The Malik Report
by George Malik on 10/03/13 at 04:17 AM ET
At times it was beautiful, and at times it was downright ugly, but the Red Wings opened their 2013-2014 campaign and kicked off a slate of three games played over the course of four nights by defeating the Buffalo Sabres 2-1 on Wednesday evening.
By Red Wings standards, the team's spate of penalties (seven), Jimmy Howard's late hand-it-to-em goal and inability to score on their own power plays (three), the game left much to be desired, but two points and holding your opponent to 20 shots ain't bad.
For the Sabres, it was a case of, "Could'a, would'a, should'a," as they told the Buffalo News's John Vogl:
“We hung around long enough and got one, so we were still in it at the end,” coach Ron Rolston said. “But, obviously, our power play didn’t help us.”
The Sabres had their first chance to make Detroit pay in the opening minutes, when a goal could change the tenor of the game. The second opportunity would have put them within a goal midway through the contest. Instead, the Sabres are 0-1.
“We didn’t move the puck well,” forward Thomas Vanek said. “We didn’t make any plays. We were just trying to blast them through people. No crisp passing. It’s something we’ll have to work on.”
The season opener obviously didn’t go as the Sabres hoped. They have a chance to make amends in the home opener when the Ottawa Senators visit First Niagara Center on Friday. The Sabres need to bring the drive they showed in the final period when they refused to let the Red Wings coast home.
Zemgus Girgensons scored in his NHL debut with 7:24 left to cut Detroit’s lead to 2-1. Brian Flynn got in the way of goaltender Jimmy Howard’s clearing attempt, and the puck hopped to the front. Girgensons scored his first goal on a backhand to give the Sabres some short-lived hope.
“It wasn’t a game that got away from us,” said Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller, who made 32 saves. “It was a game we were in. If we play that kind of hockey all year against good hockey teams, we’re going to be on the winning side of some of those.”
They’ll need to shoot more. Buffalo totaled 20 shots, including only seven on its seven power plays.
“We don’t shoot,” an agitated Rolston said. “If you don’t shoot, you don’t score a goal.”
The highly-heralded Girgensons was happy with his goal, but not happy with the circumstances surrounding it, as he told Vogl...
“It definitely would be a better moment if we won,” Girgensons said in Joe Louis Arena. “Still, it was my first NHL goal. I’ll take the best out of it that I can.”
Girgensons took advantage of a glorious chance to connect in his first big-league game. Linemate Brian Flynn got in the way of a clearing pass by goaltender Jimmy Howard, and the puck bounced to the front. Girgensons sent a backhand home with 7:24 to play, and Christian Ehrhoff fished the souvenir out of the net.
“Everything has happened so quick for me,” said Girgensons, who was selected 14th overall in 2012. “It’s a special moment.”
Uncommon poise helped Girgensons make the roster. His ascent to the NHL was hastened by staying calm despite pressures that could make their peers wither. No one, though, could be expected to remain composed on the day of his debut. He had a rough first shift before slowly getting the feel of the game.
“Before the game, warm-ups, I didn’t feel nervous at all,” Girgensons said. “Then I just stepped out and just understood where I am. My hands were shaking for a little bit. I think the whole first period was a little bit nervous.”
And WGR 550's Paul Hamilton noted that, instead, the game hinged upon a 36-second span:
Buffalo’s kids looked very nervous. In his first NHL shift, Zemgus Girgensons gave the puck away twice followed by two Brian Flynn giveaways. It was a real tough period from Flynn who gave it away almost every time he touched the puck. He did lead one four man rush as Mark Pysyk joined the play, but all he did is push the puck to the Red Wings defenseman.
Buffalo could’ve turned the tide early with a 1:31 two man advantage. Jimmy Howard stopped a Thomas Vanek tip and a Christian Ehrhoff slap shot and that was it.
Detroit seized the momentum and in just 36 seconds it was 2-0. On the first goal Henrik Tallinder was week on the rush by Cory Emmerton and Tyler Myers looked late to pick up Mikael Samuelsson. To be fair, the winger did knock the puck out of the air.
On the second goal, Rasmus Ristolainen attempted to get the puck up to Drew Stafford. It was picked off by Pavel Datsyuk. One of his wingers used Mike Weber as a pick and both players slide across with Miller. They wound up in the goaltenders lap and the All Star just put a backhand under the bar.
So the Sabres told the AP's Larry Lage that they did what they could, to some extent...
Buffalo had a two-man power play for 1:31 early in the first period and for 51 seconds late in the second, but couldn't take advantage. In between those 5-on-3 opportunities, the Sabres were scoreless on three power plays.
