Postgame: Maple Leafs @ Red Wings – 10/9

Cathartic. That’s how this game felt. Which seems weird to say, I think.

There weren’t really questions about the Red Wings coming into the game, demons to exorcise or anything like that. But a loss to the Maple Leafs, a bad team led by Detroit’s former coach, could have started those questions. With that win, instead of questions we have a statement. Or a series of them.

No, the Wings don’t need Mike Babcock. Yes, the new kid really is pretty damn good. No, Jimmy Howard is not done.

The energy in the arena felt like a playoff game. And a huge amount of it was surrounding Dylan Larkin. Every goal was a celebration but people lost their minds over Larkin’s goal. For the first time in seemingly forever, the Red Wings have a kid – a home-grown kid at that – to be excited about. A kid that can jump onto the top line for his first career game and not look out of place. Not just not look out of place, but produce.

I mean, that game was pretty much The Abby and Larks Show with special guest Henrik Zetterberg. The way those two were playing, it was possible for Zetterberg to “quietly” put up three points of his own.

Yeah, it was an awful Maple Leafs team. Gotta take that into consideration. Yes, it’s only one game. But we saw something to be excited about and the opponent doesn’t take away from that.

Abdelkader, Larkin Lead Red Wings Past Maple Leafs on Opening Night

Justin Abdelkader scored a hat trick and rookie Dylan Larkin added his first career NHL goal as the Detroit Red Wings breezed to a 4-0 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Friday night.

The win was the first for new Detroit head coach Jeff Blashill, opening the season with a victory over former head coach Mike Babcock, who left for Toronto in the offseason.

Goalie Jimmy Howard earned the shutout for the Red Wings, stopping all 22 shots he faced.

Abdelkader opened the scoring just 1:15 into the game. On a Detroit power play, Henrik Zetterberg fed Johan Franzen for a shot from the right faceoff circle that careened off the far post. The puck bounced off the back of goalie Jonathan Bernier‘s leg and towards the goal, with Abdelkader jumping in to knock it across the goal line.

At 8:20 of the period, Larkin won a battle for the puck in the right-wing corner and send a pass to Abdekader in the slot for a quick shot past Bernier and a 2-0 lead.

The rookie’s goal came just 20 seconds into the second period. Larkin raced down the left wing past Toronto’s Nazem Kadri and snapped a shot from the bottom of the faceoff circle into the top of the near-side corner of the net, over Bernier’s shoulder.

Abdelkader completed the hat trick against James Reimer, who replaced Bernier after Larkin’s goal. At 3:54 of the middle frame, Abdelkader and Larkin raced into the Toronto end after a turnover in the neutral zone. Abdelkader held onto the puck down the right side and snapped a shot from the inside edge of the faceoff circle past Reimer for a 4-0 lead.

Reimer finished the night with 12 saves on 13 shots. Bernier stopped six of the nine shots he faced.

Detroit went 1-for-4 on the power play while Toronto was scoreless on three chances with the extra attacker.

The Red Wings are right back in action on Saturday night, visiting the Carolina Hurricanes.


Pavel Datsyuk, Darren Helm, and Danny DeKeyser all started the season on injured reserve for the Red Wings… Joakim Andersson, Tomas Jurco, and Alexey Marchenko were healthy scratches… Larkin is the first teenager to score in his debut for the Red Wings since Steve Yzerman.

TPL Pregame: October 9 – Loving You Makes Life Worth Living

Editor’s Note: I miss The Production Line. You should, too. Back for one night only (unless you guys convince them otherwise), it’s the TPL Pregame.


WHAT’S ALL THIS THEN?

The Detroit Red Wings begin their 90th season in the National Hockey League, and will face off against their former coach Mike Babcock and the Toronto Maple Leafs. Puck drops at 7:30pm at Joe Louis Arena.

WHAT’S THE BIG IDEA?

The big story will be the changing of the coaching guard. Out with the old (Babcock), and in with the new (Jeff Blashill). The excitement level among the community is higher than it’s been in several years — thanks in part to the new voice behind the bench…as well as the opportunity given to a teenager in Dylan Larkin. If you think a player like Larkin had a chance in hell at making this team with Mike Babcock running the show, you need a CAT scan.

