We’ve had all summer waiting for this one. Our season opener and home opener against a division rival who works very well as an actual rival because they’re another team in the bottom tier of the Atlantic trying to scrape their way up the standings.
Montreal won their home opener against the Leafs earlier this week, an event many are calling “good.”
Let’s get started.
Good energy from the hop for the Wings top line as the crowd gets into an early LGRW chant. Then on the second shift of the game, Olli Määttä gave up a scoring chance that Ville Husso stopped and Filip Hronek just missed on the other end as well. The Very Tall Line made themselves known early on and then the fourth line kept the momentum going through the entire cycle.
Detroit gets the first power play during the second trip through the lineup as Michael Rasmussen creates a scoring chance that Jakub Vrana nearly cashes. Arber Xhekaj takes a hooking call. The top unit spends a lot of time possessing the puck around the edges of the PKers but not getting traffic into areas to move them out of position. The second unit gets a brief run that gets Elmer Söderblom a net-front chance stopped by Allen. Xhekaj returns with no harm done.
Ten minutes into the period, the Wings have a 16-6 lead in shots, but the Habs are starting to find a little pushback. Starting with the 2nd line, Montreal controls play to the 2nd commercial break down the rotation. Bertuzzi creates a chance out of that break, but Montreal pushes back and Filip Hronek takes Detroit’s first penalty interfering with Rem Pitlick in front of the Detroit net trying to prevent a backdoor goal.
Andrew Copp barely pokes a royal road pass to prevent a goal and Dylan Larkin gets a scoring chance at the other end. Aside from this, Seider does a real good job breaking up zone entries and the forwards (especially Rasmussen) keep Montreal from setting up anything dangerous.
Josh Anderson takes Montreal’s second penalty of the game as he steps into Mo Seider’s path trying to run a pick in the Wings’ zone. This time the top unit does a much better job of disrupting the PK and getting chances. Jake Allen has to swim several times to keep it out. The second unit comes on and struggles to create a chance outside an unscreened and telegraphed Vrana one-timer that Allen stops easily.
Anderson is freed and the period ends.
The Score: 0-0
The Shots: 25-10- Detroit
Standout Players: Moritz Seider, Dylan Larkin, Elmer Söderblom
Sitdown Players: Filip Hronek I guess. Nobody was that bad.
All Summed Up: The only way this could have gone better is if we scored.
Montreal comes out stronger to start the 2nd, keeping Detroit pinned for the first copule minutes before Robert Hägg gets a call for slashing Christian Dvorak behind the net. The bulk of the PK work in this two minutes is done by the right-side forwards (Oskar Sundqvist and Adam Erne). The Habs don’t get anything dangerous started.
Things settle out from this point as both teams battle to set up anything useful while also trying not to screw themselves on the long change.
Scary shift about halfway through as the top line can’t connect on passes and get stuck in their own end in front of their 2nd paid with Hronek playing that one shift (minimum) each game where he reminds you that he can be a real mess in his own end. Fortunately the Overhead Power Line comes on and makes Jake Allen do more work just after.
Larkin’s line creates another high-octane chance early in the second half of the game as Larkin tosses a reboundable puck that Raymond and Bertuzzi can’t pot and then Bert ends up passing back out of the zone missing EVERY one of his teammates up the middle.
Vrana gets a near-rush that’s stopped up and as he pulls up, he throws a bad turnover to the Habs while the team changes behind him and nearly creates a rush. Then Dominik Kubalik dominates Rem Pitlick in the “dude’s who have the word lick in their name” with a big hit.
After the Wings start to build pressure a bit more, Larkin draws a penalty with 3:33 to go as Nick Suzuki pushes Larkin’s knees out from under him. Detroit starts the 2nd unit since Larkin’s line just finished a shift. This unit gets the cross-ice pass setup but Allen just gets Andrew Copp’s shot with his stick. The first unit comes out and goofs around until Suzuki is released from the box.