"It could've been a difference-maker for our team, and it wasn't," Buffalo forward Steve Ott said.
Ryan Miller gave up goals on the fifth and sixth shots he faced and finished with 32 saves. He didn't seem to have much of a chance on either goal. Samuelsson swiped the puck out of the air and into the net off a centering pass from Cory Emmerton 12:05 into the game.
"It was pretty," Miller said. "You'd think it was prettier if it didn't happen to you."
Datsyuk got a giveaway in the Sabres end, skated between the circles and backhanded a shot that Miller appeared to not see until it was too late at 12:41 of the first.
"We made a second mistake up the wall and we turned it over to a real good player," said coach Ron Rolston, following his first game behind Buffalo's bench.
The Sabres played three teenagers: Girgensons, Mikhail Grigorenko and Rasmus Ristolainen. Buffalo selected Ristolainen, an 18-year-old defenseman from Finland, with the No. 8 pick in this year's draft. Grigorenko, who had five points in 25 games last season, and Girgensons were chosen in the first round last year.
"This is a good experience for them, playing a team like that with the speed that they have," Rolston said.
And we'll use NHL.com's recap to shift our focus from the Sabres' perspectives to those of the Red Wings' players and coach:
"I thought we got off to a great start there," Howard said. "We took a lot of penalties, so we're going to have to clean that up, especially early on in the year here, where it seems like it's more tightly called."
Zemgus Girgensons scored and Ryan Miller made 32 saves for the Sabres, who went 0-for-7 on the power play in their season debut, including two 5-on-3 man advantages.
"We were right there all night," Miller said. "We got in a position to tie. I think we were improving as the game went on."
Detroit raced to a 2-0 lead with two goals in a span of 36 seconds midway through the first period. Samuelsson opened the scoring at 12:05 when he redirected Cory Emmerton's shot past Miller for the Red Wings' first goal of the season.
"Tonight, I thought our line did a real good job and obviously Sammy made an unbelievable tip there," Emmerton said. "As a fourth line, your job is to be hard on teams, have the puck more than them and make it hard for them and when you score goals that just helps the team. I think we did a real good job tonight."
For DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose, Cory Emmerton's play served as the thrust of the Wings' game narrative. He duly noted that Emmerton was waived on Monday but found himself in the team's opening-night roster, and he capitalized on his chances in literal as well as figurative terms, right after the Wings killed off a five-on-three:
With the Zetterberg and Ericsson penalties killed, Emmerton set-up the first goal of the season with a masterful play in the offensive zone. The 25-year-old whipped a backhand shot from the right circle, which was re-directed by Mikael Samuelsson passed the right shoulder of Buffalo goalie Ryan Miller.
“Tonight, I thought our line did a real good job and obviously Sammy made an unbelievable tip there,” Emmerton said. “As a fourth line your job is to be hard on teams, have the puck more than them and make it hard for them and when you score goals that just helps the team. I think we did a real good job tonight.”
Thirty-six seconds after Samuelsson goal, the Wings took a 2-0 lead when Pavel Datsyuk converted a Sabres’ giveaway into a backhand shot from the low slot at 12:41 of the first period.
Emmerton took the Wings’ first penalty shot in nearly three years after he was dragged down from behind by Buffalo forward Thomas Vanek. The Wings’ center cruised in alone on Miller before Vanek was whistled for tripping at 7:41 of the middle period. Emmerton tried to beat Miller between the pads, but the former Vezina Trophy winner made the easy save that kept it a two-goal game at the time.
“We know that he can play on pretty much any line here,” said Ericsson, of Emmerton. “It’s just unfortunate for him that we have so many good forwards right now. He kind of has the short straw, but luckily for us no one picked him up (on waivers) and he’s got the chance to prove himself again. I know the organization is really happy with him and how he’s been playing, so it was great to see him have a great game. I’m a big fan of Cory’s and I just want to see him succeed.”
Emmerton spoke somewhat philosophically regarding his status while speaking with the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness...
“Every day is a new opportunity,” Emmerton said. “It’s kind of how you choose to go about your business. I think it’s tough to say that it’s not difficult sometimes after that happens. You have to be mentally strong and if you’re not you’re not going to last. It’s a tryout every day for me. That’s what I’m going to do, wake up and try and do the same things.”
Mikael Samuelsson and Pavel Datsyuk got Detroit’s goals, while Jimmy Howard made 19 saves for Detroit. Zemgus Girgensons had the lone tally for Buffalo and Ryan Miller stopped 32 shots. Emmerton also helped kill of all seven of the Sabres’ man advantages.
