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After Detroit’s Friday scrimmage
, along with the first episode of “The Winged Wheel” season two, I’ve started to do some of my own “inventories” on what this team is going to bring to the ice.
I’ve tried for the past several months to provide a platform for open dialogue about the sport we all love. You all have passion and insight that makes this experience truly an honor. All I can really do is set the table, but it’s the guests that make it a party. As with last time, I will be posting my notes in between periods (along with a summary) while Detroit plays its final scrimmage of camp. I keep them at the bottom of the post so you don’t have to trudge through them if it’s not really your thing. I’m just making my thought process available, why do I feel the way I do about what I’m seeing.
Detroit is in the Central (realigned) division. The teams we’re facing are Carolina, Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Florida, Nashville and Tampa bay. You face each team 8 times, if I remember correctly. In my mind, there’s no doubt that Detroit has improved (if only by letting contracts expire and bringing in some different pieces). The question of contention, for me, is a two part scenario. Internal - how has your team improved, and external - have the teams around you improved or declined.
Last year, in October, Detroit won 4 times in 13 games played. The two first games were Nashville and Dallas, both wins. Detroit also picked up a win against Montreal and Edmonton. In fact, Detroit seemed to do well against Montreal and Boston last year. In November, Detroit played 16 times and only won 3. Boston, Vegas and Anaheim. We played Carolina, Nashville, Columbus and Florida, and were beaten by all of them. We played 12 games in December and only won 3. San Jose, Winnipeg and Montreal. Columbus, Florida and Tampa Bay were all victorious. There were 11 games in January with two victories (Montreal and Ottawa) while Dallas, Florida and Chicago all found themselves with the “W”. There were 15 games in February with only three wins (Montreal, Boston, Buffalo). Columbus was the only Central Division team (under this alignment) we played and they beat us. March saw 4 games with 2 wins. Those wins were Tampa Bay and Chicago. We lost to Carolina.
That breakdown is not only painful, it points out something very disturbing. The teams we are facing this season, most of them, have had our number recently. Carolina continues to grow and are poised to be a contender. Dallas made the Stanley Cup Finals. Florida has had our number, and they added Duclair (who feasted on wings last year). Columbus has been a pain in the, um, side. Tampa Bay, well the less said about their dominance the better. Nashville and Chicago are the two teams I think Detroit may well compete with. Chicago is clearly moving toward a reload/rebuild. Nashville, who not that long ago was in the cup finals, seems to have lost their way a bit. In my thinking, those are the only teams that have had enough decline to seriously impact how those games are going. I actually think Detroit could win the season series against Chicago (5-3) and tie the series with Nashville (4-4). Carolina could win six (2-6), Tampa could sweep (0-8). CBJ will probably take 5 (3-5) and Dallas could take 6 (2-6). Florida could be closer, but they have an exceptional coach and if Bobrovsky can find his way, that will be rough sledding. I’ll give them 5 wins of 8 (3-5). That would give Detroit a total of 19 wins in 56 games. Well short of 50%.
Of course, this is only my opinion. Detroit is getting better, but this is like marathon training. If you have a loved one that’s trained for a marathon, first, get them some help. Second, the initial goal is to finish. Placement doesn’t really matter so much as completion. That’s the phase I feel Detroit is on. Learning to finish games, play for 60 minutes. You can’t control how much talent the team has, but you can control your effort. Some nights you can get a win outworking a team. Some nights you can play the best you’ve ever played and get beaten. Sometimes your goalie will steal you one. All in all, I do think Detroit will take another step forward as prospects develop. Joe Veleno has recently broken out (though it is on the wing, not center) and has found his scoring groove. Seider looks like a beast. Raymond clearly has skills. Soderblom is finding his way. Help is on the way, but it’s still going to take some time to develop.
Let me know your thoughts. I’m not trying to be negative, just trying to survey the landscape and see what is waiting in the wings. Dallas is in a bit of a pickle with some COVID cases. Murmurs of Vancouver shutting it down are out there. We may not be in the clear yet as far as all 31 teams are concerned. Assuming we will see the puck drop against Carolina in 4 days, it will be exciting to watch.
