COMMENTARY | With a couple new pieces via free agency, the Detroit Red Wings were a popular Stanley Cup champion pick.
After their first game against the Buffalo Sabres, it's clear they are better than last year, but there are still a lot of improvements that need to be made.
Here are three things we learned in the Red Wings' 2-1 win against the Sabres on Wednesday, October 2:
Red Wings took too many penalties
This was a problem last year, and one game into the 2013-14 season, it hasn't gotten any better. It would be understandable if they were good penalties -- yes, there are good penalties -- but they were silly penalties.
The Red Wings had to kill off two 5 on 3 opportunities. Luckily, Buffalo's power play was as bad as anything that comes out of Pierre McGuire's mouth (Kyle Quincey is good at golf, apparently), but a better team will take advantage of those mistakes.
On the other side, the Red Wings' power play also needs to improve. They didn't have nearly as many chances as the Sabres did, but the first two opportunities didn't yield very many scoring chances.
Daniel Alfredsson took a lot of shots -- most of them were blocked -- but I like seeing him put the puck on the net and create opportunities for his teammates to pick up rebounds.
Fourth line contributes
I was interested to see how Johan Franzen, Stephen Weiss and Alfredsson would work together on the second line. However, it was the fourth line of Drew Miller, Mikael Samuelsson and Cory Emmerton that impressed me.
Not only because Samuelsson got the first goal of the game, but because they created scoring chances that you wouldn't normally expect a fourth line to make.
Emmerton even had a shorthanded breakaway opportunity in which he was awarded a penalty shot after Tomas Vanek took him down. Miller created the play by intercepting a bad pass and hitting Emmerton on the outlet pass.
You can tell Emmerton was playing with a bit of chip on his shoulder after being waived and assigned to Grand Rapids just days ago. Realistically, his production will probably decline as the season goes on.
Red Wings defense active
The Red Wings defense was active against the Sabres. Jonathan Ericsson's aggressiveness was the reason Pavel Datsyuk scored what would end up being the game-winning goal.
Ericsson's forecheck caused a bad pass, which Datsyuk intercepted and roofed in the top corner past Ryan Miller.
Using defenders to create offense is great for a team like Detroit to use. They have smart forwards that won't get caught deep in their attacking zone when a defender decides to put pressure on the opposing team.
It's also a great weapon to use against a team like Buffalo, which is a younger team and more susceptible to coughing up the puck when it faces pressure.
Overall, it was a solid win by the Red Wings. The game was a lot closer than it should have been because Detroit took too many penalties. It needs to be corrected sooner rather than later, or they will be putting themselves in some tough situations when they face the better teams of the Eastern Conference.
Tom Mitsos is a Michigan native who covers the Detroit Red Wings for the Yahoo! Contributor Network. He also co-hosts a Red Wings Podcast called The Octopod, and is a high school sports reporter at MLive Media Group. You can follow Tom on Twitter.
- Sports & Recreation
- Ice Hockey
- Detroit Red Wings
- Buffalo Sabres
- Cory Emmerton
- Jonathan Ericsson