The Red Wings’ season has gotten off to a bizarre start. The opened the year up with two ugly loss to the Lightning and Panthers and have followed that up with a dominating win over the Senators and with Jimmy Howard absolutely stealing the show in New York on Wednesday.
After it all, the Red Wings sit at 2-2-0 and have scored exactly as many goals as they’ve given up (12). However, that doesn’t tell the entire story. Through four games the Red Wings are being outshot 139 to 97 or 34.75 to 24.25 shots per game. They have a league worst CorsiFor% (41.35) and “can’t keep playing like this if [they] want to win,” according to captain Henrik Zetterberg.
Zetterberg is absolutely right, the Red Wings will not be successful if they keep getting outshot every night. Thankfully for Detroit, they have one of the best goaltending duos in the NHL and they have both played very well to start the season.
Tonight the Red Wings will take on the Nashville Predators, a team that they are familiar with from Detroit’s days in the Western Conference. The Predators come into 2016-17 with one of the best teams in the NHL, on paper at least, but Detroit has enjoyed a lot of success vs. Nashville over the years. In the last two seasons the Red Wings are 4-0-0 against the Preds while averaging 4.25 goals for per game and 2.75 goals against.
Let’s take a look at tonight’s lineups and starting goalie matchup.
THE RED WINGS
Morning Skate Update: Just Kidding. The Red Wings will make a few changes to their lineup tonight. Ryan Sproul will make his season debut and will replace Xavier Ouellet. Sproul will skate with Brendan Smith and he will also play on the second power-play unit. A second change will be Steve Ott replacing Andreas Athanasiou after sitting for the last three games. They’ve also shuffled their forward lines around, moving Larkin to the wing with Frans Nielsen to try and spark him offensively.
This Red Wings’ lineup has been outshot 65 to 43 but has won two straight games, so there’s no reason to think that Jeff Blashill will make any changes tonight.
On Wednesday we saw the Tomas Tatar-Dylan Larkin-Henrik Zetterberg be the Red Wings’ best line again, but none of them were able to get on the board. Thomas Vanek continued his hot start, scoring his third goal of the season, which is tied for eighth in the NHL through eight days. The power-play goal was also his fourth power-play point, which is tied with Ryan Johansen and Rasmus Ristolainen for the NHL lead.
Vanek’s line with Darren Helm and Gustav Nyquist is providing the Red Wings with great secondary scoring, which will help them be successful going forward, as long as the top lines start finding the back of the net.
On the blueline, the Red Wings look better than expected, but they’re still struggling to clear the zone, which is leading to increased chances for the opposition. Overall, the entire lineup needs to be better. They need to possess the puck better, they need more offensive-zone time and they need to help out their goaltenders a lot more than they have so far. This lineup has the infrastructure to be a playoff team this year, but they need to start putting it all together.
The Predators’ season has not started like they would have liked. They are 1-2-0 and have only scored seven goals in three games. Their slow start prompted head coach Peter Laviolette to make some changes to their forward lines. They split Filip Forsberg and Ryan Johansen up and moved a familiar face, Calle Jarnkrok, onto the top line with Johansen and James Neal. This configuration is one the Predators used often last year and enjoyed quite a bit of success. Hopefully that doesn’t carry into tonight.
On the blueline, they’re led by their new, dynamic top-pair of P.K. Subban and Roman Josi. The duo each have a goal and an assist to start the season, but they aren’t the only Nashville blueliners who can contribute offensively. Their second pair of Mattias Ekholm and Ryan Ellis only have one assist combined so far, but both have a lot off offensive upside. Finally, veterans Yannick Weber and Matt Carle round out the unit and both possess quality offensive games. It is a dangerous blueline and Detroit will have to be careful with them.
BETWEEN THE PIPES
After an unreal performance in New York, it looks like Jimmy Howard will go back to holding a clipboard tonight and Petr Mrazek will start in goal. Mrazek was equally as good in his last start, stopping 31 of 32 shots in the Red Wings’ win over the Senators on Monday. He won both of his starts against Nashville last season despite posting a 2.97 GAA and .897 SV%.
For the Predators, expect Pekka RInne to get the nod. Rinne has started the year 1-1-0 with a 2.04 GAA and .934 SV%. It’s been a good first week for the Finnish netminder, but he struggled vs. Detroit last year. In their two meetings, he was 0-1-1 with a 4.01 GAA and .864 SV%.
Rinne was once considered an elite netminder, but Mrazek may have surpassed him and his advancing age, giving the Red Wings’ the advantage in goal, even if that is their only advantage.
WHERE TO WATCH
Puck drop is at 7:30 p.m. ET at Joe Louis Arena. You can watch the game on Fox Sports Detroit and NHL Network or listen to it on 97.1 FM The Ticket.
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