The Detroit Red Wings started their road trip from hell Saturday against the Vancouver Canucks. All things considered, the Red Wings played a fairly good road game, but Canucks goalie Ryan Miller stood on his head, as he made 29 saves and secured the 4-1 win for Vancouver.
The Red Wings will learn a lot about their team in the next two months, as they play 17 of their next 23 games on the road. After one game, Detroit has to be pretty happy with what it saw.
The scoreboard may show 4-1, but it was a lot closer than that. Two of Vancouver’s goals were empty-net goals, and minus one egregious mistake on the penalty kill, the Red Wings had opportunities to win this game.
Ryan Miller Gets Upper Hand on Drew
Brothers Ryan Miller and Drew Miller faced off for the ninth time. Drew had yet to score a goal on older brother Ryan, but has registered one assist on a Darren Helm goal and 13 shots in his career.
Drew had a 7-1 record against Ryan coming into Saturday’s game, but it was Ryan who got the upper hand last night.
Drew had a glorious point-blank opportunity early in the first period after he received a pass in the slot, but Ryan was able to get his shoulder on the puck and deflect it over the net.
Other than the mini breakaway Drew had against Ryan in the teams’ meeting earlier this season (shown below), this was Drew’s best opportunity to score on Ryan.
Special Teams Not So Special
The Red Wings have been sporting a top-10 penalty kill and power play for the majority of the season. However, both special teams units looked anything like top-10 units.
The Red Wings failed to record a shot on their first power play of the game in the first period. Instead, the Canucks did an excellent job of controlling the puck in their offensive zone despite being down a man.
Both of the Canucks’ goals came on the power play, the first time the Red Wings had allowed at least two power play goals in a game since Nov. 28, 2014, in a win against New Jersey.
The first power-play goal was a simple shot from the point that got through a lot of traffic, but the second power-play goal was an egregious mistake by the Red Wings penalty killers.
Daniel Sedin threw the puck to a wide-open Radim Vrbata, who had his first shot saved by Jimmy Howard, but he collected his own rebound and shot it over a sprawled out Howard to put Vancouver up 2-0 in the third period.
Having all four guys on one side of the ice is a mistake the Red Wings penalty killers don’t normally make, but credit Vancouver for noticing the mistake and taking advantage of it.
Wings had no left wing coverage, Howard stops the first shot and Miller helps but Vrbata got the rebound over Howard. 2-0.
— George Malik (@georgemalik) January 4, 2015
Ouellet Continues to Impress
After placing Jakub Kindl on short-term IR, the Red Wings once again called up Xavier Ouellet. Ouellet has played in just 15 games between this season and last season, but he plays the game like a seven-year veteran.
Both Darren Eliot and Chris Osgood praised Ouellet during the broadcast last night. They noted how he had the patience and decision-making skills of a defenseman who has been around the NHL for many years. Every player is different as far as their development, and it’s generally tougher for defenseman to develop than it is for forwards.
However, Ouellet has shown he will be a mainstay on the Red Wings blue line for years to come. At 6-foot-1, 190 pounds, he isn’t especially big, but he takes care of the puck and doesn’t put himself into dangerous situations. I imagine he will have a bigger role with the Red Wings next year, if not in the 2016-17 season.
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Tom Mitsos is a Detroit Red Wings and Grand Rapids Griffins staff writer for The Hockey Writers. You can follow him on Twitter @tom_mitsos.