It was not an ideal start to the regular season, but now with a 5-16 record in 21 years, I guess it could have been expected. But hey, it wasn't as bad as last year, right? And where better to go to try and rebound from a tough opening night loss, than a building where you've only one five times in 21 years? On the positive side, two of those were in the last two years.
Detroit opened their season with a 2-1 win over Boston at home on Thursday night. They're not expected to make any changes to that line up, which means Pavel Datsyuk will remain out with a shoulder injury. But as any Wings fan will tell you, they had to deal with that A LOT last year, which contributed to the Ducks sweeping the regular season series.
That's not the only thing that's similar for Detroit from last year. Their offseason was surprisingly quiet, without really adding anyone of note and losing names like Todd Bertuzzi, Mikel Samuelsson, David Legwand and most importantly, even if temporarily Daniel Alfredsson (still technically a free agent, dealing with back issues before deciding on his career). So with the Ducks recent (regular season) success against Detroit there is some hope.
While the Wings will look pretty much the same, the Ducks are naturally looking to change things up a bit from their opener in Pittsburgh. As expected Frederik Andersen will start and true to form Bruce Boudreau is mixing up the lines already. The Kid Line of Rickard Rakell, Devante Smith-Pelly and Emerson Etem got taken to task against Pittsburgh, especially with Mike Johnston able to get some favorable matchups against them. So William Karlsson will apparently get his first shot at NHL action in Rakell's place. In practice yesterday Karlsson took Ryan Kesler's spot between Andrew Cogliano and Jakob Silfverberg, while Kesler was moved with DSP and Matt Beleskey.
In their opener, the Wings held Boston to only 17 shots on goal. While they may not be the same juggernaut they were for much of the past two decades, they are still led by one of the best coaches in hockey and can keep the puck out of their own zone with the best of them. One interesting way they do that, as detailed by Justin Bourne over the summer, Is to relieve forechecking pressure by utilizing the area right in front of their own net. It kind of comes down to taking what you're given but if done effectively (which the Wings usually are in most things they do) can cause real problems in transition.
What Can We Learn From this Game:
Well, defensively the Ducks have quite a few lessons to take from the Pittsburgh game that could be applied here, most notably odd man rushes. They gave up far too many to the Pens and played several of them very poorly (see Clayton Stoner on Sidney Crosby's second goal). Detroit can also hit the Ducks with speed, from guys like Gustav Nyqvist, but also thanks to that middle of the ice strategy mentioned above, they can also trap forecheckers deep in the zone pretty easily.
On the other side of the puck, the Ducks did great things with the opportunities that they were given. But that's just the problem, they were reliant on being given opportunities, whether on the power play or by Marc-Andre Fleury. They need to take more control over the puck (where have we heard that before) and may have more success against a team that is not as likely to be pushing for the top of their division as much as battling for a playoff spot this year.
The real question to answer will be who will be staying with the NHL team and who will be going back to the AHL. All eyes should be on Karlsson for his debut and Etem who needs to play well in order to stay with the big club. The Ducks are still figuring out this roster; if I was Dany Heatley, I'd be worried about whether or not there was space for me when I get back.
Mike Babcock defects to Toronto mid-game (at least that's what the Toronto media would have you believe).
Stay tuned here for updates throughout the day (lineup news, etc.) and start commenting. We'll have a quick stats pack shortly before puck drop for the in-game comments to flow.