Tonight the Red Wings hosted their 36th and final home opener in Joe Louis Arena against long time rival.....
Like the league couldn’t have scheduled an Original Six team or the Avalanche or even Penguins for this game?
Eh, well looking ahead, at least the final regular season home game at The Joe will be against the....
Anyway, onto the game.
The Red Wings came out aggressive, showing some urgency following a disappointing effort to open the season in Florida.
Jeff Blashill again juggled lines for the second straight game, only leaving Nyquist and Vanek together through the first three games. The players responded by turning up the pressure on Ottawa, eventually trying to stretch the ice.
Playing a faster style of hockey is part of the identity talk Blashill preached in training camp. Against a slow Ottawa team, the Red Wings are actually looking quicker.
OH HEY, A FIGHT. Yes, Jonathan Ericsson and Dion Phaneuf were able to come to life like two enchanted mop buckets in a Disney film and fight each other. The Joe goes wild as it does. Ericsson cleans up on Phaneuf and earns some rare good will.
The Wings already have three fighting majors this season....I don’t know what to do with that information.
At 11:43, Vanek is able to force a turnover in deep and chip the puck back up high to Green, who fires a shot off goaltender Andrew Hammond’s shoulder then trickles into the net just beyond a cluster of sticks. Initially the thought was Vanek tipped it in off the rebound, but no, just an assist and a continuation to his impressive start as a Red Wing.
1-0 Red Wings (Green (1) from Vanek and Nyquist)
Not long after the Vanek goal, and the crowd chanting and buzzing “GORDIE!” following a tribute to Gordie Howe during the first TV timeout, Detroit continue to capitalize on momentum.
At 14:15, Helm sprung loose through the neutral zone on a smart line change, then Zetterberg found him with a perfect tape-to-tape pass for a breakaway and snappy finish like it was 2010 all over again. Helm is currently healthy and when he’s healthy he’s still a damn good player. Probably not as good as his contract extension but still damn good.
2-0 (Helm (1) from Zetterberg and Ouellet)
Wrapping up a dominant period, the Red Wings were once again on the power play. At 17:17 they converted, with Green getting his second goal from the top of the slot on a perfect feed from Tatar. Wings’ assistant coach, John Torchetti’s preached roatation and quick shots off possession on the power play. This power play was an example of that with lots of work—mostly by Vanek—down low, opening up space for Green to walk in and snap one in for his second.
3-0 (Green (2) from Tatar and Vanek)
Ottawa continued to be overwhelmed by the Red Wings speed. I’m constantly seeing the Senators hooking and holding, running the subtle interference teams are always accusing the Red Wings of running. In the first 10 minutes, Phaneuf commits a dangerous roughing penalty on Athanasiou, hitting him from behind, then Mike Hoffman hooked Nyquist.
Unfortunately the Hoffman penalty turned into a shorthanded goal for Ottawa. They get on board at 8:51 when Erik Karlsson fetches a rebound deep in his own zone up to Ryan Dzingel, who had an odd man rush, but bounced the puck in off Sheahan past Mrazek.
3-1 (Dzingel (2) from Karlsson)
At this point, the pace of the game slowed down into a muck fest. A lot of icings, a lot of stoppages. The Red Wings were no longer stretching the ice. Neither team seemed to be gaining any traction.
The final frame was the first two periods condensed. It featured a grinding style that was seeming suiting Ottawa, but they failed to capitalize on any real chances. It featured the physicality of the first period. This time, noted vermin Chris Neil got into it with Chris Neil wannabe Justin Abdelkader. After Abby landed a couple big hooks to tease the fans, Neil got off the ropes and pulled him down with ease.
The Red Wings now have four fighting majors....I really don’t know what to do with that information.
Then if the last opening at Joe Louis Arena wasn’t a big enough moment in itself, Green had to go ahead and add a little more magic. At 13:24, Sheahan went deep into the corner to retrieve the puck, and getting some help from Glendening they won the battle getting it to an open Green, who half-circled to pull traffic to the front of Hammond. He fired home a wrister for his first career hat trick in 652 games.
4-1 (Green (3) from Sheahan and Glendening)
After more rough stuff from Ottawa, the Wings shrugged and put the finishing touches on this one. At 17:04 Vanek muscles the puck deep in the corner from a napping Cody Ceci, finding Helm wide open in the Danger Zone for his second goal of the night.
This great set up by Vanek was his third assist of the evening. His mom will have the “playmaker” patch sewn on his team jacket so he can wear it to school tomorrow morning.
5-1 (Helm (2) from Vanek)
Final 5-1 Red Wings (1-2-0, 8th in Atlantic Division)
Not sure if a third game of the season has ever held so much urgency for this franchise. Aside from this historic nature of this game, the idea of the Red Wings starting the season 0-3 felt catastrophic whether or not it really would’ve been.
The Wings responded by coming out fast and tough but disciplined. This game demonstrated a type of hockey the Wings are capable of playing and must play against a division peer like Ottawa.
And while Mike Green is understandably the story tonight, lets not forget about Vanek, who’s dazzled through three games. I don’t expect him to continue a scoring pace of his prime in Buffalo, but I think if he continues to build chemistry with Nyquist, he’ll be consistently effective on the power play.
Lets just feel good about this one tonight and worry about the next one tomorrow.