Opening day is always fun (congrats to the Leafs, Blues, Oilers and Flyers for achieving 1-0-0 records, by the way), but I think its safe to say that I actually get more excited for the second day when there’s far more action (don’t even get me started about the first Saturday of the season!).
Tonight, there are eight games on the schedule, starting with three (Nashville at Boston, Montréal at Buffalo [RDS/TSN2] and Colorado at the New York Rangers) at 7 p.m. and a pair (Washington at Ottawa [RDS2] and Minnesota at Detroit [NBCSN]) half an hour later. 8:30 p.m. marks the puck drop of Pittsburgh at Chicago (SN360), while 10 p.m. features the evening’s co-nightcaps: Arizona at Anaheim and Philadelphia at Los Angeles (NBCSN). All times Eastern.
There’s certainly some fantastic games on the schedule, but one in particular has caught my eye.
Yes, we all know Detroit missed the playoffs last season for the first time in 25 years. That narrative was played out for the entirety of the 2016-’17 campaign.
Unfortunately, I think that story overshadowed another equally important one, especially among out-of-town fans: for the first time since December 27, 1979, the Red Wings will no longer call Joe Louis Arena home.
I cannot say I ever had the pleasure of walking into The Joe. Heck, I’ve never even been to Detroit. But for those who have, I can only imagine it was a wonderfully magical experience. Few buildings currently standing in the NHL have borne witness to such prolonged greatness.
C Steve Yzerman scored quite a few of his 692 goals between those unpredictable boards, and Nicklas Lidstrom year in and year out proved his defensive prowess by winning seven Norris Trophies and contributing to four Stanley Cup-winning efforts.
Manny Legace and Chris Osgood are just two of the many heralded goalies to man The Joe’s posts, while few defended his designated area like Bob Probert and his beloved penalty box. In fact, after spending so much of his hockey career defending his fellow Red Wings from Wendel Clark and RW Tie Domi and assuming his spot in the sin bin, Probert’s ashes were scattered in the arena’s penalty box following the club’s final home game last season.
But, unless something dramatic happens to Little Caesars Arena before 7:30 p.m. tonight, the time for Joe Louis Arena (and The Palace at Auburn Hills, for all you basketball fans) has come and gone.
And so, a new chapter in the story that is the Detroit Red Wings begins tonight as this team adjusts to its new home and begins work on building “Hockeytown Dynasty 2.0.”
Unfortunately, I don’t think that chapter gets a good starts tonight, as the Wild should be more than able to spoil the arena’s Grand Opening. Minnesota returns much of a roster that won 12-straight games en route to a 106-point season, including G Devan Dubnyk (40-19-5 record on a .923 save percentage and 2.25 GAA last season), F Mikael Granlund (26-43-69 totals in 2016-’17) and D Ryan Suter (allowed only six even-strength or shorthanded goals last season).
For Detroit, G Jimmy Howard will surely get the opening night start and will be under heavy pressure all night. Even though the Wings added D Trevor Daley, Howard may be the only line of defense considering how much Detroit’s blue line struggled last season. Knowing the Wild fired 30.8 shots-per-game last season, he may be in for a long night.
Offensively, the Red Wings have two sneaky-good top lines in Tomas Tatar–Henrik Zetterberg–Gustav Nyquist and Anthony Mantha–Dylan Larkin–Martin Frk, but the real question will be if these six have enough firepower in them to keep this team relevant all season against some of the best defenses. This game should provide an effective litmus test in determining just that.
I feel pretty safe in predicting a Wild win tonight, especially when seeing some bookies listing Minnesota at a -140 favorite.