Sure, the Red Wings can beat a St. Louis team which added a new goalie and lost two all-star defensemen, but what does that mean?
Detroit had a light first week this season with only two back-to-back games, the same way they started out the 2003-2004 season. That year, they quickly beat the Los Angeles Kings and the Ottawa Senators for a 2-0-0-0 start. They have won the season opener for six straight seasons, and have finished the regular season in the top five of the Western Conference for a long time. There isn’t much you can take from the first two games, but here are a few notes:
The new guys are contributing already. Mikael Samuelsson and Brett Lebda have more points than Kris Draper and Nicklas Lidstrom. Jason Williams isn’t new, but he’ll get more ice time this year and had three assists on Thursday.
There should not be a goalie controversy. Manny Legace has proven himself as a great goalie no matter how often he plays, and you can bet on Chris Osgood to win 30 games every year if healthy. Jim Howard might get in a game or two this month, but he looked good in preseason and is well liked so far by the other goalies.
Draper and Kirk Maltby will have to go above and beyond what they’ve normally done as defensive forwards. The Wings were shorthanded 11 times in Thursday’s game at St. Louis, and these two are the best penalty killers on the team.
With the signing of Jason Woolley, the Wings can make the decision to either rest the veterans Chris Chelios and Lidstrom a bit or take time away from youngsters Lebda and Jiri Fischer. These players are all going to have to adjust with the penalties being called, and a deep defensive core will help.
This Week’s Matchups:
October 9 vs. Calgary – Steve Yzerman may not play, but you can be sure Darren McCarty will. He won’t take it easy on his former team, but claims his heart is still wearing red. Many are picking Calgary to once again win the Western Conference, so this should be a good game. (Update: Detroit wins 6-3)
October 10 vs. Vancouver – Finally knocking Colorado off the top of the Northwest Division, Vancouver remains dangerous. Like Detroit, they’ve had good regular seasons and that doesn’t appear to be in jeopardy. They usually give the Wings a hard-fought game; the teams split four games last season.
October 13 at Los Angeles – The Kings may have lost the biggest offensive output of any team in the off-season, parting ways with Zigmund Palffy, Jozef Stumpel, Jason Allison and Martin Straka. To counter, they did sign Pavol Demitra and Jeremy Roenick. If the Kings want any chance of making the playoffs, goalies Mathieu Garon and Jason Labarbera have to immediately make an impact. Lababera won his first game, stopping 27 of 29 shots against Phoenix.
October 15 at Phoenix – Call it the sequel to the Wings’ Red vs. White game in training camp. Lots of familiar faces are in Phoenix now: Brett Hull, Curtis Joseph, Boyd Devereaux and assistant coach Barry Smith. Speaking of coaches, Wayne Gretzky is still in the spotlight – not for what he has done, but what he can do. There have been reports of the players being intimidated by the presense of The Great One, which may explain their 0-2 start. The Coyotes are re-tooling quickly, acquiring Geoff Sanderson from the Blue Jackets in a five-player deal.