“Last year was huge for me, our penalty kill was kind of suspect there at the beginning of the season, struggled, made a few changes and I found myself with an opportunity to play on it,” Emmerton said. “When you get an opportunity you have to make the most of it and I ended up playing the rest of the year on it and being a big part of it. I just wanted to carry that over to this year and do what I can to help on the penalty kill.
Buffalo, which finished 12th in the Eastern Conference last season, had a pair of 5-on-3 power plays, one in each of the first two periods, last all of two minutes and 22 seconds and could only muster two shots on goal. The Wings got off to a quick start with a pair of goals in the opening period just 36 second apart. Samuelsson got Detroit’s first goal of the season redirecting in a pass from Emmerton.
“Everybody’s got to find a way to contribute on the hockey club,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “It was a big goal for our team.”
And Fox Sports Detroit's Art Regner took note of Emmerton's contributions as well:
“From the moment I got put on waivers to the moment the puck dropped, I just had one mindset, which was to just play hockey,” Emmerton said. “You just can’t dwell on anything else.”
Drafted by Detroit in second round (41st overall) in 2006, Emmerton is a smart two-way player who lacks natural goal-scoring ability, yet through a strong work ethic, he’s managed to find a spot on the Wings roster -- at least for the moment.
“Hockey is crazy," Emmerton said. "You never know what’s going to happen. In one second, you don’t know where you’re going to be. You could be with 29 other teams, you could be in the minors, or end up on the same team. As far as the game goes, it’s going to be like that every game. As long as you have more good shifts than bad shifts, you’re doing well.”
If there's one moment from Wednesday that Emmerton would like to have back, it’s his second-period penalty shot, which was stopped by Ryan Miller.
“He’s such a good goalie," Emmerton said. "He’s so big and square to the puck. I was a little tried, too. It was right after a penalty kill, and my goal was, don’t do something dumb. It’s something that I’ll work on. It was my first penalty shot in the NHL. It can only get better from there.”
The coach was happy enough with his team's performance, as Michigan Hockey's Michael Caples noted...
“Yeah I thought our penalty kill was good,” coach Mike Babcock said after the game. “Actually I thought our power play was real dangerous, too. We didn’t score on it but I thought it was really dangerous. In fairness to them, they hung around, their back-end moved the puck good and at the end it’s a one shot game. I would have liked to see us be a little more intense, stay out of the box more, and put some more pressure on them in the O-zone, but good win for us.”
And Caples noted that the Wings dealt with unfamiliarity on collective and individual levels...
Mikael Samuelsson and Pavel Datsyuk scored for the Red Wings, who will now head to Raleigh, N.C., for a Friday night contest with the Carolina Hurricanes. It was the first game against one of their new Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference foes for the Red Wings; Howard admitted that it will take some time before they are truly accustomed to playing against foreign competition.
“It’s a tough call, I mean, being in the West for so long, we just, we knew what was going to happen,” the Wings’ goaltender said. “…these situations are new, there are new players out there that we aren’t familiar with, but you know, you’re going to get familiar with them relatively fast. The video, it does help, especially when we do that before the game.”
It was a new experience for Daniel Alfredsson, as well. He and Stephen Weiss made their Red Wing debuts, and the former Ottawa Senators captain said he did feel some butterflies before the contest.
“Well I was a little bit nervous before, but once the puck drops, it’s not that big of a difference,” Alfredsson said. “I thought we started the game well tonight, and finished it well, as well. We ran into some penalty troubles in the middle part, but overall, it’s a big win.”
As did Fox Sports Detroit's Dana Wakiji:
"I wanted to have a good game, definitely wanted a big win tonight," Alfredsson said. "I think that made me nervous. It's been over a month now, and I've gotten to know most of the guys. I feel comfortable in the locker room.''
Now that they've won the first game, the Wings would love to have everyone get and stay healthy throughout the season, but that's always a difficult task. In previous years, injuries took a toll and the Wings had to fight to make the playoffs. But the more wins you get earlier in the season, the less pressure you'll have later on, when everyone is fighting to reach the postseason.
"You want to get off to a good start," defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. "If you lose points early in the season, it's hard to gain coming down to the wire because everybody's beating everybody. It's hard to really catch up, so you want to get off to a good start and have some points in your bank."
