Despite an excruciatingly long wait – 310 days to be exact – the Detroit Red Wings were finally back in action on Thursday, hosting the Carolina Hurricanes in their season opener. Things looked much different than the last time the team was on the ice, ironically against the Hurricanes, but not just because of fan restrictions in place due to the ongoing pandemic.
No, things looked much different in the Red Wings’ opening night game because the team looked much different. Thursday’s game featured six players who had never suited up in the winged wheel before: Forwards Mathias Brome and Vladislav Namestnikov; defensemen Troy Stecher, Jon Merrill, and Marc Staal; and goalie Thomas Greiss all made their Detroit debut.
All told, the game didn’t feature much of anything new for Red Wings fans, as the team appeared outmatched throughout much of its 3-0 loss. That said, some of the team’s new-look players did show flashes of promise, none more than Greiss.
Thomas Greiss Kept the Red Wings in the Game
Greiss was called upon early and often in the game, and came up huge just to keep the Red Wings in it. Detroit was outshot 25-10 through two periods, 43-14 in the game, but Greiss’ effort kept it within striking distance throughout the contest. Carolina struck just 3:38 into the game on an opportunity that the new netminder had little chance to save, but he then shut the Hurricanes down until late in the third period, giving Detroit ample time to try and climb back into the game.
Greiss positioned himself well and played the puck confidently throughout, despite the Red Wings’ inability at times to clear the puck. He made save after save as Carolina’s offensive onslaught continued, and only allowed a second goal with just over two minutes left in the contest. That shot was redirected during the second of back-to-back penalty kills, and it was virtually unstoppable.
Greiss’ confidence in net will undoubtedly help the team steal a few wins throughout the course of the season, though it will need a much stronger offensive effort moving forward.
Mathias Brome Showed Energy, Even as the Offense Sputtered
There wasn’t much to celebrate on the offensive side of the puck, as the Hurricanes’ defense essentially shut down any semblance of a Red Wings threat throughout the game. It wasn’t all bad, though, as the relatively unknown Brome did have a few bright moments.
Brome surprised by providing a spark and disrupting play with his speed and strength, and his effort was nearly rewarded in the first period after he hit the crossbar. He ultimately finished the game with one shot on goal and one missed shot in 12:16 of ice time.
Namestnikov generated a few chances, but did not have much of an impact overall. Perhaps most surprising was when he positioned himself in front of the net during parts of the power play, though he did not provide much of a screen in doing so. Still, he did take care of the puck, and did not record any giveaways in 14:07 of ice time.
The Defense Was Largely Ineffective
The Red Wings’ blue line was expected to fare better this season given the offseason additions of Merrill, Stecher, and Staal, and though the game remained close until the last few minutes, most of that credit goes to Greiss, as opposed to the team’s defense.
Merrill took a high sticking penalty early in the second period – though the Red Wings did kill it off – and also did seem to fit in well on the power play. He played a total of 1:42 with the man advantage, and did a nice job of cycling when Detroit was able to hold the zone.
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Both Stecher and Staal didn’t factor much into the game at all. Stecher blocked one shot and had a single turnover, while Staal recorded three giveaways. They didn’t have much help, considering the top two defenders in terms of ice time, Filip Hronek and Patrik Nemeth, finished a combined minus-three with two giveaways, two missed shots and one penalty.
Too Early To Panic
In all fairness, the Red Wings were facing a playoff-caliber team after nearly a year off, and the lack of production truly started with the team’s nucleus. Detroit’s top line of Dylan Larkin, Tyler Bertuzzi, and Anthony Mantha was shut down all game, and 14 shots on goal are not going to give the team much of a chance to win in any game this season.
The Red Wings are still very much a work in progress, and it will be interesting to see the line combinations coach Jeff Blashill comes up with in the future. Despite the new faces to start the season, though, this game felt awfully familiar to Red Wings fans who tuned in.
A die-hard hockey fan in the desert, and proud Iowa State alum. Detroit Red Wings and Arizona Coyotes contributor for The Hockey Writers.