A disappointing end to last night's game against the Anaheim Ducks certainly leaves us fans of the Detroit Red Wings with a sour taste in our mouths. All told, there was a point that could have been had, but it's not the worst thing in the world to lose to a Western Conference team since we're no longer competing for the same playoff spots. The opening night win against Boston put us off to a good start in that respect.
This week, though, is huge to determine early season Atlantic positioning for playoff spots later in the season. Heavier emphasis on division matchups directly impacts playoff chances, so getting points out of this week's games will go a long way toward helping the Red Wings clinch a spot before the last week of the season.
Wednesday: Boston Bruins at Detroit Red Wings
TV: NBCSN, TVA, SN1
The NHL apparently wanted last year's playoff series to last longer. I don't have any other explanation for why the Red Wings are hosting the spoked B for the second time in a week at Joe Louis Arena.
Boston will make its second straight appearance on NBCSN's Wednesday Night Rivalry. The Bruins are off to a tough start, going 1-2 in their first three games and coming off a 4-0 loss to the Washington Capitals. Top-line center David Krejci has missed the first three games of the season, and he is eligible to return for the Bruins' fourth game tonight against the Colorado Avalanche. If there's one team off to a worse start than Boston, it's Colorado. Boston will likely grab some confidence back against the Avalanche before strolling into the Joe on Wednesday.
The Red Wings matched up well against Boston in the season opener. Boston was coming off an opening night win against Philadelphia, however, so fatigue almost certainly played in Detroit's favor. The potential addition of Krejci to the Bruins lineup will add a new wrinkle that the Red Wings will have to deal with.
Friday: Detroit Red Wings at Toronto Maple Leafs
The Toronto Maple Leafs have also had a tough start to their season, losing their first two games at home. They rebounded quite nicely last night with a 6-3 thumping of the New York Rangers.
The Red Wings open their season matchup with the Maple Leafs in a home-and-home that starts in the Air Canada Center (like it should be spelled). The Maple Leafs have found a pleasant surprise on their blue line in the form of rookie Stuart Percy who's been a pretty effective puck mover. Percy has three points (all assists) in his first three NHL games. Second-year NHL defenseman Morgan Rielly has also contributed offensively, notching a goal and an assist through the first three games of their season.
Like the Bruins, the Maple Leafs play the Avalanche before taking on the Red Wings. The Analytics Punching Bag Bowl should be useful entertainment on Tuesday, and even if it is Toronto, I have a hard time imagining the Avalanche get points out of the Bruins or Maple Leafs games. So we can thank Colorado for giving our opponents confidence going into a matchup with the Red Wings.
Saturday: Toronto Maple Leafs at Detroit Red Wings
TV: FSD, CBC, NHLN-US
Hockey Night in Canada is at the Joe on Saturday to complete Detroit's and Toronto's home-and-home set. For the Red Wings, Saturday's matchup will not only be the back end of a back-to-back, but it will also be their third game in four nights. Fatigue will be a factor, so a fast start on Saturday should be a priority for Detroit.
The Red Wings certainly played well enough to win both games last week. I feel like I'm not alone in thinking that if they can play like Thursday and Saturday consistently through the season, this is going to be a very good team in a position to take a guaranteed Atlantic division playoff spot. There's not much margin for error early in the season though, as the rest of October brings this week's divisional slate, plus matchups against the Montreal Canadiens, Pittsburgh Penguins, and defending champion Los Angeles Kings.
Pavel Datsyuk remains on track with the original "2-5 weeks" estimate in his return from a shoulder separation. There's currently no timetable on his return.
- Gustav Nyquist shooting percentage watch: two goals on four shots = 50.0%. Blah blah blah unsustainable, something something, THE GOOSE IS LOOSE!
- Detroit is one of nine teams to stay perfect on the penalty kill so far this season. Only one of those teams (Winnipeg Jets) has played three games; the rest, two.
- Does the team's first loss of the season make head coach Mike Babcock consider changing the lineup? (hint, hint, Stephen Weiss)
- Captain Henrik Zetterberg leads the team in shots with seven through two games but has no goals. Will he find the back of the net this week?
- With three games in four nights this week, it almost feels more like a question of which game Jonas Gustavsson gets his first start in rather than if he starts at all. Do we see Gustavsson start this week, and if so, which game?
- Are we seriously rivals with the Bruins already after one playoff series?
Time to get the ball rolling and start establishing some divisional dominance.