She also noted that the Wings' new division rivalry happens to be a little difficult on a certain East Lansing family:
It was a tough night for the Michigan-based Miller family because their loyalties were divided. One son, Ryan Miller, was in goal for the Sabres, and the other son, Drew Miller, is a forward for the Red Wings.
One family member wore a jacket with both No. 30 and No. 20 on it, one on each side. Ryan wears 30 and Drew wears 20.
The Wings told the Toledo Blade's Rachel Lenzi that they were grateful for Jimmy Howard's performance--and while he faced only 20 shots, two thirds of those shots were quality scoring chances:
“We have a great goaltender, and there was times we had a few breakdowns and he was there,” said Cory Emmerton, who had an assist as the Red Wings took a 2-0 lead in the first. “That’s why he’s one of the best goalies in the league. He’s a stable presence back there.”
Emmerton referred to Jimmy Howard, who finished with 19 saves, even after his miscue during the third period allowed the Sabres to cut the Red Wings’ lead to 2-1 with less than eight minutes left in regulation.
And yes, Jimmy Howard knew that he goofed:
Three minutes after Thomas Vanek’s slap shot with 9 minutes, 30 seconds left in the third hit goalpost to Howard’s glove side, Zemgus Girgensons capitalized on a miscue by Howard to cut Detroit’s lead to 2-1 at 12:36.
“It was one of those things where it’s tough to hear, and I didn’t really hear anything,” Howard said. “I’m the one who makes the call, and I decided to go hard around. It was unfortunate it hit him and landed right on the guy’s stick in the slot. That’s my bad. It was a bad bounce, all the way around for us.”
The Red Wings maintained their defensive presence after the goal and allowed the Sabres just one shot in the final five minutes, and they held Buffalo scoreless on seven power plays.
“That was huge tonight,” Red Wings right wing Daniel Alfredsson said. “They say the goalie’s the best penalty killer, and he was outstanding.”
The Wings didn't feel that their effort was anywhere in the vicinity of perfection, however, as the Free Press's Helene St. James noted in her recap...
“We’ve got to step on the gas there and finish off the game,” Kronwall said. “We definitely didn’t help ourselves a few times, but overall we didn’t give them too many chances. Two points are all that really matters at the end of the day.”
The biggest problem for the Wings was their penchant for the penalty box. By the time they grabbed that two-goal lead, they already could feel encouraged as their penalty killers came through after Henrik Zetterberg and Jonathan Ericsson were sent off 29 seconds apart. Ericsson is a regular penalty killer and Zetterberg a go-to guy when down two skaters, but Kronwall, Andersson and Kyle Quincey represented well, helping keep the pressure off Howard.
Special teams have been under extra focus since training camp, as the Wings seek to improve on last year’s squads. An early look at the power play wasn’t quite as impressive, as both groups failed to test Ryan Miller with a shot.
The penalty kill delivered again early in the second period when Zetterberg went off for another infraction, with Howard coming down strong on a puck as two Sabres tried to poke it in from the crease. The Wings thought they had a power play goal near the end of the stretch, but Todd Bertuzzi’s would-be first of the season was waved off because of goaltender interference by Daniel Cleary, though Miller was outside his crease.
“I actually thought our power play was real dangerous,” coach Mike Babcock said. “We didn’t score on it, but it was dangerous.”
As well as her "Why the Red Wings Won" capsule recap:
Mike Babcock, on how the Wings played: “I would have liked to see us be a little more intense, stay out of the box more, put a little more pressure on the O-zone, but good win for us. Lots of forwards contributed, and Howie was good.”
Howard, on the Sabres: “They really got their opportunities on the power play, when we gave them chances to get going.”
“I thought we played OK today and had fun out there,'' Alfredsson said. “I think we would like more with the puck but I thought we were solid in the neutral zone and in our own end and didn't give much up at all. We got a 2-0 lead pretty early and I thought five- on-five we did a pretty good job limiting their chances.''
Joakim Andersson, Cory Emmerton, Drew Miller, Weiss, Alfredsson, Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg led the way up front on the penalty kill. The top defensive pairing of Niklas Kronwall and Jonathan Ericsson led the way on the back end. Kyle Quincey, Brendan Smith and Danny DeKeyser also were strong on the PK.
“What won us the game was our penalty killers,'' Howard said. “They did a great job and we gave them a lot of opportunities – two five on threes. So we’re going to have to clean up that end of the game.''
The Wings sounded similar notes while speaking with the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan...
“There’s still a lot of areas we have to work on,” said goalie Jimmy Howard, who made 19 saves in the win. “(But) it’s nice to get the first game under your belt and first win, as well.”
