The most obvious scapegoat in Friday’s blitzkrieg at the Barclays Center was certainly Tyler Bertuzzi, and that notion is not without merit. But Bertuzzi’s brief buffoonery, when he considered it wise to clobber New York Islanders forward Cal Clutterbuck with a retaliatory baseball swing slash to the knee, leading to a match penalty and a five-minor power play for the Isles, was merely the appetizer in this meltdown menu.
The true culprits, the engineers of the disaster that saw the Detroit Red Wings squander a 5-2 lead with 6:33 left in regulation and turn it into a 7-6 overtime setback, was the club’s penalty killing unit. All they killed was Detroit’s chance at what should have been a routine victory.
Not surprisingly, the Wings spent a significant portion of Saturday’s practice time honing their shorthanded skills.
“Obviously, we gave up four there last night, so we want to make sure we get back to work at it,” Detroit coach Jeff Blashill told detroitredwings.com. “Nothing you can do about what’s happened in the past except to learn from it and get better for tomorrow.
“Our penalty kill at times has been excellent. It’s not only been statistically excellent, at times during the year it’s looked excellent. We’ve got to make sure we get back to our principles.”
There was plenty of blame to be shouldered in Friday’s goal fest, as the Isles tallied a club-record four goals during Bertuzzi’s sentence. Cohesion went out the window and chaos ruled. Looking like a beach volleyball player diving for a dig, Nick Jensen’s head-first sprawl attempting to block Michael Barzal’s show only made it more difficult for goalie Petr Mrazek to see and control the shot, leading to an easy rebound goal for Anders Lee. Danny DeKeyser didn’t have coverage on Lee, and he screened Mrazek on Nick Leddy’s goal by choosing to battle Lee for position rather than front him.
Blashill felt the problems began with how easily the Wings welcomed the Islanders into their zone.
“I would say the biggest thing is when the penalty kill is at its best, it’s making stands at the line, it’s forcing the puck out of opposition hands, getting it and getting it out of the zone,” Blashill said. “We gave up the entry too easy. So when you give up the entry, now you got opportunities for them to shoot and they have a real shooting power play with (Lee,) who I think is the best net-front guy in the league.
“The best way to avoid that is to not let them set up. Unfortunately last night, we let them set up too much. We allowed a shooting gallery to happen with a great net-presence guy and we got burned on that.”
Bertuzzi Bears Blame The Wings gave captain Henrik Zetterberg a maintenance day, and it was interesting to note that Bertuzzi filled Zetterberg’s spot on that line, while David Booth skated in Bertuzzi’s role, fueling speculation that Bertuzzi will be give a healthy scratch sit down for Sunday’s game at Washington to ponder how his selfishness hurt the team.
“I would consider everything, but we’ll make all lineup decisions tomorrow,” was Blashill’s answer.
Blashill was very direct at assessing Bertuzzi’s responsibility in the situation where he decided that settling a score was more important than the final score.
“We can control one thing, that’s our actions and our attitude,” Blashill said. “We can’t take a penalty at that point in the game. You can’t take a retaliatory penalty. It was unnecessary. The game’s over, we’ve taken their life away and then we gave them life.
“Obviously, the initial thing goes to Clutterbuck, Tyler reacts to that and he’s got to learn just to keep skating to the bench and not react to it. Clutterbuck is a veteran player and does a good job selling the call and they called it.”
Bertuzzi shouldered the blame - sort of - first complaining that the officials got the call wrong.
“I don’t think deserved a five,” Bertuzzi said. “I think it deserved a two-minute penalty. I don’t think a five.
“It was more or less just sticking up for myself and not taking stuff from anyone. Young guy in the league. It is the heat of the moment. Obviously, I regret it. At the end of the day, I don’t think it was a five-minute penalty.”
Two minutes? Five minutes? What mattered most to Blashill was that Bertuzzi didn’t give the notion a second thought in the moment that mattered most, when he decided to commit the infraction.
“In the end, we don’t control what they call or don’t call,” Blashill said. “You can debate whether one should be a penalty or one shouldn’t, how long it should be, but we don’t control that.
“What we control is our actions and you can’t take a penalty at that point.”
Good Call Detroit’s goal that tied the game at 6-6 and sent it to overtime was briefly reviewed for goaltender interference, but just like in Saturday’s 3-2 loss at Florida, when the Panthers’ late game winner was upheld, the call was good goal.
Zetterberg was asked what his response would have been were the league to overturn Detroit’s goal.
“If they would have done that, I would have retired right away,” Zetterberg said.