Pregame: Predators @ Red Wings – 10/21

Coming off a 2-1 win over the Rangers in New York that probably wasn’t deserved, the Red Wings are changing things up tonight as they host the Nashville Predators.

Steve Ott is back in the lineup for the first time since the season opener, with Andreas Athanasiou swapped out.  On defense, Ryan Sproul gets his first look of the season and only his second career game with Xavier Ouellet out.

This comes as no surprise, but I’d prefer to never see Ott in the lineup again, so, whatever, we’ll see what happens.  I’ll say forever that I don’t see how you can bring back Darren Helm as a free agent because of his speed, but then sit Athanasiou for anyone.

Something I find interesting with Sproul coming in…  No one is giving updates on Niklas Kronwall anymore.  The Wings had hoped he’d be ready for the start of the season but, obviously, he wasn’t.  A week later and we don’t know if he’s any closer.  I’m gonna float a conspiracy theory right now: Kronwall is done and his LTIRed cap space will be how the Red Wings manage to fit in Cam Fowler.  I’d rather it be Jacob Trouba, but Winnipeg is asking too much.

Petr Mrazek will be back in goal for the Wings after Jimmy Howard got the win on Wednesday.

Game time is 7:30 PM on FSD.

Stupid Stat of the Day:  Okay, this one’s a long one, so I dropped it to the bottom of the post.  Several years ago I wrote about the Red Wings playing in Nashville on Saturday on no rest.  Looking at a Friday night game with Detroit hosting the Predators, my first thought was, “Wow, that never happens.”

Turns out I’m wrong.  Of the 55 times they’ve hosted the Predators, seven have been on Friday, just less than you’d expect with an even distribution (but good luck playing 7.8 games on a day).  The Wings have hosted the Preds five times on Sunday, four on Monday, nine on Tuesday, twelve on Wednesday, eight on Thursday, seven on Friday, and ten on Saturday.

The weird thing is that it took nine seasons (one of which was lost to the lockout) for the Red Wings to host their then-division-rival on a Friday night.  Nashville’s first visit to the Joe on a Friday was November 10, 2006.  Through the Predators’ first ten seasons, it was the only visit.  The remaining six have all come in the nine years since.

So it turns out that Friday night games hosting Nashville are common enough, but they used to be rare

Postgame Notes: Red Wings @ Rangers – 10/19

Alright, I’m going to make this one quick because, admittedly, I was mostly watching this out of the corner of my eye with the volume down low.

You know when the Red Wings were a powerhouse and they’d come up against some random horrible team who, for some reason, they just couldn’t beat?  Those games against Nashville (usually in Nashville), 1999ish, where they doubled up the Preds in shots and controlled play and just couldn’t solve frikkin’ Mike Dunham, while some random like Mark Mowers (future Red Wing) would score goals on multiple deflections and Detroit would lose, 2-1?

That’s what happened tonight.

By all accounts, the Red Wings had no right to win this game.  The Rangers controlled play for the most part.  But Jimmy Howard – in his first start of the season and playing in his favorite arena – stood on his head and the Wings managed to get another power play goal out of Thomas Vanek and a goal from their fourth line and it was enough.

It wasn’t a good game but a win is a win.

Pregame: Red Wings @ Rangers – 10/19

Coming off their first win of the season and their final home opener at Joe Louis Arena, the Red Wings are back on the road tonight, visiting the New York Rangers.

Jimmy Howard gets the start in goal for the Wings, his first of the season.  Howard grew up a Rangers fan and loves playing at Madison Square Garden, so that’s not much of a surprise.

Any other lineup changes will be determined after the pre-game skate, per coach Jeff Blashill.

Game time is 8:00 PM on NBCSN.

In the meantime, Down Goes Brown has an interesting time-waster going on Twitter.

I gave it a couple shots.

I mis-counted, that total is actually 143. But when you can add a seven-time Norris Trophy winner, which also allows you to swap Wendel Clark for Marian Hossa, you do that.

Morning After: Senators @ Red Wings – 10/17

That was better.

The Red Wings put forth a nearly-full-game effort on Monday night in the last home opener at Joe Louis Arena, as opposed to the 20-minute efforts to open the season in Tampa and Sunrise, and it got them a 5-1 win over the Ottawa Senators.

Yeah, there were negatives.  There were shifts where they shot themselves in the foot trying to clear the zone.  There were still too many missed passes.  In a game that it feels like the Red Wings dominated, they still allowed 32 shots.

But there were more positives than we saw in the first two games, too.

Mike Green‘s shot has been unleashed.  He’s doing what he was brought to Detroit to do and has his first career hat trick to show for it.  Two nights after an awful outing, he had maybe his best game as a Red Wing.