I don’t have any goals to share yet, so watch the save by Allen
The Score: 0-0
The Shots: 34-18 Wings (9-8 in the period)
Standout Players: Elmer Söderblom, Joe Veleno, Dominik Kubalik, Adam Erne, Dylan Larkin
Sitdown Players: Filip Hronek, Tyler Bertuzzi
All Summed Up: They played defensively sound. Scoring a goal would be cool.
First line in front of second pair to start this one. Not loving that combo to be honest. They do fine. Second line follows with their best shift since the first period though.
Elmer Söderblom scores the first goal of the season for Detroit and the first goal of his NHL career to make it 1-0 Detroit!
The play starts on a neutral zone turnover that gets Elmer in with speed. A centering attempt to Rasmussen doesn’t get there but the continuation of play gets the puck to Michael Rasmussen behind the net for a wraparound that Söderblom cleans up.
Montreal pushes back hard as the pace and physicality of the game picks up. We will get an opportunity to see how Detroit keeps their structure in defending a lead without getting back on their heels now.
Just out of the first commercial timeout we get an ominous response as Husso is forced to make a save on a good chance in close. Yikes.
After a couple more shifts Michael Rasmussen takes an offensive zone penalty doing some rough stuff to Dvorak. Like it’s Moose’s fault that guy isn’t terrifyingly large. Can’t a big man hug a smaller man’s head anymore?
Nick Suzuki sets Cole Caufield up for an amazing chance that the little guy takes too long to shoot and we’re very lucky for this. Then Ville Husso makes a glovely stop on Josh Anderson as a shot wide bounces in front. The rest of the PK goes smoothly and Detroit starts trying to build some momentum the other way. Larkin gets a great chance in front with under six to go that he backhands wide. Gallagher breaks in and is stopped by Husso. Things are getting tight!
Under three to go and the second line now features Adam Erne in Jakub Vrana’s spot (because defense). Jake Allen is on the Habs’ bench with 2:26 left for an icing faceoff that Detroit wins but doesn’t clear for 20 seconds.
Detroit gets a change and Lalonde puts the third line out to show his trust in how well they’ve played. A Montreal hand pass takes the faceoff out of the zone and costs the Habs their timeout. They get Allen off again on another Detroit icing. Copp-Larkin-Rasmussen are the forward line set for this in front of Seider and Chiarot. This works out as the forwards all touch the puck coming out of the zone and Michael Rasmussen adds the empty-netter to make it 2-0 Wings.
Olli Määttä makes it 3-0 with another empty-netter soon after.
The Score: 3-0 Wings Win!
The Shots: 40-29 Detroit (6-11)
Standout Players: Michael Rasmussen, Oskar Sundqvist, Elmer Söderblom, Dylan Larkin, Ben Chiarot
Sitdown Players: Nah
All Summed Up: Great finish by Lalonde’s team.
The new structure of the team isn’t really all that different from the old structure if I’m being perfectly honest, but the reason for the night-and-day change to the results structure-wise is that the players were more-cognizant of their spacing. Far too many times last season a guy would fly up ice too early or overcollapse and by result steal options from his teammates.
In terms of my desire to see Filip Zadina given a chance to show how badly he wants to produce within this system, it’s an impossible task if he’s running up against Elmer Söderblom, because that dude absolutely earned his spot and Oskar Sundqvist’s work with Big Elm and on the PK earned him more time in my view. Honestly, I don’t know if you pull this yet, but as far as wingers go, I thought Jakub Vrana was a weak link, but he was also playing with a center who missed the entire preseason. There’s always the “bench Adam Erne” option that I’ll likely want to see all season.
Overall, the top line was pretty close to expected. Tyler Bertuzzi is still kind of chaotic and I don’t love his decision-making, but he makes things harder for the other team than he does for us. The second line is a work in progress chemistry-wise. Third line was the best line of the game for the Wings and I liked the energy provided by the fourth. Gustav Lindström and Robert Hägg were quietly unnoticeable on the third pair and I liked how Chiarot and Seider played together.
The second pair held their own.
Wings are in New Jersey tomorrow at 7:00. See you then!