Detroit Red Wings exhibit plenty of offense and maybe some hope for loud home crowd

Detroit Free Press

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Oh, you want goals?

You want to see some offense?

Well, the Detroit Red Wings showed plenty of their scoring touch Thursday night in their exhibition home opener, a 6-2 over the Buffalo Sabres before their largest crowd in 18 months at Little Caesars Arena.

On the same day the Wings announced they would be without valuable top-six forward Jakub Vrana for at least four months as he recovers from shoulder surgery, the team didn’t flinch and seemed to show everyone it would be OK without him.

As Vrana deals with his shoulder, and even with Dylan Larkin and Tyler Bertuzzi sitting out the game, the rest of the Wings showed they could put this team on their back and carry the weight. They exploded with three goals from Robby Fabbri, Lucas Raymond and Troy Stecher in 3 minutes, 12 seconds that staked them to a 3-1 lead in the first six minutes of the second period.

Then something glorious happened.

The fans, clearly giddy with excitement over this offensive outburst from a team that hasn’t been able to find the back the net with a compass, the Waze app and a diving rod, got so used to standing up for these goals that they started a wave.

Yes, a wave.

That most silly and clichéd act of fans that is normally born out of boredom took on a different meaning, one of unfettered joy. With COVID restrictions that limited attendance to 750 last season no longer in place, there were finally enough of the “Winged Wheel” faithful gathered to execute a rolling wave.

No attendance was announced, but it looked like at least a few thousand fans filled the stadium.

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From the moment defenseman Moritz Seider was announced as part of the starting lineup, fans could be heard. No more of that weird, fake fan noise. It wasn’t necessary. From the opening shift, fans let loose with one of their many “Let’s go, Red Wings!” chants.

So yes, the Wings have shown they can score. And they can rally. Just like they did after falling behind in Chicago in Wednesday’s exhibition opener, the Wings came back from a 1-0 deficit in the first period Thursday.

That resilience tells us something early about this team:, There may be some hope this season. It’s hope that can be found in Raymond’s goal, an ugly one that came off a pinball turnover near the slot.

“He did a good job,” coach Jeff Blashill said of Raymond. “He’s a smart player. He’s solid. He’s got a really good two-way game, so those types of players are always guys that are transferable because they know how to create efficient offense, and I thought he did that.”

There’s also hope in the steady play Seider displayed while being paired with veteran Nick Leddy and working on the power play. The No. 6 overall pick in 2019 showed good, careful judgment. Pinching in when he could, but mostly falling back and staying in position.

“I think Sides did a solid job,” Blashill said. “He’s a presence out there, he’s a big man, he’s smart, he’s got good hands and makes plays with really good hockey instincts.”

The Wings’ goals weren’t all works of art, but a few sure were pretty. Stecher’s goal came when he took the puck from the left point, walked in and ripped off a hard wrister from the high slot that bounced in. And Jon Martin, a forward on a professional tryout, scored the final goal when he danced his way past the defense and somehow poked the puck past goalie Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen.

The power play wasn’t great, either. The Wings went 0-for-4 with the man advantage, struggling to get into the offense zone, but at least working hard once they arrived. But hey, you can’t have everything.

Before the game, as he broke the bad news about Vrana, Blashill challenged his team in the same breath to step up.

“One of our biggest things we do as a team is — we certainly care about the guys that are out — but we worry about the guys that are available to us and who can get it done,” he said. “It opens up a top-six spot and a power play spot for somebody.”

It’s early, of course. But on a day that started with some bad news for the offense, the Red Wings showed us there may be some moments this season when there’s going to be plenty to cheer about.

Contact Carlos Monarrez at cmonarrez@freepress.com and follow him on Twitter @cmonarrez.

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