Mikael Samuelsson and Pavel Datsyuk scored 36 seconds apart in the first period for the Red Wings, but it was the penalty kill that was 7-for-7 that may have been the team’s first star. The Red Wings had to kill two lengthy, two-man Sabres advantages of 1 minute 31 seconds early in the first period and 51 seconds near the end of the second period.
“They (the kills) were huge tonight,” said forward Daniel Alfredsson, who made his Red Wings debut. “Usually the goalie is the best penalty killer and Howie was outstanding, but also our guys were sacrificing themselves and throwing their bodies in front of shots. I’m sure Buffalo walks away from here thinking this was a wasted opportunity with the amount of power-play chances (the Sabres had).”
“The start at home, you always want to get that first goal and get the crowd going a little bit,” Samuelsson said. “We got two quick goals and then slowed down a little bit.”
And there was this...
The Red Wings appeared to take a 3-0 lead on a power-play goal by Todd Bertuzzi in the second period but it was waved off when Daniel Cleary was penalized for interfering with Miller.
Cleary kind of stumbled over Miller, but he did go in of his own accord. Ryan Miller probably spoke the truth to Reuters:
"If I'd have been able to hold my ground, it doesn't go in. I liked the call," Miller said.
I hate to take two "Spirit of the Thing" columns and hammer them down into recap-related ones, but I've gotta do what I've gotta do, and as such, I'll suggest that you read more of the Detroit News's John Niyo's column, which focuses on the Wings' need to keep improving, as "supplemental reading" given that it's superbly-written...
“You’re putting points up on the board now,” said Weiss, the 12-year NHL veteran who admitted to feeling “anxious” and “nervous” prior to his first regular-season game wearing the winged wheel. “This is the real deal now. You’re starting to count everything.”
The Wings probably weren’t counting on Samuelsson scoring right off the bat, but they’ll certainly take it after getting nothing from him in an injury-plagued return to Detroit a year ago.
Babcock admitted it was his mistake that left the Wings’ fourth line on the ice against the Sabres’ top line midway through the first period. But no matter: Hockey has a funny way of rewarding mistakes. And so it was with Wednesday’s first goal, set up by Cory Emmerton, a player this team waived and then recalled earlier in the week — “I’d be lying if I told you there wasn’t a little extra fire there,” he said — and scored by the 36-year-old Samuelsson, a player the Wings wanted to amnesty this summer and most fans understandably want to see replaced with Tomas Tatar or Gustav Nyquist.
“If you ask me, I don’t have any doubts I can still play a pretty good game,” Samuelsson shrugged. “But it’s easy to stand in here and talk. Hopefully I’ll show it on the ice.”
This transition to the East won’t necessarily be easy — except for the travel, of course — but this team, in it’s old tried-and-true way, certainly seems ready for a new challenge.
“I think that’s how you start every year: You never know how good you are,” said Babcock, beginning his ninth season behind the Wings’ bench — matching Scotty Bowman’s tenure in Detroit. “The speculation is we’re a better team than last year. And yet last year’s team turned out to be a pretty good team. So those things just don’t happen by accident. You’ve got to get your structure back, you’ve got to get your work ethic back, and good things gotta happen.”
The good things started to happen, but it wasn't always pretty, and, as Howard told the Free Press's Jeff Seidel--in another, "This is good, go read the rest" column--the spate of penalties was, well, predictable:
In they went. Into the penalty box. Two times in this game, Buffalo had a 5-on-3 opportunity. But the defense held both times, and Jimmy Howard smothered the Buffalo power play.
He, too, is part of the reason there is so much optimism around this team. Last year, there were times when Howard put this team on his back. He proved he can win the big game. And, best of all, he hasn’t hit his prime yet.
“We took a lot of penalties,” Howard said. “We are going to have to clean that up, especially early in the year.”
Even more important, they are going to have to get used to playing in the East. “These situations are new,” Howard said. “There are players out there that we aren’t used to. But you are going to get familiar with them relatively fast.”
Given that the Wings will head to Carolina this afternoon and play the big, bad Bruins both this Saturday and on Columbus Day, after hosting the Flyers, I'd certainly suggest as much.
Highlights: NHL.com's highlight clip is narrated by NBCSN's announcers:
Ken Holland spoke with Hockey Night in Canada Radio prior ot the game...
The Buffalo News's John Vogl posted post-game audio clips of coach Ron Rolston and Zemgus Girgensons' comments...
WXYZ posted both Brad Galli's pre-game feature on Daniel Alfredsson and Stephen Weiss...