And Darren Helm finished, too.  I don’t know what he did over the summer but he looks like he’s skating better than he has in a couple years.

Thomas Vanek with three assists is having an impressive start to the season.

I don’t recall Petr Mrazek having to make any insane saves – like he did in Tampa, for example – but after allowing eight goals in two games, he needed a shutdown night.  Only goal against came on a rush where the puck deflected off a teammate’s stick.  Not bad.

And speaking of that goal…  I said it on Twitter, I’ll say it again here, I really liked Brendan Smith‘s effort on that play.  He forced Dzingel to wait until it should have been too late.  If that pass didn’t go off Sheahan’s stick and past Mrazek, I think it ends up in Turris’ skates, not in the net.

I will say that I don’t love the fights.  I don’t think fighting is a necessary part of hockey.  I liked seeing Chris Neil beg for a fight and then Justin Abdelkader land some solid shots on him, but at the same time I wish Abdelkader hadn’t obliged him.  It is interesting, though that the Wings’ fights this season have all been by players who were with the team last year (since Steve Ott‘s “fight” in Tampa was just roughing).  This isn’t a new player skewing the numbers, it’s the existing players playing differently.  I wonder where that change came from.

Of course, I have to talk about the arena itself and the game presentation.  While there was a lot of talk of this being the last home opener at Joe Louis Arena, I don’t feel like the “last” aspect was played up.  There are at least 40 more games left there, including the actual last game.  This felt like a home opener, not a last game.  As it should.

It kind of annoys me that the Wings ended up dropping the Farewell to the Joe patch from their jerseys.  I didn’t like it, and I think they could have done better on the Gordie Howe patch, but there’s no reason they couldn’t have done both.

Pregame: Senators @ Red Wings – 10/17

It’s the beginning of the end, as tonight the Red Wings host the Ottawa Senators in the final home opener at Joe Louis Arena.

After opening up with a pair of uninspiring losses in Florida, the Wings are tweaking their lines once again.

For the third consecutive game, different defense pairings will be used

Petr Mrazek starts in goal.

The Senators are 2-0 having opened with a pair of extra-time wins over Toronto and Montreal.

Stupid stat of the Day: The Red Wings are 20-15-6 in games played in an arena during that arena’s final season before demolition.

Game time is 7:30 PM on FSD.

Postgame Notes: Red Wings @ Panthers – 10/15

Alright, I watched the first period through a bad stream and listened to the second on the radio so I’m just going to ignore those.  Third period?

At no point in those 20 minutes did I feel like the Red Wings – down only a goal, somehow still alive in a game I’m told they had no right to be alive in – had any urgency.  Maybe they would have had they been able to connect on a single pass, I don’t know, but they just looked absolutely lost out there.

There’s not even an individual play to call out or anything like that because they didn’t look bad as much as they looked incompetent.  There was one chance by Darren Helm and quite literally nothing else of note in the offensive zone.

On defense there was the absolute disaster that was Florida’s third goal.  Okay, Jaromir Jagr outplays Danny DeKeyser, I can live with that.  Mike Green with an unforced error is brutal.  On top of that, the Panthers got two guys in front of Mrazek completely alone.  Where did they come from that no one was on at least one of them?

But, hey, the Wings’ defense was pretty bad last year and they did nothing to fix it so we shouldn’t be surprised by these things.

One thing worth noting on that play – and I said it via Twitter – Petr Mrazek had a hell of a stop on the initial chance.  Dude got absolutely hung out to dry.

The coaching staff was quick to make changes after the Game One loss, we’ll see what comes of this one.

Pregame: Red Wings @ Panthers – 10/15

Coming off a disappointing 6-4 season-opening loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Red Wings are making quick adjustments.

Andreas Athanasiou not only steps into the lineup, but jumps onto a line with Henrik Zetterberg and Frans Nielsen.  Justin Abdelkader drops down to the fourth line and Steve Ott will be a healthy scratch.

On defense, Danny DeKeyser will be paired with Mike Green while Brendan Smith joins Alexey Marchenko.

Petr Mrazek gets the start in goal again.

Game time is 7:00 PM on FSD.

Postgame Notes: Red Wings @ Lightning – 10/13

Well, this was pretty much the game that I feared, but it didn’t start that way.

The Red Wings came out strong in the first period, which was really good to see.  Thomas Vanek looked fantastic around the net, with two goals to show for it.  The power play moved the puck well, leading to Vanek’s first.  Petr Mrazek was sharp in net.

Then, like too many games last season, all those good things disappeared.

