I'll admit it: normally I don't care about the preseason.
In Detroit, it's been fairly meaningless over the last 20 years. The team has been stocked so full of veterans and mainstays that 95% of the roster was set before camp even opened, and then it was just a matter of which young player's turn it was to play 12 minutes a night on the 4th line.
However, that was then, and this is now, and right now the Wings are an organization with spots on the roster crying out for competition. There are players who we all expect to make the team, but in reality there are several young players who could easily replace the incumbents and would likely make the team better. Unfortunately, the only way to know whether those players are ready to earn spots is by playing them more, and if they fail, then it can lead to some tough hockey to watch.
Tonight the Red Wings took on the Penguins at the Joe, and after a spirited first period that saw the Wings have 2 power plays and generally carry the play, the Pens slowly took over and took advantage of breakdowns in the Wings' zone. While the score itself doesn't matter, there were some takeaways from the game that bear watching.
- The best part about preseason is that whether you want nothing but kids to play or you want to see veterans, you'll be disappointed in some way.
- If you were an out-of-towner like me and watched the game on NHLN, you were forced to listen to the ROOT guys instead of Ken and Mickey. After the 2nd TV timeout, they spent several minutes discussing Mike Babcock and his future and whether someone would throw a "boatload" of money at him to lure him away from Detroit. It was a reminder of how excruciating this season is going to be with analysts and announcers talking about this every time they play the Wings.
- The first period saw two terrible giveaways by Kyle Quincey and Brian Lashoff and a missed assignment by Jakub Kindl that all led directly to quality chances for the Penguins. Remember what I said earlier about competition for spots? The fact the Wings actively attempted to land a right-handed shooting defenseman this offseason should tell you where the organization thinks its weaknesses lie.
- This was my first time ever seeing Nick Jensen, and I came away very impressed with his play tonight. His scouting report makes mention of how strong his skating is, but seeing it in a game situation gives it context. Tonight he played at 5v5, on the PP and on the PK, and didn't look out of place. It just so happens that he shoots right, and certain other members of the Wings' defense looked like hot garbage with fresh vomit on it, so one can hope that he continues to have a strong camp and gets a long look at a roster spot (why are you all laughing?)
- There are several things that need to not be carry-overs from last year, but sloppy third period play should be one they eliminate early. Last season the Wings were 29th in GA in the third period, and had an overall -18 goal differential in the third. Even if the Wings do carry leads on a regular basis into the third and have teams make it close, there is no way the Wings can be successful if they don't play better in the third.
- Hey, that's really neat that a Penguins player can cross-check a Wing and it turns out that he's probably concussed:
- I mean, it's not like Blake Comeau has ever caused a Wing player to be injured before.
- We can only hope that Tomas Tatar was just shaken up after that hit, but given the fact that this is the Wings they should probably completely encase him in bubble wrap and not allow him to play until next week.
Babcock said after game that Tatar got hammered, but that he was fine otherwise. #RedWings— Bob Duff (@asktheduffer) October 2, 2014
- There some bright spots: Johan Franzen, Gustav Nyquist and Henrik Zetterberg were threats to score every time they were on the ice and spent most of their time in the Pens' zone. They accounted for 10 of the Wings' 25 shots. Jimmy Howard had a very strong game for the Wings. 31 saves, the bulk of which came in the 2nd and 3rd periods when the Penguins were the stronger team. The Wings' special teams looked effective, even without scoring on the PP, but their PK was perfect.