Now that is the Stephen Weiss I have been waiting for for the past year-and-a-half.
After a successful conditioning stint in Grand Rapids in which he scored a goal in each game for the Griffins, Weiss returned to the Detroit Red Wings and showed a glimpse of the kind of production fans can hope to see from him in the coming months.
He scored the third and fourth goals of the game — the second one ended up being the game-winning goal — and he notched his 400th career point in a 4-3 win against the Ottawa Senators on Monday.
In just two games with the Red Wings — he played in a 1-0 overtime win against Toronto on Oct. 18 — Weiss already has matched his goal total from the 26 games he played last year and is halfway toward tying his point total from last year.
Goal No. 1 was a great example of what crashing the net can do. After Craig Anderson made the initial save on a shot from the point, Weiss collected the rebound and shot it over the right shoulder of Anderson to score for the first time since Oct. 14, 2013.
Goal No. 2 was a good example of being in the right place at the right time. Darren Helm threw a harmless backhanded shot on goal from the blue line, and Weiss was there to bang in the rebound for his second of the night.
Now, before we start declaring Weiss as the next 30-goal scorer for the Red Wings, let’s keep a couple of things in mind.
Keep Expectations Low
Sure, it was great to see Weiss score twice in his return to the Red Wings after his second conditioning stint with the Griffins, but he won’t be scoring two goals every single game. In fact, Weiss was pretty nonexistent in the game against the Senators until the second period.
His only two shots on goal were the goals he scored. Of course, he hasn’t played much competitive hockey since December of last year, so it’s not completely fair to criticize him for only having two shots on goal. All I’m saying is he’ll need time to get back up to game speed. Fortunately for him, he was able to produce on offense while he continues to improve that game speed.
His ice time was very limited as well. He only played 10:42, which was the second lowest only ahead of Tomas Jurco (8:41). I expect more of these 10-minute games until he starts getting his legs underneath him and proves he can play long periods of time with no setbacks.
Remember, he started off last year by scoring the game-winning overtime goal against Carolina in the second game of the season, then had just three points the rest of the way. I’m excited to see what Weiss can do, but I want to see if he can stay healthy first.
Keep Weiss on the Wing
Weiss has played the center position his entire career, but the Red Wings have too many centers as it is with Joakim Andersson moving to the wing on the fourth line. One game will not determine how Weiss performs at the position, but I’d like to see him stay there for the time being.
If Weiss remains on the wing, he won’t have to worry about the middle of the ice as much, where sloppy play can result in goals against. Ease him back into the game with less responsibility and see how it works out. If in a month or two the team needs him to go back to center, then he can do that.
Weiss told MLive.com’s Brendan Savage playing the wing was different but said his teammates’ skill helped him ease into his new role.
“Yeah, it’s still a little strange, there’s no doubt about it. I’ve got some work to do on the boards and stuff like that. But when you play with these types of players it doesn’t make it that hard. Helmer has a lot of speed and makes up for my mistakes, and I thought Jurcs played really well and it was fun.
“I never lost confidence. It was just a matter of when you haven’t play in so long, coach has a tough time putting you in situations where you’ve always played and rightfully so. Even in practice, you’re not playing power play and getting those reps I have throughout my career.”
What Should We Expect?
As far as what I expect from Weiss after missing the first two months of the season. I still think he can score 20 goals. I was hoping for a 20-25 goal season from him had he started the season healthy, so with the amount of games he has missed, 20 seems like a fair number.
He hasn’t reached that mark since the 2011-12 season with Florida, which was also the last time he played more games in a season than he sat out. After a frustrating first season, Weiss has to prove he’s worth that five-year $24.5 million contract he signed in the summer of 2013.
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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.