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The Breakdown: Panthers Remind Red Wings: It’s Tough to Make Playoffs

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Alex Nedeljkovic, Detroit Red-Wings

Coach Derek Lalonde has candidly explained, more than once this season, that the rebuilding Red Wings have to play at their absolute best to win games in the NHL this season. There’s almost no margin for error.

If the Red Wings aren’t at their best, games look like the Red Wings’ 5-1 loss to the Florida Panthers Thursday.

Nothing went right for the Red Wings Thursday starting with the moment Lalonde filled out his lineup sheet. Olli Maatta was ill and couldn’t play. Lalonde also made Jake Walman a healthy scratch. That meant the Red Wings went back to Gustav Lindstrom and Robert Hagg on the third pairing. That duo struggled earlier in the season. They were replaced by Walman and Jordan Oesterle. Lindstrom was on the ice for three Panthers’ goals.

Lineup Changes

The Red Wings also opted to go with backup Alex Nedeljkovic, instead of Ville Husso. It was planned that Nedeljkovic would play one of the games on the four-game road trip. Nedeljkovic gave up five goals and also made 36 saves.

Maybe having the regular lineup wouldn’t have changed the outcome. The Panthers played as sharply and the Red Wings played poorly. At one point, about 26 minutes into the game, the Panthers were outshooting the Red Wings 23-5.  The Panthers had more energy, more proficiency and more players at their best.

The Panthers also welcomed back their star Sasha Barkov who had missed six games with illness.

This game could have been a statement game for the Red Wings. Had they defeated the Panthers, it would have been the first time in 11 years they downed both Florida-based NHL teams on a road trip. If they could have accomplished that “double” it would have brought more credibility to the notion that they can be a playoff team in the Atlantic Division this season.

But the Panthers made their own statement. They haven’t played as well as they did last season. Maybe they wanted to make it clear that they will be a force again this season in the Atlantic Division.

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Facts and Observation

  1. Jonatan Berggren scored for Detroit to give him four goals and five assists for nine points in 13 games since being called up. This could/should be a permanent call-up for him.

  2. Detroit defenseman Moritz Seider had six hits and three blocked shots against the Panthers. He might have been playing angry.

  3. The Red Wings play a matinee game Saturday against the Dallas Stars. That’s a 2 p.m. start local time.

  4. Every Detroit defenseman was a minus player in this game. The Panthers had five even-strength goals.

  5. The Red Wings only have four more home games left in December. They play the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday, the Ottawa Senators on a Saturday afternoon game on Dec. 17,  Tampa Bay Lightning on Dec. 21 and the Senators again on New Year’s Eve.

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