And a 1:26 mishmash of post-game comments from Daniel Alfredsson, Jimmy Howard, Cory Emmerton and Mike Babcock...
MLive's Ansar Khan's video included a bit of Cory Emmerton's comments...
The Windsor Star's Bob Duff posted YouTube interviews with Niklas Kronwall...
And Jonathan Ericsson...
And the Red Wings' website posted clips of Alfredsson...
And coach Babcock's post-game presser:
Via We All Bleed Red on YouTube this happened:
Photos: The Detroit News's David Guralnick posted a 41-image photo gallery;
MLive's Mike Mullholland posted a 20-image gallery;
The Detroit Free Press posted a 24-image gallery;
WXYZ posted a 10-image gallery;
The Buffalo News posted a 6-image gallery;
The Windsor Star posted 4 big images from the game;
ESPN posted a 67-image gallery;
You might dig CBS Detroit's wallpaper-sized photo from the game;
Shots 34-20 Detroit overall. Detroit out-shot Buffalo 8-6 in the 1st, 10-9 in the 2nd and 16-5 in the 3rd.
The Sabres went 0-for-7 in 11:38 of PP time, including 2:22 of 5-on-3 time; the Wings went 0-for-3 in 5:58 of PP time.
Ryan Miller stopped 32 of 34 shots; Jimmy Howard stopped 19 of 20.
The 3 stars were picked by Eddie Olczyk, and he picked Zegmus Girgensons, Kyle Quincey and Pavel Datsyuk.
The Red Wings' goals: Samuelsson (1) from Emmerton (1) and Kronwall (1);
Faceoffs 35-23 Detroit (Detroit won 60%);
Blocked shots 9-8 Buffalo;
Missed shots 11-4 Detroit (attempts 54-32 Detroit, and Detroit fired 34 shots on Miller and another 20 wide or blocked);
Hits 21-13 Buffalo;
Giveaways an ugly 11-9 Detroit;
Takeaways 7-5 Detroit.
Individual stats, TMR style:
Faceoffs: Datsyuk went 13-and-8 (62%); Andersson went 9-and-4 (69%), as did Weiss; Emmerton went 2-and-5 (29%); Miller and Franzen won their only faceoffs; Zetterberg and Cleary lost their only faceoffs.
Shots: Zetterberg and Franzen co-led the Wings with 4 shots; Alfredsson, Datsyuk, DeKeyser and Cleary had 3; Abdelkader, Andersson, Miller, Bertuzzi and Kronwall had 2; Emmerton, Quincey, Samuelsson and Weiss had 1 shot.
Blocked attempts: Alfredsson, DeKeyser and Cleary fired 2 shots into Sabres players; Samuelsson, Zetterberg and Weiss had 1 attempt blocked.
Missed shots: Zetterberg missed the net 4 times and had 9 total attempts; Alfredsson and Cleary missed the net 1 time and had 6 attempts; Abdelkader, Datsyuk, Quincey, Bertuzzi and Ericsson missed the net 1 time.
Hits: Abdelkader led the Wings with 5 hits; Smith and Ericsson had 2; Samuelsson, Zetterberg, Cleary and Weiss had 1.
Giveaways: Zetterberg had 3 giveaways; Alfredsson and Howard, whose second giveaway yielded a goal against, had 2; Datsyuk, Andersson, Ericsson and Kronwall had 1.
Takeaways: Datsyuk had 4 takeaways; Andersson, Samuelsson and Cleary had 1 takeaway.
Blocked opponent shots: Andersson and Quincey blocked 2 shots; Kindl, Miller, Kronwall and Franzen blocked 1.
Penalty minutes: Zetterberg took 2 minor penalties; Emmerton, Quincey, Samuelsson, Ericsson and Cleary took minor penalties.
Plus-minus: The Wings finished at a collective +5. Smith, Andersson, Quincey, Bertuzzi and Cleary finished at -1; Abdelkader, Datsyuk, Miller, Emmerton, Samuelsson, and Zetterberg finished at +1; Ericsson and Kronwall finished at +2.
Points: Datsyuk and Samuelsson had goals; Emmerton and Kronwall had assists.
Ice time: Kronwall led the team with 25:41; Ericsson played 21:04; Zetterberg played 20:52;
Datsyuk played 20:08; Smith played 17:15; Andersson played 17:04;
Quincey played 16:59; DeKeyser played 16:58; Kindl played 16:39;
Alfredsson played 16:13; Franzen played 14:47; Cleary played 14:43;
Weiss played 13:54; Bertuzzi played 12:09; Abdelkader played 12:06;
Miller played 11:25; Emmerton played 9:36; Samuelsson played 8:27.
