By Ashley Dunkak
JOE LOUIS ARENA (CBS DETROIT) – