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Hockey is Back! Winning is not! CBJ 3-2 DET

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Would’ve been nice to win it for Hank, but it could’ve been so much worse.

NHL: Columbus Blue Jackets at Detroit Red Wings Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

There is a lot to be said about tonight’s game, much of which has to do with the guy not on the ice: Henrik Zetterberg. He dropped the opening puck for the first game of the season between Justin Abdelkader and Nick Foligno, which really brought a bittersweet feel to the opening game of the season. It was a fitting moment, in a way, to show just how weird his LTIRetirement has gone down. Not only did the end of his career blind side many fans, but he drops the puck between Abdelkader and Nick Foligno? I wish it could have been between Kronwall and (as much as I am loathe to say it) Crosby. But these are the strange times we live in. They will take some getting used to.

Speaking of change, Detroit’s line-up has had a makeover since last year, which is pretty cool, I guess, since we fans have by large been begging for a dumpster fire season full of rookies for years now, and guess what? That Dumpster Fire season is here! Get pumped! Because the Wings welcomed the Blue Jackets to the Hot-and-Ready Rink for what might be a preview (warning?) of things to come this season.

First Period

Out of the gates the Wings had a lot of giddy-up what with it being the home opener and all and so many guys making their debut. The first solid chances of the game came from none other than Michael Rasmussen driving the net, but that mostly served as a wake-up call for the team who made the playoffs last spring.

Around the four minutes Bertuzzi took a delay-of-game trying to clear a puck while taking a hit. The Wings had a few good clears, but the Jackets were able to get their cycle going around behind the net; the puck then squirted back up to Cam Atkinson who was waiting in the left circle. Hicketts did his best to pick up Atkinson and block the shot, but it squeaked past Howard to make the game 1-0 Columbus. Then everybody at home let out a sigh, realized this season had been a fun four minutes, and resigned themselves to 81 more games of misery.

At 11:18 Columbus rung a close one off the goalpost, but it went wide to keep Detroit’s deficit at one. While it might’ve seen like Columbus was a juggernaut at this point, a lot of Detroit’s woes came from passes not connecting, which again, you’d expect from such a green squad. We’ve got the kids skating en masse, folks, so these are the treats we get to watch. So few of these guys had played much with each other so far that passing chemistry class is going to take a little time.

After the commercial break Ken Daniels and Mickey Redmond got Hank up in the booth and Ken started firing the shots most journalists are afraid to ask. “Are you sad?” Which on the one hand is kind of funny, but on the other hand, is kind of refreshing in its honesty. Then Hank started talking about the chemistry he had with Pav and it was my turn to feel very sad, which is basically only funny. Also, hey, Ken and Mick said Hank might be a GM in the NHL or Europe someday. It’s comforting to know we could get multiple shots at Red Wings legends becoming future GMs.

Oh, and during all of that Cholowski got called for holding and Panarin for tripping, but the interview with Zetterberg was where all my attention was during that stretch. We got another penalty, this time on Abby, and Columbus proceeded to spend ~1:50 of the power play holding a shooting gallery on Howard to close out the period.

Score: 1-0 CBJ
Shots: 11-5 CBJ
Standouts: The Rebuild, that Zetterberg Interview, Ozzie’s Skills in the Booth (seriously, he’s gotten so much better.)
Sitdowns: NONE, CAUSE WE’RE KEEPING IT POSITIVE THIS YEAR.

Second Period

Not much excitement in the opening minutes until Rasmussen intercepted an errant pass to get things going in the other direction, leading to the best sustained pressure on the Jackets of the night to that point. A little bit more back and forth until the Bertuzzi-Nielsen-Rasmussen line came over the boards again to get their best opportunity of the game thus far: they had Korpisalo scrambling in the Jackets’ net, but Detroit just couldn’t get the right stick on the scrambling puck. And lest we forget, it was Hronek and Hicketts out there on the back end, which means that Nielsen literally has about ten times as many career games played as the rest of Detroit’s skaters combined.

Then, it happened, just when I started to doubt it wouldn’t. On a seemingly harmless dump-in, Nyquist tied up his man behind the net, slid the puck out to Larkin, who then made a snap-pass over to Cholowski, who basically wandered into the slot like “Just act casual, just act casual. No one will notice.” Puck ended up on C-Lo’s stick but for a second, then made its way past Korpisalo on pretty wrister! 1-1 tie game! I ALWAYS BELIEVED IN YOU, DENNIS! HOW MANY GOALS DOES CHYCHRUN HAVE RIGHT NOW?!?! THAT’S RIGHT, ZERO!!!!!

