The Detroit Red Wings started the season off with a solid 2-1 win at home against the Buffalo Sabres. Then went out to Carolina and stunned the Hurricanes with a 3-2 comeback win in overtime lead by the heroics of Henrik Zetterberg and Stephen Weiss. But it was an overnight flight to Boston that proved to be too much. The reigning Eastern Conference champions controlled every aspect of the game leading to a 4-1 victory for the Bruins and sent the Red Wings back to Detroit with their first loss of the season.
That makes the Red Wings 2-1-0, just like I predicted (not to brag). I didn’t get the scores quite right but the end result is still the same; the Wings finish the first week with 4 points and now have a good outlook of where they stand in the Atlantic division.
The first half of my Red Wings weekly is a segment I’m going to call “The Plus/Minus”. It’s the positives and negatives from the past week. I also provides an overall rating at the end that adds everything up and gives the Wings a weekly grade. Fairly simple and it’s a fair way to judge the team on a week to week basis. With that said and out of the way,
+ Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk taking leadership
Great captains lead by example; Zetterberg and Datsyuk have been doing just that. Over the first three games they have contributed to 4 out of the 6 total goals the Red Wings have scored this season. They have by far the most ice time of any forwards on the team with an average over 20 minutes a game each. Datsyuk is deking around defenders like he is Gustav Nyquist torturing the AHL at the moment. With Pavel attracting defenders there is more room on the ice for Zetterberg to shoot and don’t forget about Justin Abdelkader screening the net and looking for rebounds. I have absolutely no concerns about our first line a week into the season. It’s one of the best in the NHL.
+ Stephen Weiss makes immediate impact
Score a game winning goal in overtime, that’s how you make a name for yourself on a new team. Welcome Stephen, keep that up and Hockeytown will forget all about Valtteri Filppula. He has the tools around him with Johan Franzen and Daniel Alfredsson to have a monster season, now he just has to go out and do it. If he doesn’t, Joakim Andersson is knocking on the door to have the opportunity to play with his fellow countrymen from Sweden.
+ Not Jimmy Howard’s fault
Howard played in all three games this week and finished with a save percentage of .915 and 2.31 average goals against. Both statistics are right around his career average and of the 7 goals he let in 3 came on opposing team’s power plays. To keep this brief, Howard played well but to counter this plus there has to be a negative below because something had to go wrong if we let in 7 goals and Howard was on top of his game.
- Lackluster defense
Three words: Turnovers, turnovers, turnovers. The defense has to play smarter hockey. Perhaps I’m just naïve, because I watched Nicklas Lidstrom anchor the backline for a decade, but I feel like I’m sitting on a bed of nails watching this group of defensemen. Well that’s not fair; it’s only a few defensemen: Kyle Quincey, Jakub Kindl, Brendan Smith, and sometimes Danny DeKeyser. Then again that’s over half of them, so perhaps my last statement is fair. There is no question they are good skaters, they just struggle to hang onto the puck and shy away from physical play at times. This certainly needs to get fixed otherwise Howard is going to have a long season in net.
- Lack of scoring opportunities
Heading into the season I never thought this was going to be a problem but here it is and after the first week no less. Lousy shot angles and inadequate puck possession stalled the offensive for two periods in each game they played in. The Red Wings scored basically all their goals in one period during all three games. The exception being in Carolina with the overtime goal but that was merely an extension of their 3rd period outburst. That’s 6 out of the 9 periods they went scoreless. You can take this in two ways: The offense is super effective when it’s on or the offense is atrocious when it’s off. I’m going with the latter.
- 3rd and 4th lines not producing
The Red Wings’ greatest asset is depth and that meant absolute nothing this week. As brought up in my first plus, the first line did their job and put the points on the board. Even the second line, although it only scored on Stephen Weiss game winner, created solid scoring opportunities. After Mikael Samuelsson redirected a shot from Cory Emmerton to get the first goal of the season they have disappeared. Samuelsson was even replaced in Boston to get Tomas Tatar in the mix. Tatar had little effect on the third line, and honestly I’m struggling to remember an impactful shift from the 4th line in the 180 plus minutes of hockey that have been played. How much longer will they go before Mike Babcock decides a change is needed?
