The Detroit Red Wings played a strong game against Columbus Saturday evening, winning 5-1 and seeing the once moribund power play look very lively with three goals. It wasn’t that they scored either–it was how they scored.
The first of today’s eight observations centers around the power play and works itself around some of the main cogs of its success last night:
#1: The powerplay already looks improved. Under Dan Bylsma’s system, Detroit would dump the puck, hopefully chase it down and get something set up–that often looked as if players were bolted into specific places on the ice. It felt like the power play was more concerned about not making mistakes instead of being creative. And yes, the personnel wasn’t exactly in Bylsma’s favor, but it just felt listless.
To contrast, here’s Veleno’s goal last night:
And then Larkin’s second:
It is the preseason and there will certainly be wrinkles to iron out but it’s certainly encouraging. So, too, is the play of #23.
#2: Lucas Raymond should absolutely make this team. I understand if they want to put him in Grand Rapids to have a few games to adjust or perhaps not rush into anything. But at this point, what more needs to be seen? Raymond was on both sides of special teams–dishing out apples on the power play and nearly scoring on a two-on-one break on the kill. His vision is on another level, and his passing is an art form. Are the superlatives over the top?
Frankly, no. Moritz Seider is certainly exciting, but Raymond is one of the best prospects Detroit has had out of the gate in nearly three decades. He’s making plays, albeit it in the preseason, that are beyond his years. And he’s adding a dynamic, along with several other players I’ll write about later, that this team has lacked for nearly a decade.
He should absolutely be on the opening night roster.
#3: Larkin looked comfortable and in many ways, rejuvenated. The Zadina-Larkin-Raymond line was a thing of beauty but the two powerplay goals he scored were an encouraging sign. First, he was fed both times by Yzerman acquisitions to improve the offense–Leddy and Raymond. Second, he flashed that skill that made him a Red Wing at just 19 years of age. The stretch pass from Leddy that he corralled and buried on the power play with his speed and then the aforementioned second power play goal, which he roofed and rattled around the net. It’s the performance that had Larkin on the team’s roster six years ago in his first camp.
#4: Leddy is showing what he brings to the table and that’s an offensive dimension Detroit hasn’t had on the blue line in a long time. Leddy’s entry into the offensive zone as the game began was an example of what he could do. He maintained control, split the defense, and then passed into the Red Wings’ first scoring chance. Leddy would have an assist on the first goal, and then add two more. He would have notched a fourth on the Veleno goal–and he actually was the reason that play even started.
Leddy’s ability to maintain control of the puck, coupled with his vision will only help the Red Wings cure their ills offensively.
#5: Taro Hirose quietly had a great game, and it was easy to overlook his performance as Leddy, Larkin, and Raymond dazzled through the evening. Hirose redirected the first goal, and had a number of great passes, one of which was an assist on Larkin’s second powerplay goal. Hirose is an underrated offensive talent who could certainly help on the man advantage or if they find themselves slumping again.
#6: Veleno looks stronger on the puck with each game he plays, and he had a couple plays, besides the goal, that stood out. Early on during a Red Wings penalty kill, he had a chance to clear the puck but he peeled back into the zone, swiveled back to the blue line, and then fired it down the ice, burning a few more seconds off the kill. It reminded me of the little things Henrik Zetterberg would do.
The second was a nifty move he made behind the net:
Veleno’s play continues to improve, and he too, should be a finalist for one of the final roster spots.
#7: Alex Tanguay should take a bow for the gains seen so far. Much was written about what effect he would have on the Red Wings powerplay. The early returns are encouraging and yes, it’s only the preseason, but the team looks almost like they’ve been let off the leash. It’s a good sign. Now it remains to be seen what things look like once the rosters are set and Detroit is up against NHL rosters.
#8: This one is short and sweet: It’s such a treat listening to Ken Daniels and Mickey Redmond. Daniels’ interview with Manny Legace was something, and it revealed a vulnerability and human element rarely seen during a hockey broadcast.
Then there’s the game. The banter they have, the goal calls all the way down to Mick almost signing Billy Joel this early, they bring a hometown feel that so many broadcasts across sports are losing.
It’s been a tough few seasons watching games. Thankfully, we have Ken and Mick.
The Red Wings and Penguins start at noon eastern.