Red Wings notebooks: The Detroit News's Ted Kulfan offered a few quips from Mikael Samuelsson and some notes from the game in his notebook:
Mikael Samuelsson isn’t thinking about last season’s disaster. He was limited to four games because of a litany of injuries and only had one point, an assist. In Wednesday’s season opener, Samuelsson scored the Red Wings’ first goal in the 2-1 win over Buffalo.
“That was last year,” said Samuelsson of the disappointing shortened season. “I’ve said it before, but there were fluky injuries. I have the mind-set it’s a new year now. I have to work hard and get back to square one and work for my spot.”
Samuelsson believes he can be a contributor.
“If you ask me, I don’t have any doubts,” Samuelsson said. “I can still play a pretty good game. But it’s easy to stand here and say that. Hopefully I can show it on the ice.”
The Red Wings planned to honor former player Shawn Burr with a moment of silence before the game. Burr passed away Aug. 5 at the age of 47. He had been battling blood cancer.
The Detroit Red Wings Foundation held a 50-50 raffle to benefit Burr’s foundation.
The Free Press's Helene St. James offered "opening night" observations...
Opening ceremony: The Red Wings raced through player introductions with precision speed.
No video of the opening ceremonies...
Thanks for the memories: Rather than a moment of silence, fans were asked to celebrate the memory of Glen Skov and Shawn Burr, former Wings who died this year.
And St. James' notebook focused on Alfredsson and Weiss:
The men were signed in July and have been skating with their new teammates for a month, but as Weiss put it, “now it counts.”
Alfredsson had a wide-open chance in the first period after Weiss had gone across and gotten Ryan Miller out of the way, but “I had a tough time picking up the puck, and once I did, I couldn’t get anything on it. It was unfortunate, but, I thought we played OK today and had fun out there.”
Weiss was brought in to center the second line, which for now features Alfredsson and Franzen on the wings. Alfredsson has a big right-handed shot and Franzen is a big man capable of doing damage down low. As they get more used to one another, the trio could be a great follow-up to Pavel Datsyuk’s line with Henrik Zetterberg and Justin Abdelkader.
“I think the sky’s the limit for us,” Weiss said. “To be able to play behind Pav and Z and Abby is going to be huge for us. We’ve got to make sure we take advantage of that and be dangerous offensively and support them as much as possible.”
Coach Mike Babcock tabbed Franzen as the key to the line’s success because “he’s a dominant player. ... We’ve got to get him to go every day. If he goes every day, it makes it way easier for Alfie and Weiss to do what they do.”
Babcock touched on having the trio as a second tsunami, too. “If you have 1A and 1B, versus 1 and 2, it makes it way easier for you to run your bench.”
USA Today's Kevin Allen focused on the team's maturation and its maturation on the blueline in his recap, but this fits in best here...
"I think once they played together 10 or 15 games, they started to click," Howard said. "Then you see the confidence. Big E really took over the penalty killing role. He is what turned the penalty killing around last season."
Big E is Jonathan Ericsson, a 6-4 defenseman who seemed even bigger Wednesday as he helped the Red Wings snuff out seven Buffalo power play chances, including two 5-on-3 advantages that totaled 2 minutes, 22 seconds.
"This was a great effort," Howard said. "Honestly, what won us the game was the penalty killers."
It is now forgotten that Detroit's penalty killing was leaky at the start of last season. There was a constant drip of goals in Detroit's net when an opponent had a power play.
"Last year, it was new for everyone," Ericsson said. "Now guys are just more comfortable with their roles."
And the Windsor Star's Bob Duff spoke with Mike Babcock and Ken Holland about Kronwall, Ericsson, Danny DeKeyser, Jakub Kindl, Kyle Quincey and Brendan Smith...
“Those kids on the back are critical for us to have success,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “Last year, we had success because we kept it out of our net, not because we scored. We can’t fall off in that area.”
It was Ericsson driving to the net and creating havoc that opened the space for Pavel Datsyuk to slide across the slot and slip a backhander around traffic for Detroit’s second goal.
“They’re all mobile,” Detroit general manager Ken Holland said of his defence. “They all compete well. They all have the ability to make a tape-to-tape pass.”
As well as the team's hopes that Alfredsson and Weiss will help the team score goals together at even strength, and with Alfredsson on the point on the power play:
“He shoots the puck and he’s got enough seniority in the league that they can’t say anything to him when he shoots the puck about not getting it back,” Babcock said of Alfredsson. “They’ve just got to work hard enough to get it back if they want to have it, so I like that. That’s a real positive thing for us.”
