Detroit Red Wings fans tried fruitlessly to keep their hopes low when it came to Damien Brunner‘s NHL premiere last month. (Hey, we even had an article on it!) After all, changing to a smaller rink and a faster-paced game is a pretty drastic adjustment. All that chemistry he had with Henrik Zetterberg in the Swiss league, it couldn’t be so easily transferred, could it?
Two games into the season, it looked like it wasn’t about to transfer over, either. Then, in a last-minute effort, Brunner got his first NHL goal against the Dallas Stars, keeping the Red Wings from being shut out in another game. And Red Wings fans hoped that would open the floodgates.
Since the game against Dallas, Brunner has had a point in every game except for a 3-1 loss to Calgary last week. For a 26-year-old rookie who has yet to play consistently in the NHL, nine points in twelve games is phenomenal. And it puts him on pace for nearly 40 points in a shortened, 48-game season. Every point counts this season because it’s a constant race to the playoffs.
But does Brunner’s consistent output really surprise anyone?
He’s been playing point on the first power play unit. He’s been consistently on a line with Zetterberg, and sometimes shuffled around to be on Pavel Datsyuk‘s line. When you’re on a line with either of those two players, you’re bound to have some positive influence, offensively or defensively. His numbers should not be terribly shocking.
Damien Brunner is what we always hoped Valtteri Filppula would blossom into: A consistent, perfect mix of Zetterberg and Datsyuk. He’s not a big physical player like Johan Franzen, but he’s putting up numbers fans have hoped the Mule could do for the past few seasons.
Damien Brunner is everything Red Wings fans have wanted – and he has yet to disappoint. Granted, the bubble will probably burst sooner or later, but in a truncated season, this kind of offense is what the team needs. Besides – fans aren’t going to scoff at more offense. With a lackluster defense (anything is lackluster when Nicklas Lidstrom is no longer part of it), golden offense is wanted.
His presence on a line with Zetterberg has bolstered Zetterberg’s numbers as well. The Swedish Captain has had points in ten of twelve games and he’s on pace for a 70 point season. Hitting that 70 point mark in what would normally be a little over half a regular season is impressive. He hit 69 points last season and 80 the season before, and that’s from playing in 82 and 80 games respectively.
Brunner’s output is not just for his own benefit, because it rubs off on his teammates and linemates as well. Since this is what we all expected anyway, why should anyone be surprised?