With the lockout finally over and the shortened 2013 season underway, there’s nothing the Detroit Red Wings would have liked more Saturday night than to set the tone with a road win in St. Louis. What they got instead was a close up look at why so many people think the Blues are the favorites to not only win the Central Division, but the Stanley Cup.
The Blues looked every bit the top contender as they took control early and never let up, besting the Red Wings in every phase of the game en route to a dominating 6-0 victory. Rookie right wing Vladimir Tarasenko made a memorable NHL debut by scoring twice, and the Blues special teams struck early and often to the tune of four power play goals and one shorthanded tally.
In a dismal performance by a Detroit defense playing its first game without longtime anchor Nicklas Lidstrom, it was Kyle Quincey who will most want to put the night behind him. Quincey was victimized on both Tarasenko goals, the first one coming when he was unable to corral a long stretch pass off the boards by Ian Cole. Tarasenko skated in alone on Jimmy Howard, scoring high on the blocker side for his first NHL goal on his first shot.
Howard was able to keep the Red Wings in the game down just 2-0 after a first period where they were outshot 17-2. But Tarasenko struck again just 29 seconds into the second frame, dancing past Quincey and Jonathan Ericsson to give his team a three-goal lead.
It only got worse from there, as a combination of poor positioning and sloppy passing by the Wings left Howard continually hung out to dry. T.J. Oshie scored on a shorthanded breakaway with 3:51 left in the second after Detroit’s Mikael Samuelsson broken stick left his team disorganized in the offensive zone. Alex Pietrangelo‘s long pass found Oshie behind the defense, and he made no mistake in beating Howard.
Chris Stewart‘s second power play goal–also on a breakaway–ended Howard’s night 75 seconds into the third period. Jonas Gustavsson stopped seven of the eight shots he faced in relief, the lone exception coming on Patrik Berglund‘s power play deflection that made the score 6-0. The Blues were 4-for-5 on the night with the man advantage.
St. Louis goalie Jaroslav Halak was rarely tested, facing just 14 shots to record the shutout. Detroit’s best chance at avoiding a blanking came with just under four minutes remaining in the game, when Halak stacked the pads to deny Valtteri Filppula on multiple chances with the puck sitting right on the goal line.
The Red Wings will get just one day off to regroup from the opening night disappointment, as they head to Columbus to take on the Blue Jackets on Monday night. Detroit’s home opener is the following night against the Dallas Stars.
The game was over when…
Tarasenko scored for the second time. Despite getting outplayed in just about every way during the first 20 minutes, there was a sense that perhaps the Red Wings had weathered the storm and could climb back in the game by scoring the next goal. But with one slick move on Quincey, Tarasenko ended just about any thoughts of a comeback.
The unsung Red Wings hero was…
Goalie Jimmy Howard, though it’s using the term “hero” loosely in a 6-0 drubbing. Given very little help from his defense, Howard made a variety of saves to keep the contest within reason for as long as he could. He was virtually powerless to stop any of the goals he allowed, and his removal for Gustavsson was a mercy pulling if there ever was one.