It’s the start of a new era in Detroit.
As we say goodbye to the many memories we’ve had over the past 20+ years playing the Red Wings at the Joe, we say hello to a brand spanking new building called Little Caesars Arena, and a Red Wings team who has also taken a dive towards mediocrity.
When the NHL realigned divisions in 2013, the Red Wings moved from the western conference to the east in a move that would become the fatal dagger to the heart for a rivalry that was already on life support.
Many of the bloody battles between the Avs and Red Wings came at the aforementioned Joe Louis Arena. One of the biggest on-ice melees occurred March 26th, 1997. I was 10 years old at the time and still remember being glued to the TV watching this game on the floor of my living room. It has become known as “Bloody Wednesday” and will go down as one of the bloodiest brawls the NHL will ever witness.
Maltby. McCarty. Larionov. Draper. Holmstrom. All names that were forbidden in my house growing up. Even to this day, it makes me cringe to hear Darren McCarty’s name.
But this is a different Red Wings team than in recent years.
Last season, the Detroit Red Wings failed to make the playoffs for the first time in 25 years. Many analysts say they’re in a rebounding year, others say it’s the coaching, but one thing is still clear, this game is circled on both team calendars this season.
The rivalry may not be what it was 20 years ago and even less so for the many players who were not even born yet, but for the fans, there’s always that extra little bit of fire when the two teams get together.
The Avalanche are back on the ice after getting blown out in Nashville last night. Special teams were the kryptonite for the Avalanche last night as they went 0 for 7 on the powerplay and gave up 2 of their own on 4 kills. Not to take anything away from Nashville’s PK last night, they were really good, but given the Avalanche had plenty of opportunities on the man advantage that were squandered, you’d expect that to be a point of emphasis today.
Dominic Toninato made his NHL debut last night and will draw back into the lineup vs the Red Wings centering Andrighetto and Yakupov. Bednar likes to keep the lines balanced with offensively skilled guys paired with defensively skilled guys and he has that with the Ghetto/Toninato/Yak line.
Toninato recorded 10:20 of ice time with 2 hits and 0 shots. He also jumped on the PK a bit as well. He won’t light up the score sheet every night but will do a good job in the D zone.
With it being such a short turn around for the Avs, I would expect the lines to be the same as they were last night.
Tyson Barrie returned from an upper-body injury and ate up the minutes with 20:53 TOI. Between him, Johnson and Girard, they hogged the minutes for defencemen last night. All three eclipsing 20 minutes while the next highest d man was Barberio with 14:42 TOI.
Andrei Mironov recorded his first NHL points last night with a goal and assist late in the game. We don’t seem to give enough credit for Mironov here at MHH but he has looked like he is progressing in his defensive duties and looks more comfortable with the puck. He still tries to hit first, play D second, but that should change with more games under his belt.
Detroit Red Wings
The Red Wings are led by a young core of guys made up of Anthony Mantha, Dylan Larkin, and Andreas Athanasiou.
Mantha leads the team in goals (10) and points (19). He’s a key figure on a powerplay who ranks 8th overall. That is one thing the Avalanche will really need to avoid today, staying out of the box.
With a PP that is top 10 in the league, the Red Wings PK is even better. They currently rank 6th in the NHL for PK%. Special teams could again be the difference for the Avalanche.
The forwards group is a lot like we’ve seen these past couple of years. No big changes to their roster over the off-season. Johan Franzen has been placed on long-term IR with concussion symptoms. He hasn’t skated all year for the Red Wings.
Mike Green leads all defencemen in points with 17 and leads the team in assists with 16. He’s a big fixture on the top PP unit with more than half his points coming with the man advantage.
Trevor Daley came over from Pittsburgh over the off-season and seems supplanted on the 2nd pair duties with Jonathan Ericsson.
The Red Wings defensive core, along with the forwards, haven’t seen much change to their lineup this season from previous years. They’re a veteran group and one that can shut down the best of them.
Jonathan Bernier will tend the crease tonight for the Avalanche. Varlamov didn’t have his best effort last night and will get some rest on the bench. Bernier let in what could be the blunder of the year from a bad bounce against the Ottawa Senators in Sweden. He has a record of 2-4-0 with a 3.71 goals against average and a .887 save percentage.
Jimmy Howard will be in the opposing crease. He’s riding a 2 game win streak and has been strong again this season with an 8-5-1 mark to go with a 2.23 GAA and a .931 save percentage.
How to Watch/Listen
Altitude Sports will televise the game from Detroit. Early puck drop due at 4pm MST.
If you’re listening from the radio waves, the game will air with our friend Marc Moser on 950AM Altitude Sports Network.