Red and White game thoughts:
Synopsis - Fabbri line (Namestnikov and Zadina) looked like the fastest line in the first period. Making good decisions, Namestnikov gets primary assist on Zadina goal (lone tally for the period). Good looks from Staal and Stecher pairing. I may rename LARMANZZI the “Vinnie Johnson” line. If you remember the Bad Boy Piston era, Johnson was nicknamed “The Microwave”. He may not start the game, but once he came on, it was instant heat. There is usually a “click” for the line when Larkin just goes all out adrenaline and they start to take over. If this is the case, I would start the Fabbri line out on the road.
Fabbri vs Larkin at the faceoff dot to start. Larkin takes the draw. Namestnikov makes a nice steal and gets a 3 on 2 rush with Fabbri and Zadina. Like that 2nd line. Brome sets up a nice opportunity for White at 1:24 with a good possession and pass to Merrill. Gagner makes a nice spin move in the neutral zone at 2:50 to set up a rush for team White. Larkin line is out, trying to get possession. Larkin staying below the play, very responsible look instead of cheating for a stretch.
Namestnikov makes a fantastic pass, Zadina assists to Fabbri at 3:04. That Fabbri line is making an impact. all team White at this point 5 minutes in. Namestnikov with ANOTHER really good rush at 6 minutes. Zadina joining the play, the Fabbri line is the quickest line to start.
Givanni Smith gets a boarding call at 7 mins (Turner Elson). Power play for Team Red. Mantha/Larkin/Bertuzzi have some really nice passing work. One touch quick passes with a near miss one timer by Mantha. A little bit of vintage Wings where 4 or 5 players get a touch before the shot. No score on the PP. Team White is really controlling the play.
Mantha has an incredible opportunity at 10:21, Greiss robbed him. Very good look by the Larkin line as they seem to come alive. May rename that line the “Vinny Johnson line” from the Bad Boys piston era. May not start the game, but it’s instant heat once they get going. “The Microwave”.
Play by play crew really like Staal and Stecher together. Good chemistry, ability to get the puck out of the D zone. Smith/Glendening/Erne line doing a nice job keeping puck from LARMANZZI. Greiss made some big saves at around 15:20. Came all the way out of the net to stop Larkin on a breakaway and comes out to challenge. Another power play for team Red at 15:42.
Greiss is really on top of things killing the penalty. Stopped a tip by Rasmussen and another Mantha one timer. He is going to make this team better, just by practicing with them. Mantha may already 4 SOG. Brome on the kill made a nice play to get the puck out, protect it and get it all the way down. No goal on the power play.
Greiss made another save on Turgeon. Fabbri line out, Zadina made a bad decision on pass leading to the chance. Gagner getting a shot on the Fabbri line (replaced Namestnikov for this shift). Staal got the puck to Gretzky’s office, was able to get it cleared and run some time. Good look.
Second Period - correction on goal, Fabbri from Namestnikov and Zadina.
Synopsis - team White is just fighting harder. Goals from Filppula and Smith. Team Red just not clicking. Hirose looks good
0:58 - Filppula scores after team red turns over the puck on a bad stretch pass.
2:03 - Biega gets a nice shot off from the point, saved by Bernier. Team White still looks stronger at this point.
2:27 - Turgeon gets a wrist shot on Greiss. Not a high danger shot, Greiss is solid.
2:30 - Larkin line starting to get some good pressure on net.
3:40 - Zadina makes a nice play, steal the puck in the neutral zone and gets a shot on net.
5:10 - Staal with a nice attempt, wrist shot from the point. Rasmussen screening. Good to see MR using his size at the front of the net.
5:13 - power play for team Red. LARMANZZI still not clicking. Filppula gets a short handed opportunity on a breakaway. Team red ices the puck a minute into the PP. not a good look. Gagner and Glendening both on PK. Merrill strips puck winning a board battle with Mantha. 2nd PP unit, Hirose showing some nice skill on possession, needs to shoot the puck. PP doesn’t convert.
Brome tried to throw a hit on McLlrath. McLlrath just stayed still and Brome took the worst of it. Fabbri Line at 7:45 just takes over for a shift. Larkin line doesn’t seem to be able to contain them, though white ices the puck.
