The Detroit Red Wings have dropped the puck on a new NHL season with a win at Joe Louis Arena on Wednesday night beating the Buffalo Sabres 2-1. Goals by Mikael Samuelsson and Pavel Datsyuk, separated by just 36 seconds halfway through the first period, held up long enough for the Red Wings to send their Hockeytown fans home happy.
Thomas Vanek, Buffalo’s leading goal scorer from last season, had no success getting the puck past Jimmy Howard. (Photo Credit: AP Photo / Paul Sancya)
Jimmy Howard had a solid night in net, saving 19 of 20 shots, but he gave up a bad goal by turning the puck over behind his own net. It was a terrible mental mistake as Howard looked right at the wide-open Brendan Smith and then decided to reverse the puck away from Smith right into a waiting Sabre pinned against the glass. The puck ricocheted off Brian Flynn and right into the front of the goal where Zemgus Girgensons finished it off getting a goal in his NHL debut. It was Howard’s only mistake, so it’s a safe bet the team addressed this issue today, on their off day, and will head into Carolina to take on the Hurricanes tomorrow with this miscue well in the past; like they should.
Looking forward there is one burning question fans will be asking after this game:
Where is this youthful regeneration of Red Wings we have heard so much about?
It’s a fair question, especially after seeing the talent Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, and even Joakim Andersson possessed during their Calder Cup run and at times with the Red Wings last season. While Andersson played last night, Tatar was an active scratch, and Nyquist is a Grand Rapids Griffin preparing for their first game of the season in Rochester tomorrow.
The youthful third line is on hiatus for the time being. (Photo Credit: Detroithockey.net)
Nyquist – Andersson – Tatar. That was my prediction heading into this season for the Red Wings’ third line. But Mike Babcock had other plans, so this combination will have to wait a bit longer than expected.
In traditional Hockeytown fashion, it’s the veterans that dominated the line-up for the home opener. As much as I want to see the youthful third line, like most Red Wings’ fans, this decision to hold them back makes logical sense.
Hear me out:
Mikael Samuelsson scored the first goal of the season for the Wings on a great redirect in front of Ryan Miller. (Photo Credit: Gregory Shamus / Getty Images)
Younger players may bring more excitement, but older players bring consistency. Experience shouldn’t be undervalued. For example, against the Sabres the veterans pulled together to grind out the rest of the game after Howard’s turnover that ruined his shutout. Samuelsson, Bertuzzi, Cleary, Franzen, Miller, and Alfredsson know their roles in system and make the Red Wings a stronger team in the process.
Gustav Nyquist has two NHL games before his waiver exemption is gone. If they had decided to keep him on the NHL roster to start the season somebody else loses their spot on the roster. By resending him to Grand Rapids they get to keep that extra player instead of possible losing them through waivers. The timing just wasn’t right, for now. At one point during this season there is bound to be a major injury, Nyquist will be the first man on Ken Holland’s list to get the call up. This leads me into my last point.
The veteran players have fresh legs at the start of the season. Let them play when they are at 100%, because a month from now that won’t be the case. 82 games is a long season, especially where hard hits are inevitable and injuries are frequent. Mike Babcock will be shuffling the roster all season because odds are the current roster won’t make it the entire season without getting fatigued or injured. That’s what makes the Red Wings so great this year; they built the roster with this in mind. Detroit has unbelievable depth so don’t worry if we don’t see it right away. It will come with time, just like getting used to playing in the Eastern Conference.
We will observe Nyquist, Tatar, and the youth movement in progress soon; maybe next week, next month, next calendar year, after the Winter Olympics, or maybe not until next season. But it will come. So, for now enjoy the slower paced games and experienced lines. The Red Wings got a victory on opening night, so the veterans must be doing something right.