call me a bad fan, call me a pessimistic heap, but I think the best case scenario for this Red Wings team is to miss the playoffs and provide some perspective to the front office. We had a good run, but it's time to assess what is in front of you, and that is a roster crippled by veteran contracts in desperate need of a new core built from young talent.
Raw Charge: One more. If you were, like, the opposite team, how would you go about beating the Red Wings? Please be specific.
KyleWIIM: Be aggressive on the forecheck!
GeoFitz’s line notes
#tblightning lines: Boyle-Johnson-Drouin/Killorn-filppula-namestnikov/Condra-paquette-Conacher/Richard-point-brown— Joe Smith (@TBTimes_JSmith) December 20, 2016
#Bolts morning skate D pairings:— Bryan Burns (@BBurnsNHL) December 20, 2016
Hedman, Sustr and Coburn rotating on one end
The lines and defensive pairings from morning skate bring up some interesting questions. The first thing I notice is that Johnson has been freed. Last game, he was lined up with Conacher and Condra. While Conacher is a fine complement to Johnson's game, Condra is not.
Condra does have more offensive skill than your average fourth liner and in fact started his career with Ottawa as more of a third line scoring winger. In the intervening years he has turned to being more of your average grinding, defensive fourth liner. So freeing Johnson from Condra is good to see.
Later in the game, Johnson did seem quite a bit of time with J.T. Brown and Joel Vermin which was a marginal improvement, but not by much. Johnson has struggled for much of the season, so seeing him paired with Drouin and Boyle is nice and gives me a little hope he can get a spark.
The second line is pretty typical of Jon Cooper. He likes Filppula and Killorn together for defensive purposes. Filppula has picked up his offense this season so there is some hope that with Killorn and Namestnikov by his side, this can be a decent second line.
The third line of Condra, Paquette, and Conacher is interesting. They'll be fairly fast, but there's not a lot of skill there. Point has been dropped down to the fourth line with Brown and call-up Tanner Richard after Joel Vermin was sent back to Syracuse. Vermin had started hot on Drouin's line but faded off since then. Richard is an assist machine and seems to vomit out assists wherever he goes. My hope there is that he can set up Point and get him going.
The defensive pairings are quite the jumble. On first thought, it makes me think that Cooper is planning on going with seven defensemen tonight. In that case, the pairings don't matter. The other side of that could be that perhaps Sustr is taking a seat tonight. He has been consistently out-shot on the ice and has really struggled with possession this year. Taking a seat for a game or two as a wake up call and a step back from the game may be exactly what he needs.
If Sustr sits and the other pairings stick, it's definitely interesting. Hedman has struggled away from Stralman, but Coburn has been pretty solid most of the season. Garrison has struggled and so Stralman could be the cure to getting him back on track. Koekkoek and Nesterov being together seems like an oddly fine fit together, but one that I never thought I'd see as two young players that have usually been protected by a veteran player.
The other side of the equation is maybe Cooper is just shaking things up and will return to his old ways soon. Looking at the forwards, with so many players injured, there just simply is not enough skill throughout that group. The team is being forced to play bottom six players in the top six. The team is being forced to play minor leagues. The team needs to get healthy and at a minimum get Kucherov and Palat back on the ice.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Cory Conacher - Tyler Johnson - Erik Condra
Brian Boyle - Valtteri Filppula - Jonathan Drouin
Alex Killorn - Brayden Point - Vlad Namestnikov
J.T. Brown - Cedric Paquette - Joel Vermin
Victor Hedman - Anton Stralmann
Andrej Sustr - Jason Garrison
Slater Koekkoek - Braydon Coburn
Detroit Red Wings
Anthony Mantha - Henrik Zetterberg - Thomas Vanek
Dylan Larkin - Frans Nielsen - Luke Glendening
Thomas Tatar - Riley Sheahan - Gustav Nyquist
Drew Miller - Andreas Athanasiou - Steve Ott
Danny DeKeyser - Xavier Ouellet
Jonathan Ericsson - Ryan Sproul
Niklas Kronwall - Nick Jensen
Line information is subject to change.