Cary, NC — The last time the Canes played the Detroit Red Wings was the last game of the COVID-19 shortened season on March 10, 2020, with the Canes coming out on top.
The season opener for both teams had the Canes, with Petr Mrazek in goal, shut out the Wings, 3-0.
The Red Wings had a horrible season last year and made several player changes while the Canes really only had one addition to the team in Jesper Fast. Of course, Justin Williams retired and a couple of UFA defensemen signed with other teams, but the core was remarkably unchanged which pleased coach Rod Brind’Amour.
There were many things to like about the Canes’ first game but being the no-nonsense coach that he is, Roddy saw a few items that need adjustments for the rematch Saturday night.
Niederreiter Opens Scoring
The two players that need a bounce-back year are Nino Niederreiter and Ryan Dzingel. Both are talented forwards that admittedly had off years last season. Each of them wound up on the score sheet last night, which hopefully is a script for things to come.
El Niño was put on the top line with Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen which without saying anything by Roddy, means you’re out there to produce. Early in the first, the Wings were clearing the puck but made a weak flip out of the zone that Seabass knocked out of the air.
He turned around and brought the puck back into the offensive zone with two defenders draped over him. Seabass, aka Fishy, went down the right side, retained possession, stretched his stick and made a backhand pass to the slot. The puck went between Turbo’s skates and directly onto El Niño’s tape who waited for Thomas Greiss to make a move.
Sure enough, Niederreiter then sent the puck top shelf, bowling Greiss over on the follow-through above the crease. The Canes defense was highly effective, not just the defensemen but the forechecking from Canes forwards in the D-zone was non stop.
The defensemen held their ground in the dirty area of the crease, allowing Mrazek clear lanes to see the puck. Mrazek didn’t see many shots but kept himself in the game with several poke checks pushing the puck off a stick or deflecting a pass.
Pesce, Hamilton Return to Ice
Dougie Hamilton played his first game since breaking a leg in January 2020 while Brett Pesce played his first since a shoulder injury that led to surgery in February 2020. Both haven’t lost a beat as they each had solid games. Haydn Fleury stepped up his game when the opportunity came with his teammates out, showing why the Canes made him a first-round pick.
Brady Skjei, the trade deadline pickup, was throwing his weight around with solid, hard and all legal hits. Roddy must have mentioned the Wings got stronger in the first as the game went on as the Wings’ best stretch was the last 6 to 7 minutes of the first.
The second period was a complete shutdown even though the Wings got their most shots for a period for the game at 6. Mrazek made some excellent saves and he’ll say he was in perfect position as a couple of shots rang off the pipes. The Canes dominated control of the puck in both the Wings’ end and the neutral zone.
Dougie Drops Gloves, Defends Captain
Late in the period, Sam Gagner hit Jordan Staal from behind, knocking Staal into the boards in front of the bench.
Hamilton, not known for fighting, took exception to the hit and stood up for his captain. The Canes, like the Red Wings, are not teams that have an enforcer nor look for altercations during a game but both teams respect when and why it’s sometimes necessary. Both Hamilton and Gagner got 5-minute penalties to cool off.
Dzingel, Svechnikov Get Their Firsts
The score stayed at just 1-0 with the Canes dominating play without more goals for the second period and well into the third. Then, the Canes stepped up their play.
The passing within the offensive zone was much better with plays being set up and shots, good quality shots, forcing Greiss to come up with saves. Early in the final period, Warren Foegele got called for holding and this may have been the turning point of the game. Give up a goal, let the Wings back in the game or stave off the penalty and keep the momentum.
Not only did the Canes kill off the penalty, but they also did not allow a shot with the man down defense looking very strong. Late in the period with the Canes on the attack, Seabass was in the crease going for the puck after a shot from the point by Hamilton but was pulled down by Patrick Nemeth, giving Canes the man advantage.
Martin Necas had the puck along the far-half boards, passing up to Jake Gardiner. Gardiner took a stride then sent the puck down Broadway into traffic. The puck looked like it ticked Niederreiter’s stick, redirecting it slightly with Dzingel eyeing the puck then angled his stick just so, allowing the puck to deflect into the net for a 2-0 lead.
With two minutes remaining, the Wings pulled their goalie in a last-ditch effort to get on the board. After a shot went wide, Turbo angled the puck off the boards up to Andrei Svechnikov on his off-wing side. Svech cleared the puck out of the D-zone and just as he was double-teamed, carefully sent the puck 125’ to the center of the net, icing the game.
Last night was a great start for the Canes, especially with the special team doing very well. This 56-game race to the playoffs has begun and as expected, Roddy will continue to point out the areas for improvement.
Next game is Saturday at 7 PM in Detroit — Go Canes!
All the Cary news for the informed Cary citizen. Subscribe by email.