On Thursday night, the Detroit Red Wings came away with a 5-2 victory over the Nashville Predators led by Sam Gagner‘s hat trick. The game was just the sixth time all season that the Red Wings scored more than two goals. While the team hasn’t been great defensively this season, it’s clear that their offense has been the biggest issue. This game finally brought them back up to averaging 2.00 goals/game and out of the basement of the league.
There are a few reasons that the offense has struggled between the lack of talent as well as a power play that is just 19 power plays away from the all-time record for longest drought without a goal. However, the biggest reason that the Red Wings have struggled offensively was on full display as Sam Gagner scored his first three goals of the season. They just don’t shoot the puck enough.
Sam Gagner’s Unlikely Hat Trick
The start to the 2021 season had been a rough one for Sam Gagner. He had just two assists in his first 13 games and missed some time due to COVID protocol. So when the 31-year-old scored one of the luckiest goals you’ll ever see from behind the goal line, it was great to see for Red Wings fans. Predators netminder Pekka Rinne allowed what was frankly one of the worst goals you’ll see a goalie allow all season. However, just the fact that Gagner threw the puck at the net and got off the schneid for the season was something that could give him some confidence going forward.
It also showed just how important getting the puck on net is, which is something Detroit hasn’t done this season. Through 22 games, the Red Wings are 27th in the NHL in SOG/Game with just 27.5. This plays a big part in them being 30th in the league in goals/game ahead of just the Anaheim Ducks (1.95 goals/game).
This wasn’t the last example of Gagner just throwing a puck at the net and scoring, however. Midway through the third period, he came from behind the net before cutting back at the bottom of the circle and sliding one to the front of the net. Rinne once again made a big mistake as the puck slipped through his five-hole and redirected its way into the back of the net to give the Red Wings the 3-2 lead.
Again, this was much more on Rinne making a bad play than Gagner making a good play. However, it’s once again an example of him just getting the puck on net and it paying off for him which this team doesn’t do enough of. They try too hard to get the perfect chance and it has led to plenty of offensive failures. These scoring chances were so unlikely to score and yet they ended up being the difference in the game.
Gagner finished off his hat trick with just a few minutes to play in the game. The Predators pulled Rinne shortly after the Red Wings made it a 4-2 game. Gagner one-timed a puck wrapping around the right boards around his own hash marks and fired the puck into the empty net to seal the 5-2 win and clinch his first hat trick in over nine years.
It was a fantastic game for Gagner and a much-needed confidence boost for a guy who has been struggling. The hope for Red Wings fans is that the hat trick not only sparks Gagner but makes the rest of the team realize just how important it is to get pucks on net.
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