Time: 7:30pm ET
Place: Little Caesars Arena – Detroit, MI
TV: BSDET, NBCSWA
Radio: 97.1 FM The Ticket
Capitalss Blog: Jasper’s Rink
What a weird, wacky, and wild first month to the season it has been for the Red Wings. They blew multiple three goal leads to Tampa in the opener, got boat raced by a bad Montreal team twice, got out played by Calgary and Boston, and had a four game losing streak. Conversely they dominated Chicago, dominated Vancouver and Columbus in consecutive games, came back from 2-0 deficits to force overtime in consecutive games against Washington and Florida (winning one in OT), and followed up that four game losing streak with a three game winning streak that included wins over Vegas and Edmonton.
As crazy as it has been overall, it has been even crazier for the team as individuals. Tyler Bertuzzi is tied for third in the NHL in goals with nine and tied for seventh in points with fifteen despite missing three games. Lucas Raymond leads all rookies in goals with six, points with fourteen and is second in assists with eight. The Red Wings other super rookie, Moritz Seider, is the only rookie with more assists than Raymond with nine, is second in rookie points with eleven and is second on the team in ice time averaging 22:25 a game. All of this wackiness culminates in the Red Wings currently sitting in second place in the Atlantic Division as they welcome the Washington Capitals into Little Caesars Arena tonight.
Washington rolls into town tonight a bit banged up and struggling to put games away at times (four of their six losses have come in OT) but still in third place in the Metro Division after their 5-3 win against Buffalo on Monday. As has been the case for seventeen seasons now, you cannot talk about the Washington Capitals without talking about the Great Eight Alex Ovechkin. Ovi comes into the game tonight tied with Brett Hull for fifth place all-time in goals scored and has been hot all season with eleven goals in twelve games. With Nicklas Backstrom on IR, the role of setup man for Ovechkin has fallen to Evgeny Kuznetsov and he has not failed to live up to that role with eleven helpers and sixteen points to start the season. Tom Wilson has chipped in with three goals and seven assists of his own in rounding out a very, very difficult top line to play against. Unfortunately for Washington the good news up front stops with those three as injuries to T.J. Oshie and former Red Wing Anthony Mantha has really left their forward depth thin, with no other forward having more than four points. On the blue line for the Caps, John Carlson leads a group that includes former Red Wings Nick Jensen and Dennis Cholowski that has shown the ability to move the puck but also can struggle with mental lapses from time to time as well. In net, Vitek Vanecek has seen the bulk of the work so far, posting a .906 save percentage in nine games, and has been steady. Ilya Samsonov has done a decent job backing Vanecek up in five games (winning three) even if his save percentage (.893) does not really show that.
For Detroit, we know the stories by now. The top line has been great (when they are in the lineup), Lucas Raymond and Moritz Seider are probably the two most exciting young players Detroit has seen since Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk. What has gone a bit under the radar because of those stories though has been the depth play, especially of late. Beyond Bertuzzi and Raymond, the Red Wings have seven other forwards who are playing at/above a .42 points/game pace. That is just below what Filip Hronek finished with last season when he lead the Red Wings in scoring with twenty six points in fifty six games. That does not include the three defensemen at or above that pace as well (led by the aforementioned Moritz Seider with eleven points). While not the headline grabbing story on the team, the depth scoring has been a big reason for the fast start.
The first meeting between these two teams was very entertaining and this one should be as well. Buckle up Red Wings fans, this should be another fun one on what is quickly becoming a fun season.