Saturday, January 26, 2013

Geek Week: A Look Back at Opening Week 2013

It's nice to go into a weekend and be able to smile with regards to one's favorite hockey team.

Welcome to Geek Week, a week-in-review article where the Detroit Red Wings go under the microscope and we take a closer look at some key points that arose over the last 7 days.  Last week was opening week for the lockout-shortened 2012-2013 NHL season, and the Red Wings were likely well aware heading into the start of this campaign how significant each game would be.

So, how did the Red Wings do in their first week back? Take a look:

01/19 @ STL: 0 - 6 (L)
01/21 @ CBJ: 4 - 3 (SOW)
01/22 V DAL: 1 - 2 (L)
01/25 V MIN: 5 - 3 (W)

A number of variables came into play with regards to last week's results.  Yes, there was lockout rust.  Yes, there were mounting injuries from all directions.  Yes, Nick Lidstrom is still retired.  The Red Wings looked out-worked in three of these four games, only really coming to life by the time Minnesota came to town.  Take away the final game of the week, and Detroit was outscored 11-5.  An even worse area to examine was the powerplay.  Until the game against the Wild, the Wings went an unimaginable 0 for 15 with the man advantage.  They also squandered a 5 on 3 in the Minnesota match, but ended the night 2 for 4, which earns them a bit of mercy.  The only consistent player on the ice for Detroit seemd to be Jimmy Howard, who has played better over these four games than his numbers would suggest.  In all four games, Howard has given his team chances to win, they just had not been responding in kind until Friday night.

Weekly Leaders
Goals: Datsyuk, Bertuzzi, Brunner (2)
Assists: Datsyuk, Kronwall (4)
Points: Datsyuk (6)

Successful Experiment of the Week
Out of everything that's happened this last week, the one aspect that has been the biggest surprise is the play of one Brian Lashoff.  Apologies to Damien Brunner, who has been sensational in his own right, but with the main concern for the Red Wings being their depleted blueline, the way Lashoff has stepped up to the task of playing in the NHL has been admirable.  There have been stretches where one can make the argument that Brian Lashoff has been the best Detroit defenseman on the ice.  As someone on Twitter mentioned, management needs to talk to this kid and tell him to look into Metro Detroit housing, because if he keeps playing like this he isn't going anywhere.

Failed Experiment of the Week
Most of last week was dismal for Wings fans, but the bane of many was number 27 in red, Kyle Quincey.  How far can one fall?  Quincey started his career in Detroit and was a promising looking young defender, but after he was sent away, then brought back at arm-and-leg prices, the return was far from prodigal.  Kyle struggled at the end of last year and many felt (and hoped) that he just hadn't been given enough time to gel with his teammates and get back into the system properly.  Sadly, that does not seem to be the case, as Quincey seems worse this season than he was in the last.  In four games he is -2, despite Detroit having scored 5 goals in last night's game.  Apparently that was just good enough to erase everything except the two terrible breaks he gave up to St. Louis rookie Vladimir Tarasenko in the season opener.  Some fans think fellow blueliner Brendan Smith is also struggling at the start of this season, but at least Smith has kept himself out of the penalty box all but once this year thus far.

Key Ingredient
If the Minnesota game showed Hockeytown fans anything, it showed that health may be the dealbreaker for the Red Wings.  Todd Bertuzzi's return to the lineup was greeted with an onslaught of Detroit goals the likes of which was not even fathomable over the previous three contests.  The defense is still very banged up, and it will take a lot of effort for the Wings to keep themselves competitive as more and more bodies get back to 100%.

With the first week of the season behind us, there is still a little bitterness in the back of the throat, but the week ended on a high note, and promises bigger and better things to come.  Next week looks like this:

01/27 @ CHI
01/29 V DAL
02/01 V STL
02/02 @ CBJ

Not a favorable week by any stretch, but one that Detroit can walk away from on top.  With momentum now on their side, Detroit must keep the energy going and pile on more wins now if they want to keep themselves in the playoff picture.