Wednesday night the Detroit Red Wings made their long awaited Eastern Conference debut by beating the Sabres 2-1 from the Joe Louis Arena.
Off hand it was a nice opener for the Wings despite a score that really didn’t tell the whole story of a game Detroit for the most part dominated. And even though it’s still VERY early in the season lets take a look at some things we may have learned about the Wings after game one.
Penalties may be an early season issue
Detroit ended up taking a very uncharacteristic 7 penalties on the night (Zetterberg with two alone) and could’ve found themselves 5-2 losers instead of 2-1 winners if they were playing a better team. I don’t anticipate this really being a huge issue going forward since some of the penalties came via a Zetterberg high stick when he was protecting himself against a check, Ericsson closing his hand on the puck, Emmerton shooting the puck into the seats for a delay of game and Cleary with a questionable goaltender interference call that negated a goal. It’s the hooking and tripping penalties that usually worry me since that could very signify a team getting out played.
The Penalty Kill looks pretty damn good
I know Buffalo’s power play looked lethargic and lost for most of the night. But when you’re 7 for 7 on penalty kills, I don’t care who the other team is those numbers are pretty impressive.
The Power Play appears to be improved
I know they were 0 for 3 on the power play but Daniel Alfredsson’s presence appears to be making a different despite the small sample size. The Wings were moving the puck down low very well and with Alfredsson running the point with that massive shot I have no doubts, even after last night that this power play unit could be top five in the league. Last night’s goose egg was a result of Ryan Miller playing some pretty solid goal for the Sabres.
Jimmy Howard picks up where he left off
Jimmy Howard looks every bit as good as he was last season and continues to prove that he’s an absolute bargain at what Holland signed him for. Even though he didn’t get peppered with a bunch of shots he came up big with a couple of nice saves during both of Buffalo’s 5 on 3 power play chances. Unfortunately Buffalo’s lone goal came as a result of a Howard giveaway behind the net but he more than made up for that with his overall play during the night.
This young defense might actually be really good
The Wings’ young defense looks like they’ll definitely be able to hang in the East and in fact it may be one of the better defensive corps in the entire conference. They weren’t giving up the puck, they weren’t getting caught with their pants down on odd man rushes and they may be giving themselves an identity by the way they pound the front three of the opposition and get involved in the offense.
Detroit survives round one against a ‘big bad more physical Eastern Conference team’
Was Buffalo more physical? Yes they led the night in hits 21-13. Still though the way the Wings dominated in the neutral and attack zones (and actually winning the game) that old cliche that the Wings won’t be successful in the East because they’re not ‘tough enough’ will soon be put to bed.