Wings Can’t Solve Rinne

Well,  so much for that whole “what players do we make healthy scratches” issue. Tonight, the Red Wings played one man under the limit of 18 skaters, because Jiri Hudler (flu), Pavel Datsyuk (lower body), and Johan Franzen (undisclosed) were all unavailable. They could have gone with 7 defensemen to offset the loss up front, but Ruslan Salei is still in California with his family after the birth of he and his wife’s third child.

Red Wings 1 Predators 3

The Wings have been completely unable to solve Pekka Rinne this season, scoring two goals in their last three games against the Finnish netminder. Over that span, he has stopped 108 out of 110 shots faced, good for a .98 SV%. To put that in perspective, Tim Thomas leads the NHL with a .937 SV%. I’ve said this before, but Rinne is one of the top goalies in the league who no one ever talks about.

As it stands right now, the Predators are a potential first round opponent for the Wings, so they’ll have to get that sorted out at some point.

This game had some playoff like intensity to it, with a number of rough collisions and cheap hits, especially from the Predators. Justin Abdelkader took a Shane O’Brien elbow in the head, Danny Cleary took a swipe from Ryan Suter, Cody Franson threw several punches at the back of Patrick Eaves’ head and Shea Weber was just mauling everyone in sight. Eaves’ also blocked a Shea Weber blast and limped around for a bit but ended up finishing the game. Even Nicklas Lidstrom wasn’t immune from the dangers of the game tonight and spent a few seconds on the ice after being dumped behind the play by David Legwand.

Despite the magnificent goaltending of Rinne, the game very well could have turned out differently. The Wings took a 1-0 lead into the first intermission on a Danny Cleary power play goal, but it could have been 2-0 if a Niklas Kronwall goal had not been waved off by referee Steven Walkom.

I don’t like joining in on the bashing of referees most of the time, but holy hell there was some awful officiating tonight. On the no goal, Holmstrom was stationed outside the crease and Rinne coasted out into him and initiated the contact. Earlier on in the Wings power play, Zetterberg was slammed into the boards without the puck. The Shane O’Brien elbow is the same thing that multiple players have been suspended for this season, most recently Dany Heatley for two games. Just an all around bad night by the men in stripes.

The worst part is about the no goal was that the referee didn’t even call Holmstrom for incidental contact with Rinne (there was minimal contact), but instead for being in the crease, which he was not.

Lidstrom: “The ref said he was in the paint. It sure didn’t look like it when you looked at the big screen.’’

The Wings now head home to kick off a five game home stand against a group of notable opponents. In all, they will play the hated Pittsburgh Penguins, Original 6 members Toronto and Chicago, the NHL leading Vancouver Canucks and division rival St. Louis.

10 games left in the regular season…and then the real fun starts. Let’s Go Wings!

The Off Wing View’s Three Stars

3. Patric Hornqvist 2A

2. Shea Weber 25:27 TOI

1. Pekka Rinne 39 saves

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