Sharper Against the Sabres

Dominik Hasek‘s former teammates were unable to defeat his new teammates, “Lucky Luc’s” luck seems to be returning, and Nicklas Lidstrom became the Red Wings’ top scoring defenseman of all time, as the Wings gained a 4-2 victory over the Buffalo Sabres.

Compared to recent games, this game had an amazing amount of flow to it. There were no stoppages in play until a full 3:26 into the first period, when icing was called against Buffalo. Slava Kozlov, given to the Sabres this summer in exchange for Hasek, nearly got the puck past the Red Wings’ goaltender, but Hasek was able to block the shot.

Seven minutes, thirty-six seconds into the game, Detroit’s Maxim Kuznetsov was penalized for interference, but the situation went to a 4-on-4 just over a minute later, when Buffalo’s Jason Woolley was handed a penalty for holding the stick. Detroit wound up with 29 seconds of a 5-on-3 power play, because Rhett Warrener got called for tripping, but the power play unit was unable to score.

Kris Draper opened the scoring with 7:17 left in the period. He came off the bench, flew down the ice with all his typical speed, received a bouncing pass from Igor Larionov, and flipped it past goaltender Roman Turek.

The remainder of the period was relatively quiet. Calgary’s Rob Niedermayer received an interference penalty with 5:49 remaining, and Maxim Kuznetsov was called for high sticking with 3:05 remaining, but neither power play unit was able to score.

Detroit’s power play had another chance with 6:33 remaining in the first, when Warrener was penalized for holding rookie Pavel Datsyuk, but the power play was cut short when Brendan Shanahan was given a tripping penalty. Buffalo was not able to score on their resulting power play, but captain Stu Barnes did score exactly two seconds later, after a very patient play and pass from Miroslav Satan.

Many of the shots Detroit fired were blocked by Buffalo’s defense before they even got to goalie Martin Biron, who played backup to Hasek last year. Not that Biron was incapable of stopping shots- far from it! Kris Draper made a beautiful pass to Sergei Fedorov, who left the puck for Shanahan. Shanahan fired the puck hard, but Biron kept it out of the net.

Two minutes, fifty-seven seconds into the second period, Luc Robitaille passed the puck to Nicklas Lidstrom, received the puck back again, and let it fly past Biron, scoring his first goal as a Red Wing. Tomas Holmstrom also received an assist on that goal. Buffalo answered back just over a minute later, with Satan picking up a rebound to slide the puck past Hasek.

Holmstrom was penalized for cross-checking with 11:22 left in the period, but Detroit’s penalty-killing unit was more than adequate for the job: they kept the puck in Buffalo’s zone for over half of the penalty.

With 4:52 to go in the period, Fedorov carried the puck behind the net, eluding a hit by a Buffalo defenseman. He passed the puck to Shanahan, and this time, Biron was not able to stop the shot.

Frederick Olausson scored his first goal as a Red Wing and gave Detroit the lead with only 2:26 left before intermission, in a 4-on-4 situation resulting from penalties to Darren McCarty and Alexei Zhitnik. Detroit had 1:05 of a power play remaining after the 4-on-4 ended, but was unable to score, despite good chances by Brett Hull.

The third period was quiet until near its end. Buffalo attempted to bring Biron back to the bench to have the sixth skater out, but miscalculated and received a penalty for having too many men on the ice. They pulled Biron anyway, with 30 seconds left to go, but Lidstrom got the puck to Shanahan, and Shanahan was able to send it into the empty net with only 5 seconds before the end of the game. This gave Lidstrom a total of 571 career points, sending him past Reed Larson’s record as the Red Wings’ all-time top scoring defenseman.

The Red Wings looked more organized on both offense and defense than they had in their previous games. There can always be improvements, but things look like they’re starting to come together. Former Red Wing Doug Brown, joining UPN 50 regulars Ken Daniels and Mickey Redmond in the broadcast booth, put it more succinctly: “That whole line’s gonna score 13,000 goals.”

Game On!

The Detroit Red Wings and their new star-studded lineup get their first chance to shine tonight in San Jose.

The Red Wings play their first “real” game tonight when they start their regular season against the San Jose Sharks. Vezina Trophy winning goaltender Dominik Hasek will start against Calder Trophy winning netminder Evgeni Nabokov.

Luc Robitaille, Brett Hull and Fredrik Olausson are all expected to play for Detroit. The only injured regular from last season for the Red Wings will be Darren McCarty, who’s out with a sore shoulder but expected to return in time for the Wings home opener next week.

With the addition of rookies Jason Williams and Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit will still be able to roll four lines without a problem, but it’s anyone’s guess as to who will be on which lines.

The first regular season matchup for the new look Red Wings is tonight from San Jose and ten o’clock Eastern Time.

What the Hull?

Hockeytown has yet another new face to get used to as the Red Wings announced the signing of free agent sniper/cherry-picker Brett Hull on Monday.

The addition of Hull is the summer’s fourth example of the Red Wings refusual to take a look at the team’s average age. Hull, 37, joins goaltender Dominik Hasek, left wing Luc Robitaille and defenseman Fredrik Olausson as the newest members of the Red Wings’ way-over-30 club.

To most people in Detroit, last year’s early exit from the playoffs showed that the team lacked the toughness to advance far into the postseason. The Red Wings have responded by allowing their most physical forward to leave via free agency, trading for a new goalie, and signing two ultra-lightweight forwards.

Tell me how that fixes the problem.

Brett Hull is possibly the least defensive, least tough player in the league. There is no doubt that he has incredible offensive skills, but those aren’t what the Red Wings need right now.

The Wings need grit. They had it in 1997 and they won the Cup. Now they have finesse. It remains to be seen if they can win the Cup with that alone.

2001-2002 NHL Schedule Released

The National Hockey League released it’s schedule for the 2001-2002 season on Wednesday.

The Red Wings will start the season in San Jose on October 4. Detroit’s home opener will be on October 10 against Calgary.

Early in the season, the Red Wings will host the Buffalo Sabres (October 12) and Los Angeles Kings (October 20). The Wings aquired Vezina-winning goaltender Dominik Hasek from the Sabres for Slava Kozlov and a draft pick, and signed former-King Luc Robitaille as a free agent.

The Red Wings will play their first game against Aaron Ward and his new team in Carolina on October 30.

Detroit’s only matchup with the Boston Bruins, with whom former Red Wing Martin Lapointe signed as a free agent, is March 16 in Boston.

The first meeting between the Wings and arch-rival Colorado will take place on December 5 in Detroit.

The season ends with what could be a crucial home-and-home series against division rival St. Louis on April 13 and 14.

Wings Sign Luc, Lose Lapointe

Detroit lost one forward and signed another Tuesday, almost overshadowing Dominik Hasek‘s first appearance as a Red Wing.

Ten year Red Wing Martin Lapointe signed a reported five-year, $20 million deal with the Boston Bruins. Lapointe, a Group V (unrestricted) free agent, was one of the most sought after free agents of the summer, and was highly unlikely to return to the Detroit team with which he won two Stanley Cups.

Luc Robitaille, a fifteen season NHL veteran, signed a two year, $9 million deal with Detroit, the team he helped eliminate from the playoffs last spring.

Robitaille joins Hasek and defenseman Fredrik Olausson as the only offseason aquistions of the Red Wings.