The Detroit Red Wings have started this season in a fashion that has taken many by surprise, myself included. There’s still an awful long way to go, of course, but their 4-1 start to the season has helped lift the mood among the Hockeytown faithful. For a fleeting moment over the weekend, they even found themselves at the top of the Eastern Conference – not something I thought we’d see anytime soon.
It goes without saying that last season was a disappointing one for the Red Wings, having missed the playoffs for the first time in a quarter of a century, and having gone through a relatively quiet summer another difficult season seemed to be on the cards. That, of course, will still likely happen, but whilst things are going well I think we can all enjoy it, can’t we?
Here’s a look at what has happened so far:
Game 1: Minnesota Wild (Home)
The Wings got the new season underway with a game, and a win, at the brand new Little Caesar’s Arena. Anthony Mantha wrote his name into the record books becoming the first man to score a goal at the new arena, though it must be said that the Wild did have two goals chalked off for goalie interference before this.
Detroit struck twice in the second period with two quick Powerplay goals through Mantha and Dylan Larkin, before the Wild had two quick goals of their own through Joel Eriksson Ek and Chris Stewart early in the third. Captain Henrik Zetterberg restored the Red Wings’ lead at the 7:07 mark, then came the first NHL goal for Martin Frk. Frk, a player who we covered earlier in the year, added another chapter to his story by firing home one of his trademark slapshots to complete the scoring.
Jimmy Howard, who had a strong game for the Wings, finished with 29 saves. Mike Green had an assist on all four Red Wings goals, and Martin Frk had a goal and an assist.
Game 2: Ottawa Senators (Away)
The Red Wings’ first trip took them to Canada’s capital to face a Senators team who came within a goal of reaching the Stanley Cup Final last spring. After a close fought game, the Wings again leaning heavily on goalie Jimmy Howard, the road team took the victory in a shootout.
Martin Frk scored his second of the season, and with less than two and a half minutes left on the clock, it seemed that his snapshot could well be the game-winner. It wasn’t to be, however, as Dion Phaneuf tied the game less than a minute later.
In the shootout, Frans Nielsen was the only man to find the net through three rounds. Nielsen now has 45 shootout goals on 91 attempts and is tied with Florida’s Radim Vrbata for most shootout goals. It was also Nielsen’s 20th game-deciding shootout goal, most all-time.
Game 3: Dallas Stars (Away)
The game in Dallas saw a first start of the season for Petr Mrazek, and for the Red Wings, a first defeat as the Stars took the game 4-2.
The Red Wings twice battled back to within a goal, as Dallas led the game 2-0 and 3-1 but an empty net goal from Martin Hanzal put the icing on the cake for the home side.
Justin Abdelkader scored his first of the season, and Anthony Mantha bagged his second of the year for the Red Wings who were outshot 25-33. John Klingberg, Tyler Seguin, and Mattias Janmark scored for the Stars.
Mike Green added his fifth and sixth assists of the season.
Game 4: Arizona Coyotes (Away)
The Red Wings continued their road trip with a visit to Arizona, a place that often looks like a home game given the numbers of Wings fans in attendance. This game was no different and those in attendance saw the Wings come away with a 4-2 victory.
Clayton Keller had two goals for Arizona who were twice ahead in the game and suffered their fourth consecutive loss.
A blast from Martin Frk and a tally from Henrik Zetterberg saw the game tied going into the final five minutes, and with Arizona, on the Powerplay, the Coyotes looked in a strong position. However, Dylan Larkin broke into the offensive zone shorthanded before feeding Luke Glendening who made no mistake in giving the Red Wings their first lead of the game. Frans Nielsen wrapped things up with an empty net goal from his own zone.
Mike Green added two further assists to give him eight on the season. Jimmy Howard made 33 saves and had an assist on the game-winning goal.
Game 5: Las Vegas Golden Knights (Away)
Like the Red Wings, the Golden Knights took many by surprise with their start to the season. They came into this one boasting a 100% start, becoming the first new franchise to have won their first three games in a row. During that run, Tomas Nosek, who was claimed from Detroit in the Expansion Draft, became the first Golden Knight to score on home ice. That run was ended by the Red Wings as they scored four goals in the third period to take the game 6-3.
Gustav Nyquist finally got his season underway, tallying two goals. Henrik Zetterberg, Anthony Mantha, Frans Nielsen and Luke Glendening also scored for Detroit. Jonathan Marchessault, James Neal, and Erik Haula scored for Vegas. Neal’s goal, which gave Vegas a 2-1 lead, was his sixth of the season. He became the first player in the expansion era to score in his team’s first four games.
Red Wings captain, Henrik Zetterberg, had three assists and Anthony Mantha added two. Goalie Peter Mrazek made 24 saves for his first win of the season.
The Wings have had offense from all over. Mike Green has eight assists, Luke Glendening has chipped in with two goals and even Jimmy Howard has a point to his name! The powerplay has also looked better so far this year, and the addition of Martin Frk at the point (though yes, he is a forward) has given them an added dimension. He has a bullet of a shot and he isn’t afraid to use it. The Penalty Kill has also looked pretty solid, currently, it’s at 91.3%
Jimmy Howard looks back to his best. He has three wins under his belt already and in each game, he’s made some huge saves. Trevor Daley has also slotted in nicely on the blue line. His experience should hopefully give the Wings a more solid look over time.
The blue line and goalie positions are still a worry for me.
Howard has looked great, but his health is a concern. He only played in 26 games last season due to injuries and Petr Mrazek just doesn’t look the same goalie he did when he first came into the league. His GAA was 3.04 last season with a .901 SV%. The season before, he came in at 2.33 GAA and .921 SV%.
The blue line is still a weak area for the Wings. The addition of Daley is certainly a welcome one, but even in games so far this season there have been times that the Wings have made poor decisions in their own zone. Case in point would be the tying goal in Ottawa where Jonathan Ericsson threw the pick up the boards creating a turnover from which the goal came. There were also several turnovers in the game against the Wild with players trying to overplay in their own zone. At some point, if these errors continue, they will be brutally punished.
The Red Wings now face some arguably tougher tests. They host Tampa Bay on Monday before a trip to Toronto on Wednesday. They’ll then play two home games against Washington (Friday) and Vancouver (Sunday).