Detroit started to maybe even kind of sort of carry play? Must have really gotten under Josh Anderson’s skin, because at a puck stoppage he had a few kind words for Howard, but Sulak wasn’t going to have it; he shoved Anderson down, which wasn’t really a fair scrum anyway, because Sulak’s mullet turned it into a two-on-one scrum, but the rest of the skaters decided to dive into Detroit’s crease like it was a ball pit.

Once the dust settled it was Anderson who was sent off, giving Detroit its first real power play opportunity of the night. I guess he got the last laugh, though, because after the lackluster power play expired he led a 3-on-2 rush that put the puck past Howard to make it 2-1 Columbus. To add insult to injury, Cholowski over-skated Josh Anderson while trying to chase him down, so #RebuildProblems.

Despite the relatively quick response, the game felt a lot better for the remainder of the period than it did for the first 25 or 30 minutes, especially because AA drew a penalty and seventeen seconds later a Larkin shot from high in the left circle redirected off Bertuzzi’s skate and then off the top of Korpisalo’s glove to make it a 2-2 tie thanks to Tyler Bertuzzi on the power play!

A strange blown icing call led to a DeKeyser delay-of-game penalty to close out the period, but no further damage. Hronek took a holding penalty after the expiration of the DeKeyser penalty to end the period. Despite the parade to the penalty box at times, the Wings actually won the period.

Score: 2-2 Tie
Shots: 22-14 DET
Standouts: Bertuzzi, Cholowski, the Penalty Killers

Third Period

Did we really just see a shirtless Darren Elliott?

/checks definitely-real WiiM recording booth

Yeah, we’ve got confirmation. That was Darren Elliott, sans shirt.

The Third started up with Detroit successfully killing off the Hronek holding penalty with the most interesting event being Ken and Mick mentioning the last time any team had five players make their debut on the same night was the Red Wings back in 84. No kidding, I read the list out loud and said “Man, Petr Klima,” only to have Ken and then Mick both say “Man, Petr Klima.” (These thoughts getting published on the internet is how us bloggers just run mad with power.)

Another soft call went against the Wings via Vanek, but the Detroit PK continued to do good work, with Jimmy being the best of the bunch. I’ll be the first to admit that appreciating strong goalie play isn’t my strongest aspect when watching a game , but by the third period even I was getting a strong feel for Howard’s play; Columbus had been box and batter him around all night, but Howard and the Wings were going to have none of it. Libor Sulak in particular did a great job clearing the crease.

Columbus seemed determined to end the game in regulation in the third, at one point having over a ten-shot advantage on the Wings, probably because they heard Nielsen is pretty good at them shoot outs. I think they were more scrums in the crease this game than in any given ten-game stretch last season.

With two minutes to go the Wings really tried to sink their teeth into the neck of Columbus, which is when Detroit’s young legs should pay dividends, but they just couldn’t make it work. Vanek had the Wings’ last good chance to send Columbus home with a loss, but his shot was stopped by a pair of skates, so in the season opener we would head to overtime.

Score: 2-2 Tie
Shots: 22-14 DET
Standouts: Howard, Nyquist, Larkin

Overtime

DeKeyser, Larkin, and Nyquist started things off with face-off win leading to a great chance for DeKeyser. The puck went down the ice and back up with a great two-on-one for Nyquist and Larkin. Detroit’s approach overall was more run-and-gun while Columbus was like a viper slowly circling its prey, holding onto the puck for long chunks of time, which pays off for them with Artemi Panarin launching one past Howard to seal, sign, and deliver a win for the fans in Ohio (gross, I can’t believe I just typed that) 3-2 Columbus.

Conclusion

What a let down for the season opener. Detroit had some smooth moves at times and looked every bit as good as Columbus, but when they got caved, they got caved hard. There was some solid play with Nielsen’s line early and Larkin’s line picking it up in the second half, but Athanasiou’s unit looked de-synced. The rookie defensemen that we fans have been craving for years came out and had some ugly mistakes, but honestly, they weren’t half bad. They were at least as exciting as they were out of position at times, which is a lot better than we might have been saying tonight.

The season is here and it would have been awesome to win this one, but at the end of the day Detroit was, on measure, outplayed throughout the game. It might be a bumpy season, but it’s going to be an exciting one. Who else is ready to watch some kids learn?!

Link to NHL.com’s box score