Early in the second period, the Lightning took over.  The Wings were on their heels, taking too many penalties.  Tampa was the faster team.  Yeah, Frans Nielsen got his first goal in a Detroit uniform, but it was on a broken play that you can’t really credit the systems for or anything.  But the Wings still had a 3-2 lead after 40 minutes.

Things only got worse in the third period.  More penalties.  Four goals against.  Only one fluke goal for.

There were good things to take away from this but they were mostly early.  Vanek looked great early on.  Nielsen looked good.  Darren Helm looked fast, as did Dylan Larkin (who seemed to be having trouble controlling the puck).  Mrazek made some amazing stops.

Unfortunately, there was a lot of bad.  Mrazek allowed a couple awful goals.  The penalty kill was 3-for-6 (despite the Wings rolling a fourth line assembled specifically for their PK ability).  Two (TWO!) too many men on the ice penalties.

There was fun with reffing, of course.  Steve Ott squared off with Jonathan Drouin, only for Brayden Coburn to jump in.  But because Drouin hadn’t actually dropped his gloves yet, Coburn wasn’t the third man in.  Later, Steven Stamkos appeared to reach in and grab Jonathan Ericsson while Ericsson fought Ondrej Palat.  No call in either case.

Ott going after Drouin in the first place was pretty stupid, as you had to know the Lightning weren’t going to let a young scorer get into a fight with a grinder.  That’s why fighting doesn’t work as a deterrent, it’s always two fighters going at it because that’s their job.  Likewise, Ericsson going after Palat was ill-advised, cancelling out a pending Detroit power play (that said, as I said via Twitter, it’s rare to see the instigator called in that case, but in retrospect I think it was the right call).

That fourth line that is supposed to make the Wings so much harder to play against and kill all the penalties?  I’ll close with their fancystats courtesy of WIIM’s Prashanth Iyer:

Pregame: Red Wings @ Lightning – 10/13

Well, here we go, the 2016-17 Red Wings season is upon us.

Detroit opens in Tampa tonight against the Lightning team that knocked them out of the playoffs last spring.  Tampa spent most of their summer locking up their core to mostly-reasonable contracts, making the rest of the league look stupid.  The Wings spent their summer swapping talking about how great their fourth line is going to be.


Here are the Wings’ projected lines, courtesy of MLive’s Ansar Khan, who still has me blocked on Twitter…

Stupid stat of the day: This is the first time the Red Wings have opened the season at Amalie Arena in Tampa.  It is the 22nd arena that they’ve played in for a season opener.

Game time is 7:30 PM on FSD.

An Alternate Red Wings Roster

After publishing my post explaining why I’m not excited about the start of this season, I went outside and mowed my lawn, which gave me more time to think.  A dangerous thing.

I started mentally re-working the Red Wings’ roster, imagining a lineup featuring none of Detroit’s summer free agent signings or re-signings.  This is what I came up with:

Justin AbdelkaderDylan LarkinRiley Sheahan
Tomas TatarHenrik ZetterbergAnthony Mantha
Gustav NyquistAndreas AthanasiouTeemu Pulkkinen
Tomas NosekLuke GlendeningTyler Bertuzzi
Martin Frk

Those lines are based on the ones the team practiced with today, so they can be shuffled however you want.  The important thing is the 13 forwards.

Yeah, not having Frans Nielsen and needing to move Zetterberg back to center hurts, but look at the opportunity on that lineup.  That’s Mantha, Athanasiou, and Pulkkinen getting top-nine (none of this top-six, bottom-six nonsense) minutes.  That’s Glendening still centering a line of grinders, just as he is now.

Is it as likely to make the playoffs?  Well, I don’t think the current roster is going to make it, so zero percent chance is equal to zero percent chance.  That said, no, I can’t say I think this roster has as good of a chance.  I’m okay with that.

This roster also includes an effort to fix the Red Wings’ defense.  While the same blueliners make the team as did in reality (which is why I didn’t specifically note them), there is an additional defensive prospect in the system.

This roster has a low enough salary to absorb Pavel Datsyuk‘s cap hit, which means he’s never traded and the Red Wings draft Jakob Chychrun.

Chychrun made Arizona’s opening night roster but I have no expectation that he’d do the same in Detroit, given the Wings’ logjam.  That said, two years down the road you can expect there’d be room for him, the kind of player Detroit has been unable to sign as a free agent or trade for.

I know that I’m looking at it with 20/20 hindsight.  At the time Datsyuk’s contract was traded, no one could have known whether or not Steven Stamkos would hit the open market and the Red Wings felt that they had to be prepared for that.

That said, it’s hard not to look at what might have been and wonder.