+/- Rating = Even
I really considered having another negative about only winning by a goal against Buffalo and then again in Carolina but I figured it’s too early in the season to nitpick; a win is a win. No goals in the last two periods against the Sabres and a dramatic comeback to beat the Hurricanes in overtime isn’t good but nothing to get to worried about after three games. So, an even rating to start the season seems appropriate.
The Red Wings will have 4 days off before a two-game home stand with the Phoenix Coyotes on Thursday and Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday. It should be two games that allow them to build up their plus/minus on my rating system.
Here’s this week’s preview and predictions.
October 10: Vs. Phoenix Coyotes
7:30 PM EST on Fox Sports Detroit
2012-13 Phoenix Coyotes Review
Record: 21-18-3 (51 Points)
Playoffs: 10th in Western Conference (missed playoffs by 4 points)
Last Meeting against the Red Wings: Apr. 22, 2013 at Detroit/Red Wings 4 – Coyotes 0
The Phoenix Coyotes (1-1-0) have been on both ends of a 4-1 decision. The season started bright as they had no problems beating up on the New York Rangers in their home opener but started a five-game road trip with a loss to the San Jose Sharks. The Coyotes, before coming to Detroit, have a cross-country flight to New York to face the Islanders (1-0-1) on Tuesday.
These aren’t the same Coyotes that forced the Red Wings to a game 7 in 2010 or got swept a year later by the Wings again in the first round; they have progressively started to decline. Losing Ray Whitney and Taylor Pyatt left the 2012-13 Coyotes searching for offense; enough that they missed making the playoffs for the first time in four season. But they have finally found an ownership group that is willing to pump some money into this organization. They started right away by signing center Mike Ribeiro to a 4-year deal worth $22 million. But is throwing money at the problem now the best solution to stop a complete collapse? Time will tell.
Prediction: With four days off before this game expect the Red Wings to be a little rusty. But being back home and facing a familiar opponent from the Western Conference should be enough to at least make this a very entertaining game. However, I don’t see this ending well for the Wings. Red Wings 2 – Coyotes 3 (OT)
October 12: Vs. Philadelphia Flyers
7:00 PM EST on Fox Sports Detroit
2012-13 Philadelphia Flyers Review
Record: 23-22-1 (49 Points)
Playoffs: 10th in Eastern Conference (missed playoffs by 6 points)
Last Meeting against the Red Wings: Mar. 6, 2012 at Philadelphia/Flyers 3 – Red Wings 2
The Philadelphia Flyers (0-2-0) are still seeking their first win of the season after they scored a single goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs (3-0-0) and the Montreal Canadians (1-1-0). They have a busy schedule before meeting the Red Wings on Saturday night. First, they go on the road to play the Carolina Hurricanes (0-0-1) today. Then it’s back home to play the Florida Panthers (1-1-0) on Tuesday and Phoenix Coyotes (1-1-0) the night before they come to Detroit.
Ray Emery and a veteran defense is what the Flyers hang their hat on. They have given up 7 goals in their first two games so perhaps that philosophy needs to be fine-tuned a bit. Having three more games before coming to Detroit, we should get a better idea of what team will be facing the Red Wings on Saturday. Will it be the Flyers that went to the Conference Semifinals in 2012 or the team that missed the playoffs last season and currently can’t keep the puck out of their own net?
Prediction: The busy schedule will take a toll and, like the Red Wings on Saturday, back-to-back games on the road are a killer. If my first prediction holds true as well, the Red Wings will come out determined to avenge their loss from Thursday. Red Wings 3 – Flyers 1
After five games I have the Detroit Red Wings at 3-1-1 (7 points). I won’t be surprised either if they provided me wrong and handle their business against the Coyotes to go 4-1-0 but I have a strong gut feeling they will drop one of these two games even though on paper both should be victories. So, go out and prove me wrong Wings because right now I’m still undefeated.