It's so hard to know how to react to a pre-season loss. Do you shrug it off as a nothing game and think to yourself "it's just an exhibition game and doesn't count"? Do you get frothy as you wonder how the hell "insert non-roster player's name here" could have gotten a tryout, let alone a contract with an NHL team?
Me, I like to look at the positives while mentioning the negatives. Tonight, there were far more positives to take away from the Red Wings' 3-2 loss to the Penguins than negatives, but as with any game, there's room for improvement.
If you believe the Penguins' announcers (who the bulk of us outside Detroit were lucky to be blessed with), then Evgeni Malkin was just too much man for the Red Wings tonight. While we think they may have over-stated how well he played (I'll freely admit he was probably the best player on the ice tonight), there's no question that he seems to have recovered very nicely from his knee injuries and should give the Penguins one-half of their offensive duo while Crosby nurses the boo-boo in his head.
So were the Wings simply dominated by one man? Follow the jump to take a look.
While the Wings were unable to come back after finding themselves down 3-1 after the second, there were a number of good things that happened in this game.
- Niklas Kronwall and Brad Stuart were both very active in the offensive zone. Kronwall in particular was pinching a lot, but was doing so smartly. It's a little early to see whether this is a new wrinkle in the Wings' offense or if they were just reacting to their opponent.
- Drew Miller and Fabian Brunnstrom both took big steps forward in asserting their spots in the lineup. Miller was charging the net early in the first and in the second, and was trying to create offense. Brunnstrom was all over the ice tonight, making smart passes and using his size to get open and drive the net.
- The Jan Mursak - Tomas Tatar - Chris Conner line was good, especially Mursak. I had forgotten how fast Mursak is, and with Tatar and Conner they were buzzing all around the Pens' zone. Considering this was the first game they played together, the potential for good chemistry appeared to be there, particularly between Mursak and Tatar.
- Jimmy Howard had a tough game. The first goal was one he should have had, and although the goal by Malkin was a nice play, that's 2 short-side goals in one game. There was also a post on the same side, and it's clear that Jimmy has some work still to do. On the flip side, Joey MacDonald came in and played very well, shutting down the Pens in the third period.
- Pavel Datsyuk seems to be in mid-season form already. He was all over the ice, making Pittsburgh players look silly, and his pass to Kronwall to set up the first Wings' goal was something I'd expect to see in January, not September. I'm teasing right here, but one of my BOLD PREDICTIONS (coming soon) is going to be about Dats. Also, his tribute to Ruslan Salei by wearing #24 makes even my Grinch-heart melt a little.
So that's it. It was the first pre-season game, so let's remember to keep our pitchforks and torches in the shed where they belong, at least until November. Tomorrow, the Wings head to London, Ontario for a date with the Philadelphia Flyers, who may be hearing from new disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan after a Joey Shelley hit on Darryl Boyce. We'll look into whether the game is televised. See you tomorrow!