NOW, WHERE WERE WE?

The Wings and Maple Leafs played five times in 2014-15, with the teams splitting the season series 2-2-1. The fifth and final meeting was on December 13th, wherein Detroit lost 4-1 and the Leafs won their fourth in a row. Niklas Kronwall had the first goal of the game — but the 1-0 lead lasted exactly one minute before James van Riemsdyk began the onslaught. The defense took the night off, with Petr Mrazek facing 40 shots (who lost his first contest of the season), and Dan Cleary played in the 600th contest of his career. He would go on to play nine more (and was a healthy scratch for 42 more…but was re-signed anyway).

OH, HI AGAIN

The obvious returnee to the Joe is former head coach Mike Babcock, but he also took former assistant coaches Jim Hiller and Andrew Brewer with him to Toronto, where he joined a front office led by former alternate captain Brendan Shanahan. Forward Shawn Matthias was a second round draft pick of the Red Wings in 2006, but he was traded a year later in exchange for — wait for it — 8 games of Todd Bertuzzi (obviously, Bert would sign with Detroit again a few seasons later). It never came to pass, but if Twitter was to be believed on Trade Deadline Day, Maple Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf was AS GOOD AS a Red Wing for a few hours.

MEMBA ME

There are no former Maple Leafs on the Red Wings, because good teams don’t take leftovers from shitty ones. But if you want to get technical, the Griffins assistant coach Ben Simon once played for (and coached) the Marlies. That’s as close as we’re willing to get. –PETRELLA

BEST NAME NOMINEE

I’m going with Stephane Robidas. I’ve always been a Johnny Cash/Boy Named Sue fan, and I can’t help but see some odd connection between a guy sporting a ladies name and who spent a good chunk of his career in Texas. I feel like there’s a “Call me Caitlyn” moment coming here where, during his retirement speech, he reveals that he’s been tucking and wearing silk t-back lady thongs for the past decade. When that happens, people will call me a genius, and I’ll just sit back in my brass buttoned leather wingback, knowing I’d spotted it long ago. –DISCH

THEIR LAST GAMES

While the Red Wings were bounced by the Lightning in the first round last season (losing Game 7 by a score of 2-0), at least they had a date to the dance. The Maple Leafs’ season ended somewhere around January, but — believe it or not — they played until April 11th. They opened their 2015-16 season on Wednesday and — wait for it! — lost to the Montreal Candiens 3-1. Turns out you CAN’T polish a turd, Babs!

EXPECTED LINEUP

Gator :: Hank :: DYLAN LARKIN (!!!)
Tatar :: Richards :: Nyquist
Franzen :: TinkyWinky :: Pulkkinen
Miller :: Glendening :: Ferraro

Kronwall :: Shitbox
Quincey :: Mike Green
Smith :: Kindl

Howard
Mrazek

Injured
Pavel Datsyuk (ankle, expected back mid-November)
Danny DeKeyser (foot, early November)
Darren Helm (concussion, next weekend)

Scratches
Joakim Andersson
Dan Cleary
Tomas Jurco
Alexey Marchenko

NICKNAMES

Mike “Remember When We Held on in the Rain?” Babcock
Niklas “The Nights We Almost Lost It” Kronwall
Jiri “Once Again We Can Take the Night Into Tomorrow” Hudler
Tomas “Living on Feelings” Tatar
Gustav “Touching You, I Feel It All Again” Nyquist
Johan “Didn’t We Almost Have it All” Franzen
Luke “When Love Was All We Had Worth Giving” Glendening
Marian “The Ride With You Was Worth the Fall, My Friend” Hossa
Pavel “Loving You Makes Life Worth Living” Datsyuk
Steve “The Nights We Held On ‘Til the Morning” Yzerman
Nicklas “You Know You’ll Never Love That Way Again” Lidstrom
Jimmy “The Way You Used to Touch Me Felt So Fine” Howard
Darren “We Kept Our Hearts Together Down the Line” Helm
Henrik “A Moment in the Soul Can Last Forever” Zetterberg
Jonathan “Comfort and Keep Us” Ericsson
Jeff “Help Me Bring the Feeling Back Again” Blashill
Sergei “Didn’t We Have the Best of Times” Fedorov
Petr “When Love Was Young and New” Mrazek
Tomas “Couldn’t We Reach Inside and Find” Jurco
Todd “That World of Me and You? We’ll Never Lose it Again” Bertuzzi
Dan “Cuz Once You Know What Love Is… YOU NEVER LET IT END” Cleary
— PETRELLA