At 9:00 a good shift by Filppula/Nielsen/Hirose line. Brome gets a shot at the other end of the ice.
10:20 - Stecher rang the pipe for team Red with a nice shot. He and Staal really clicking.
11:00 - Larkin line starting to pick it up. Greiss makes a really nice save on Mantha one timer (again).
12:17 - play by play crew like the pairing of Dekeyser and Lindstrom. Seem to be playing a good temp.
14:00 - Givanni Smith intercepts a pass in the D zone and rushes down to score. Turnover by Larkin.
Larkin tried to respond on the next shift. The speed that DL gets from one end to the other is unreal.
Greiss is a difference maker for sure. Very good pickup so far.
15:30 - team White is all over team red in their own zone. Just look fresher, more jump. Causing fits. Larkin line jumps on to try and stir things up. Bertuzzi has a near miss on a nice wristshot in tight. They’re trying to get momentum going the other way.
17:30 - team white nearly capitalizes on a tic tac toe play. Very impressive.
3-0 team White.
Synopsis on third and OT - team white wins 6-2. Zadina nets one in OT on a beautiful backhand. Fabbri/Namestnikov and Zadina all made their marks. Thomas Greiss was a stone wall. Really shut down LARMANZZI with several good looks. Filppula and Hirose looked good, Rasmussen found his spot in front of the net.
1:00 - Staal almost cashes in on a pass from Hirose. Greiss is just beast mode.
2:22 - Mantha breaks away and makes a beautiful play to the net. Went off defending White player, but Mantha was flying. Very good look. Mantha may have 7 shots on net at this point.
Team White comes back and nearly converts. Fabbri line is just flying out there.
4:30 - Brome gets a beautiful chance and does “everything but score”. Bernier bailed out the team, or it was off the post. Beautiful back hand.
6:00 - Fabbri line continues to be the best line tonight. They are clicking, everything we need in a second line. At times, they may well look like the first line. Zadina is possessed and wants to tear it up.
7:00 - Brome making plays. Intercepts outlet pass from Staal, causing fits. Really looks strong.
7:40 - power play for team Red. Rasmussen! Does the right thing in the net mouth. LARMANZZI and Dekeyser moving the puck really well, quick tap in. Ras looked like he’s found his spot.
3-2 team White, LARMANZZI on the ice for both goals.
10:20 - Zadina took down McLlrath with a shoulder check. That kid looks really good. Fabbri line continues to cause trouble for team Red.
11:20 - Gagner came very close to scoring another team White goal. His creativity and on ice decision making is really impressive.
11:40 - Larkin nearly converts on a nice breakaway. Greiss is just really solid.
12:15 - Nielsen rips a shot on Greiss. Looks like he’s feeling good out there.
12:50 - Namestnikov makes a fantastic stretch pass to Zadina’s. Fabbri line is clicking in a big way.
15:00 - team White power play. Larkin and Mantha on the kill. Larkin and Mantha get a nice short handed chance, Dekeyser backs them up. Greiss is just shutting this down.
15:30 - Smith with a nice zone entry. Filppula scores redirecting Namestnikov shot. Cholowski moved the puck really well from the point.
4-2 team White
16:10 - team Red power play. Team White clears right away. Brome very good on the PK. Bernier to the bench. 6 on 4. Greiss is just out of his mind solid. He really keeps things simple.
17:08- second PP faceoff. Glendening and Brome break out and Glendening scored an EN. Brome very, very impressive.
5-2 team White
3 on 3 OT
Larkin/Mantha/Lindstrom start off. Greiss robs Larkin
Namestnikov/Brome/Cholowski get two solid shots on net, Bernier stops. Namestnikov skated past Bertuzzi and turned on the jets.
Nielsen rings the goalpost at the other end with Greiss down and out
It took Larkin 5 seconds to get from behind his own net down to the other end. He is flying.
Bertuzzi rings the pipe, Zadina scores at the other end with a nice backhand. Fabbri set up the play
4 on 3 PP with 1:04 to go. Dekeyser, Larkin, Mantha, Bertuzzi
Unable to convert, good looks but Greiss is just way too good.