The solid defensive play wasn’t a surprise for Detroit, which shut it down among the best in the game last season.
“We’d be thrilled to repeat what we did defensively (fifth in GAA),” Holland said. “We’re hoping between the additions of Weiss and Alfie, we’ll score more than we did last season.”
The Oakland Press's Pat Caputo offered assessments of the Wings' new and veteran players alike in a "spirit of the thing" column...
Weiss has a more of goal scoring touch than the player he has essentially replaced, Valtteri Filppula, and, even in his 40s, you’d have to take Alfredsson, who has an excellent shot, over the player he is essentially replacing, Damien Brunner.
I didn’t notice much of Johan Franzen Wednesday. Some would say he is streaky. Others would say he floats. I won’t stand in such harsh judgment of him on the effort front, but it’s undeniable you can’t depend on him to be a big-time goal scorer consistently. It just hasn’t happened, other than in spurts.
In their true salad days, the Red Wings had a lot of firepower in Brendan Shanahan, Steve Yzerman and Sergei Fedorov, and often a cast of future Hall of Famers brought in just to score goals (most notably Brett Hull and Luc Robitaille).
The Red Wings’ will always miss Lidstrom, but their high-end raw talent now is on the defensive end of the ice. Brendan Smith and Danny DeKeyser are potential All Star caliber players. Jonathan Ericsson has become shockingly solid considering the struggles he faced early in his career. Niklas Krowall is, frankly, underrated.
But the biggest key of all is goalie Jimmy Howard. If he had gone to free agency this past summer instead of signing a contract extension late last season, Howard would have been the most sought after player on the market. He performed very well in the playoffs, and he picked up where he left off Wednesday, despite a blunder handling the puck, which led to Buffalo’s only goal. He made several difficult saves look easy as the Red Wings had to kill off seven penalties in the first two periods, a couple putting them in five-on-three predicaments.
And we'll wrap things up with DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose's feature article about the Wings' belief that they don't need an enforcer to succeed in the scrappy Eastern Conference:
“There’s going to be the odd situation and the odd night where we’ll probably wish we had a one-dimensional tough guy,” Holland said. “But I think it’s more important to try to have in those bottom three guys players who can kill some penalties and maybe take some hard minutes away from our top players. If they can do that and chip in a few goals, I think we’re going to be a better team.”
After all, it’s scoring that wins games, not fighting, which is why the Red Wings like having guys like Drew Miller, Tomas Tatar and Patrick Eaves zipping around on the fourth line creating scoring chances.
“I’m more concerned about our scoring,” Holland said. “I think at the end of the day, when you build your team, on that fourth line, there’s a bunch of different ways you can go. We think they’re guys that can chip in offensively.”
And it’s the offense that will get the Wings to the postseason in the new and unknown re-alignment world.
“I think last year of the top 10 teams in fighting majors,” Holland said, “only four of them made the playoffs.”
A little checking and the Wings’ GM is right, only the Bruins, Maple Leafs, Senators and Canucks reached the postseason after finishing in the top 10 in fighting majors. Collectively, the four playoff teams had 130 fights last season. The Red Wings had 115 fights – combined – in the last eight seasons!
“We’ll see how it goes,” Holland said. “Ideally, I’d like to have (Martin) Lapointe, (Darren) McCarty and (Brendan) Shanahan in the middle of our lineup, but that’s not the case.”
In the prospect department: In Sweden, Mattias Janmark registered an assist and played 24:08 in AIK Stockholm's 3-1 loss to Farjestads BK;
Via DRW Prospects on Twitter, Hampus Melen had a solid night despite Tingsryds AIF dropping a 5-2 loss to HV71 in the Swedish J20 SuperElit league:
In the QMJHL, Phillipe Hudon registered the first goal in the Victoriaville Tigres' 5-4 comeback win over Baie-Comeau;
In the OHL, Jake Paterson stopped 29 of 32 shots as his Saginaw Spirit defeated the Sarnia Sting 4-3;
Zach Nastasiuk scored a goal in the Owen Sound Attack's 4-3 loss to London;
And in the WHL, Marc McNulty didn't register a point in the Prince George Cougars' 1-0 loss to Victoria.
This recap took about five-and-a-half hours due to internet issues and some really, really awful personal news, so I'm getting it out very late. I'm sorry. I may end up taking Thursday off because I'm really stressed out due to non-hockey issues.
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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.