THE FIVE HOLE

  1. GOALIES! Both goaltenders — Jimmy Howard and Petr Mrazek — played very well in the pre-season in what what Coach Blashill called an open competition for the role of starter. Jimmy Howard always had the inside track because he slid out of Mrs. Howard before Pete cartwheeled out of Mrs. Mrazek, but I’d be shocked if three weeks go by before the entire planet realizes that Petr Mrazek is the better goalie.
  2. NEW BODIES! The Red Wings finally got their right handed defenseman in Mike Green. He’s able to contribute some points, and is able to move the puck out of the zone efficiently, which is a prerequisite for the style of play in Detroit. Brad Richards, who either follows success, or whom success follows, adds another option up the middle, and will allow Zetterberg and Datsyuk to be paired together, if the time comes.
  3. TEENAGER! Waterford native Dylan Larkin forced the organization to buck their trends and has made the opening night roster, and it looks like he’ll get a chance to man the first line. That’s very exciting for all involved, included the fans, who get a young local to cheer for, and who has every bit of talent needed to inject some youthful exuberance onto an aging core. And Dan Cleary was waived on Wednesday. Jasper succinctly sums up our feelings on the matter.
  4. HEALTH! Hey, whattaya know, the Red Wing start the season with a bunch of regulars on injured reserve. Pavel Datsyuk will be out until mid-November, Danny DeKeyser is supposed to be out until early November, Darren Helm might be set to return next week, assuming his concussion and shoulder calm down. What, you didn’t think we’d be able to get rid of a drill sergeant coach, a once-useful knee-less veteran, AND Piet Van Zant all at once, did you?
  5. YOUTH! We say it all the time, but the young players really opened some eyes in the pre-season. You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone that wouldn’t agree that Tyler Bertuzzi, Andreas Athanasiou, and even Anthony Mantha did quite a bit to make some other guys expendable in the coming months and years. Obviously Zetterberg and Datsyuk aren’t going anywhere, but there will have to be some decisions made with some of the other guys, thanks to the guys below Larkin on the depth chart.

Pregame: Maple Leafs @ Red Wings – 10/9

After a long summer with some major moves, the Red Wings are back in action tonight, hosting the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 2015-16 home opener.

A familiar face will be behind the Toronto bench, as Mike Babcock jumped ship from Detroit to move on to the Maple Leafs during the offseason. Former Grand Rapids Griffins head coach Jeff Blashill now leads the Red Wings.

Blashill isn’t the only new addition to the Wings. Free agent signings Brad Richards and Mike Green will be making their Detroit debuts, as will rookie Dylan Larkin, who impressed enough during the preseason to not just make the opening night lineup but earn a spot on the top line with Henrik Zetterberg and Justin Abdelkader.

Detroit will be without Pavel Datsyuk, Darren Helm, and Danny DeKeyser due to injury. Helm could be back next week while neither Datsyuk nor DeKeyser is expected to return until November.

With Datsyuk out, Richards will center the second line with Tomas Tatar and Gustav Nyquist. Kyle Quincey will replace DeKeyser as Green’s defense partner.

Joakim Andersson, Tomas Jurco, and Alexey Marchenko will be healthy scratches for the Red Wings. Xavier Ouellet and Daniel Cleary had been with the team but were assigned to the Grand Rapids Griffins yesterday.

Jimmy Howard will get the start in goal for Detroit, with Petr Mrazek scheduled to start tomorrow against the Carolina Hurricanes.

Stupid stat of the day: In the last two decades, the Red Wings have lost only once on October 9. The opponent in that loss? The Toronto Maple Leafs.

Game time is 7:30 PM on FSD and Fox 2 Detroit.