The Detroit Red Wings opened the 2014-15 season against the team that eliminated them from the playoffs last year, the Boston Bruins.
Only this time, the Red Wings had a somewhat healthier team and a new addition in Andrej Nestrasil.
After a lackluster first period, the Red Wings were able to come back and beat the Bruins 2-1 to start the season off with a win.
Here are four observations from the Red Wings’ 2-1 win.
Penalty Kill Continues to Impress
The penalty kill looked really good in the preseason, and it continued to impress in the first game of the regular season.
The Red Wings went 4 for 4 on the PK, including killing off a 4 on 3 early in the second period to keep the deficit at 1-0. The penalty kill was relentless for Detroit. It didn’t allow Boston to set up by taking away passing lanes and keeping the play to outside.
At times, the Bruins even had problems with their zone entries, something that has plagued the Red Wings in recent years. Tony Granato has done a remarkable job improving the penalty kill. Justin Abdelkader and Brendan Smith both looked impressive, as well as the usual suspects of Niklas Kronwall and Drew Miller.
The Red Wings used that momentum from killing off the 4 on 3 to score its first goal of the game. Danny DeKesyer received a pass from Henrik Zetterberg at the point, and DeKeyser’s shot redirected off Johan Franzen and Abdelkader to tie the game at 1-1.
Power Play a Work in Progress
The Red Wings’ power play was anything to get excited about early on in the game. It looked out of sync, passes were not crisp and they couldn’t establish any momentum. However, it got better as the game went on. The players settled down and started working the puck around the outside.
The Red Wings are using an umbrella-type power-play system to begin this season. Basically, there is one defenseman at the point who is quarterbacking the power play. The rest of the players stand in a line across the width of the ice in order to give the defenseman passing lanes or chances for screens/deflections.
If you have a great puck-moving defenseman, this can be a deadly power play. However, the risk incurred with this setup is there is only one defenseman back should the opposing team get a clean release out of the zone.
Against the Bruins, the Red Wings did not have any major mistakes and were able to make sure there were no shorthanded odd-man rushes on Jimmy Howard.
The Red Wings scored the game-winning goal on the power play, but it wasn’t your typical setup power-play goal, but more on that in the next section.
Henrik Zetterberg Key in Every Goal
A quick look at the box score, and you might think Zetterberg had a very average game. He had three shots on goal, two penalty minutes and was an even in plus/minus.
However, Zetterberg had a helping hand in both goals. We already discussed the first goal, but in the game-winning goal, Zetterberg stole the puck near the blue line in his offensive zone, moved it over to Franzen, who pushed it up to Darren Helm, who made a nice heads-up play to Gustav Nyquist on the opposite side of the net and buried it to make it 2-1 Red Wings late in the second period.
Unlike in the first period, the passing on this play was crisp. Great passes are key for a great power play.
Zetterberg didn’t get an assist on either goal because he was the fourth player on the play, but without Zetterberg’s takeaway, the goal doesn’t happen.
Jimmy Howard Clutch Down the Stretch
There has been a lot of talk about Howard’s performance last year. He didn’t have his best season, and the Red Wings found themselves in holes more often than not.
However, Howard looked like 2011-12 Howard during last night’s game. Boston scored on its first shot of the game, which came 12 minutes into the first period. Patrice Bergeron picked off a Jonathan Ericsson pass in the offensive zone, and Bergeron rifled a shot over Howard’s left shoulder to put the Bruins up 1-0.
It’s a shot Howard probably should have saved, but he didn’t panic after letting in the first shot he saw and stopped every shot he faced after that. The Bruins only had 17 shots on goal, and Howard came up big on a couple of key scoring opportunities, especially late in the game when the Bruins pulled their goalie and had a 6 on 4 power play.
The Red Wings will only go as far as Howard takes them. Game 1 was a good sign of things to come. Howard looked confident, he challenged shooters and made the key saves when he needed to.
- Detroit beat Boston 31-25 in the faceoff circle. Riley Sheahan was 9 of 13, while Luke Glendening still has some work to do. He was just 4 of 11, including 2 of 7 in his defensive zone.
- Smith was second in time on ice with 21:31 only behind Kronwall (21:53).
- Nyquist led the team in game-winning goals with six last year. He has one this year.
- Nestrasil had just the one shot on goal, but it’s good to see a rookie not shy away from shooting the puck.
Tom Mitsos is a writer from Michigan who covers the Red Wings and the Red Wings’ AHL affiliate, the Grand Rapids Griffins, for The Hockey Writers.