The Detroit Red Wings got an opening night win over the Buffalo Sabres on Wednesday, and they can thank goaltender Jimmy Howard and a solid penalty kill for that. The 19 saves Howard finished the night with were not an accurate reflection of how much work he actually did, and the Wings’ penalty kill stood tall against seven Buffalo opportunities, including a pair of 5-on-3 chances. For all of the good work done on the defensive end, the lack of chances on three power plays showed that Detroit still has work to do on special teams.
The power play took a while to get going for the Red Wings last year too, but the offseason acquisitions of Stephen Weiss and Daniel Alfredsson were supposed to strengthen things in that area. Alfredsson played four minutes with the man-advantage, while Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk and Johan Franzen were all also close to the four minute mark. A second unit featuring Dan Cleary, Mikael Samuelsson and Weiss didn’t fare any better, and there’s no doubt that this will be an area of focus before the next game. Too much passing and not enough shooting continues to be an issue on the power play, and while getting a win to start the season was nice, there’s still a lot to do before facing tougher competition.
Among the standouts on the penalty kill were Cory Emmerton, who played more than three minutes of time shorthanded after being waived earlier in the week. Niklas Kronwall, Jonathan Ericsson, Brendan Smith and Kyle Quincey played a great game defensively, each logging more than four minutes of time on the penalty kill. Second-year pro Joakim Andersson blocked two shots and logged more shorthanded ice time than any other forward, as he continues to establish his value over other young players.
The Red Wings will get a chance to improve on their special teams play on Friday, when they visit a Carolina Hurricanes team that had the fourth-worst power play and third-worst penalty kill in the league last season.