The Detroit Red Wings had a homecoming of sorts to mark the beginning of the regular season.
Because Detroit has eight Swedish-born superstars such as Nicklas Lidstrom and Henrik Zetterberg, they were selected to play two games against their division rival St. Louis Blues at Ericsson Globe, in Stockholm, Sweden Oct. 2 and 3.
The trip was seen as a wasted opportunity by some.
“It’s real bad,” said Tomas Holmstrom when asked by NHL.com. “We’re really disappointed with the way we played.”
The Wings came out and initially blanked the Blues in the first period of both games, only to ease up and eventually surrender the lead by giving up goals on an array of Blues’ power plays.
Going back to Head Coach Mike Babcock’s comments from last season, the Wings need to find a way to be the “hardest working team in the NHL.” That means easing up will not be an option for the 2009-10 Red Wings.
“We need to play better over 60 minutes of hockey,” said Niklas Kronwall, when asked about the games in Sweden.
One continuing issue for the Red Wings would be the woes of Chris Osgood.
In game one, the veteran goaltender managed to blow a 3-1 lead, eventually losing, 4-3. He looked like the Osgood of yesteryear—the Ozzy who had a mental breakdown during the regular season, not the Ozzy we saw during the playoffs, where he was relatively solid.
Rookie goaltender Jimmy Howard didn’t fare any better in game two, giving up five goals in a 5-3 loss. If Howard is the future of the franchise, the Wings may as well start looking for free agents now. He stopped just 27 of 32 shots in game two. His save percentage is .844 with a 5.17 goals against average.
After losing back-up goal tender Ty Conklin over the summer, who started a third of the games in place of Osgood, the Wings are expecting Osgood to take on more starts this season. The expectation for Howard is to start 25-30 games this season.
Much like last season, the Wings also had a hard time with their penalty kill (ranked 25th last year), allowing the Blues to go 4-for-9 on the power play in the Sweden series. St. Louis managed to score nine goals on just 55 shots in both games.
Detroit is missing the huge contributions of Marian Hossa, Jiri Hudler and Mikael Samuelsson, all of whom left the franchise during the off-season, and combined for 82 goals during last year’s regular season.
Worse yet, Johan Franzen, who scored the winning goal for Detroit in their home opener against the Chicago Blackhawks, will be out for at least three months with a torn ACL. Franzen contributed 34 goals last season, and was generally seen as Detroit’s leading goal scorer after Hossa split for Chicago.
The Red Wings managed to win at home against Alexander Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals in a 3-2 bout. They started their season just 2-2, tied for last place in the Central Division of the Western Conference with the St. Louis Blues.
With so much of their high-powered offense decimated to almost nothing, the Wings will have to focus on their defensive end more and (surprise, surprise) goaltending will be a key component.