Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Wings Bully Buffalo, Claim Win in Home Opener

In what could only be called a lop-sided affair, the Detroit Red Wings did exactly what coach Mike Babcock asks for always: Start on time.  Mikael Samuelsson and Pavel Datsyuk scored :36 apart in the 1st period and never looked back as the Red Wings defeated the Buffalo Sabres 2-1 in their first match of the season.

Detroit dominated the puck for the majority of the game, which says as much about the Sabres as it does the Red Wings, considering the Wings were booked for seven penalties before the end of 40 minutes, including two 5 on 3 chances for Buffalo.  Detroit kept their composure through it all, the PK units working splendidly and were perfect while a man (or men!) down.

Samuelsson opened Detroit's scoring with a wicked redirect off of a Cory Emmerton shot, beating Buffalo goalie Ryan Miller up high.  Not long after, the magic man weaved his skills yet again as Pavel Datsyuk gobbled up a loose puck and wound a ridiculous backhander past Miller to extend the lead to 2-0 just before the 13 minute mark of the game.

The Red Wings locked things down fairly well for the remainder of the match, until a miscue by Detroit goaltender Jimmy Howard ended up in front of his gaping net. Playing the puck behind the cage, his attempt to rim the puck around the boards was blocked and flew out front.  Despite his best efforts, Jimmah wasn't able to get to the shot from Zemgus Girgensons, and the lead was cut in half with about 7 minutes left to play.

The Wings managed to hold the line despite some obvious scrambling after the Buffalo goal, and even as Ryan Miller left his net in the late stages of the 3rd, Detroit persevered and held off the Sabres for their 1st Eastern Conference win.

I'll quickly go over what stuck out to me as I wrap things up for the night:

The Alfie-Weiss line is going to be scary - I'm not talking some of the time, I'm talking ALL the time.  No production on opening night, fine...but WOW did they ever pressure Buffalo all night long! Alfredsson came to Detroit hungry, and does it ever show as he let total howitzers go every chance he got.  Weiss was hard on the puck as well, getting a number of quality chances.  If they can mange to motivate Johan Franzen, their vegetable of a line-mate, they will be a fearsome line to try and defend against.

This defensive corp is legit - When the Wings needed to lock things down, they did so.  A much younger group of defensemen than most of the Hockeytown faithful are used to have shown that they learned much from last year's shortened season.  What makes them seriously deadly, however, is how well they seem to be reading the play and pressing the attack.  Datsyuk's goal should show an assist from Jonny Ericsson, as him bull-dozing into the offensive zone set up the whole play.  Multiple times all night the Detroit defenders made similar plays driving deep into the zone when it was prudent to do so and help stimulate more offense.

Just because you're good doesn't mean you can be sloppy - A few of the calls I had reservations about, but Detroit could have very easily ended this game with far fewer penalties.  This was an issue at times last year, and it CANNOT persist this season. It's great that Alfie and Weiss helped out on the PK, but that is NOT why we brought them here.  We need to stay out of the box and keep generating pressure and generating goals.

We're only one game in, but things certainly look promising.  We'll see if the Wings can keep things rolling on Friday when Detroit heads to Carolina for a date with the Hurricanes.