Welcome Back Red Wings
Having watched the Red Wings on FSN the last two nights, I had the following thoughts:
-Niklas Kronwall is good. How good? Good enough to be a top-4 defenseman for most teams in the NHL RIGHT NOW. At this point I would not be surprised to see Kronwall starting next to Lidstrom with a second pairing of Schneider and Fischer and a third set of Chelios and Delmore.
-It will be hard for any team in the NHL to match Detroit's powerplay defenseman (Lidstrom, Schneider, Kronwall and Delmore). This bodes very well for Detroit as there will most likely be numerous opportunities to show off this talent in the new-look NHL.
-Jimmy Howard looked pretty good. I'm confident that he can hold down the backup goalie spot until Osgood returns from his groin tear. Now that Al Montoya has moved on to the Rangers, I think that I can finally acknowledge that Howard was the best junior goalie in the NCAA last season. Howard didn't allow a goal for the entire third period and stood on his head in OT before Columbus just got one too many lucky bounces and Detroit couldn't clear. A great effort overall.
-Kris Draper hasn't lost a step at all. He could easily score 40 goals this season.
-Howard desperately needs a helmet that doesn't say "Maine".
-Jiri Hudler reminded me a lot of TJ Hensick, especially on powerplays where he has a tendency to skate all the way around the penalty kill guys.
-Johan Franzen looked good defensively. I think that Detroit will keep him as a fourth liner who could give them some offense from time to time as he continues to develop.
-Mark Mowers is a gritty forward who plays pretty good defense and doesn't mind getting in front of the net and mix things up. If he doesn't start the season in Detroit, he will provide significant depth down the stretch.
-For the most part the new NHL rules looked great in practice. The Detroit-Colorado game must have been incredible to see live as it was just incredibly fast. All this space has been benefiting Draper, Hudler and Kronwall especially. I can't wait to see Datsyuk.
-The Wings really struggled to finish in both games, but Datsyuk, Zetterburg and Holmstrom didn't play in either game, so I expect them to improve in this regard.
-Overall I was very happy with what I saw and I have no doubts that the Wings will contend both this season and for many years to come with the quality youngsters that they have in their system.