112 days removed from the heartbreaking Game 7 in Detroit, the Red Wings are ready to turn the page on a new NHL season today. There's a lot to be said for the transition between a short offseason and the start of the most grueling season in major sports so it will be interesting to see how both teams come out to start the game. I noticed last night that several of the "top dogs" of the NHL came out flat--hopefully this won't plague the start of the Detroit season.
Here are five keys that I'm looking for in the first game of the season:
Is Pavel Datsyuk back to 100%? I noticed in the preseason that he seems to have his speed back to normal and after watching NHL Network's replay of Game 7 yesterday, it is clear as night and day the difference between a healthy Pavel Datsyuk and an injured one. If he stays healthy, Pavel could have another MVP caliber year.
- Will Valtteri Filppula fill the void of Jiri Hudler? Hudler was known primarily as a set-up man and his puck distribution will be missed. But I noticed in the preseason games that Valtteri Filppula was skating very confidently with the puck and making some great passes...maybe there won't be a drop-off to worry about after all.
Is Chris Osgood ready? Chris Osgood played very hit or miss in the preseason (often miss) but hopefully that was just a sense of preseason complacency. Osgood had quite a few goals slip past him that he should have stopped but there's no doubt in my mind he will play differently in the season opener and the regular season.
Will the defense be back to normal? Last year's defense was very spotty at times and that could have come from the high offensive production leading to a relaxed mindset. With the undeniable talent of Hossa, Hudler, and Samuelsson all gone, how will the defense react when the pressure is more in their end? I liked what I saw out of Kronwall, Stuart, Lidstrom and Rafalski in the preseason but Ericsson and Lebda need to come together as a solid third pairing.
- What effect will Bertuzzi, Williams, Eaves have? All three showed flashes of their skills during the preseason but the question is how will they produce against another team's top lines, instead of 18-20 year olds. Each player has his own style of play that can help this team and I'm looking forward to watching them all as they settle into the final line-up.
The Wings drop the puck at 3 p.m. ET against the St. Louis Blues in Stockholm, Sweden and of course Winging It In Motown will have your live game thread and recap for the game.