After the first two games of the season, Wings Nation was on edge. The team was not looking good after a disappointing summer and those first two games solidified their worries. But a good game vs. Ottawa got fans back on top. Then another win over the Rangers and things were seeming alright. Going into a tough weekend though, Wings fans were probably ready to drop both games against tough western conference opponents in Nashville and San Jose. Yet here they are, four points richer and a team already finding some chemistry.
Abdelkader injured something vs. Nashville so that means Gus Nyquist hops up to a line with Nielsen and Larkin and Athansiou draws back into the lineup alongside the red hot duo of Vanek and Helm. Larkin back at wing, Nyquist with more ice time and AA back in, I think this might be one of the best line combinations yet.
Bad starts were almost the death of the Wings last season but this year that hasn’t been the case. AA came out flying, Sheahan almost had a 60-foot breakaway, pucks were getting to the net, a successful penalty kill early and quality chances against were kept to a minimum.
Larkin-Athanasiou-Sproul on the first power-play attempt? This is looking pretty good. The Wings had their share of chances and actually outshot the Sharks 11-6 in the first and were a phenomenal 61% at the dot despite San Jose’s excellent depth at centre. Howard also looked comfortable in net again showing that maybe this tandem may be a positive setup for the Wings.
The lines were clicking and Detroit’s best continued to standout. Vanek had some great looks and exceptional passes benefitting greatly from the speed of Helm and Athanasiou on that line. Nyquist was getting dirty in the corners again and has continued his reign as one of the players on the roster working hardest for that bounce-back season. This was his game from start to finish tonight.
The second started with Larkin keeping his goon streak going on a weak hooking call. We got a quick look at a dangerous PK unit of Nielsen and Athanasiou, something I think many Wings’ fans hope continues. But the momentum had clearly shifted to start the second and the Wings were on the hunt to get it back.
Then the Goose got loose ladies and gentleman. You probably won’t believe this but Ericsson managed to settle the play, use his size to gain position and delivered a phenomenal one-handed pass to Nyquist who slyly used Vanek as his decoy before rocking this missile top cheese:
This play by Ericsson to setup Nyquist’s goal.. Who is this guy?! pic.twitter.com/WBQpDMuJ0x
— Ky.L. Stine (@KyleWIIM) October 23, 2016
Make that the 100th career point for the heavy-weight, Jonathan Ericsson and two goals in two nights for Nyquist. Wow, look how productive he is when he’s not buried in the bottom-six.
We found ourselves in another lull before Ryan Sproul, fighting for regular time with the team, hopped up into the play. A close call on a goal of his own but then it’s all about this recovery:
Nyquist’s 2nd goal pic.twitter.com/n6lNpzUDvX
— Stephanie (@myregularface) October 23, 2016
When the Goose gets loose you better watch out. Another for Nyquist, as Ken Holland’s critique of his game last season still lights the fire.
Some close calls on a San Jose power-play closed off the second period but Jimmy Howard finished perfect still. The gap was closing but Detroit managed to come out on top in shots at 20-18 and did an excellent job of restricting SJ’s top talent.
There are some things in your life that when you see them, you just know they’ll be burned into your memory forever. Andreas Athanasiou decided to put on a slapshot clinic in his return to the lineup:
Athanasiou snipe https://t.co/Y6kGcyoVZr
— SportsCenter Mich (@SportsCenterUM) October 23, 2016
Like Giotto painting a perfect circle for the Pope, Athanasiou unleashes the picture of perfect snipe with a clapper for the ages.
The best part is Detroit managed to hold off one of the leagues best offences. They were blocking shots, they were grinding and unlike last season, they never let up on the offence.
It was a game where the Wings were composed, calculated and played a full 60 minutes.
THEY WERE GOOD TONIGHT
This was probably the best game the team has put together yet this season. Everyone was playing well, Howard played with a confidence we hadn’t seen in a long time, and every aspect of their game seemed on point. Even though the power-play didn’t manage to score on six chances, it at least looked good. It had movement, the chances were great, San Jose just defended very well. The PK was phenomenal and everyone played their roles. There was nothing to be worried about in Detroit’s play tonight despite having played last night.
WHERE TO FROM HERE?
The Wings stay at home for one more game vs. Carolina this week. They’ll have a tough run of St. Louis, Boston and Florida after that but for now we can all be content with how the Wings came out of this second weekend of the regular season.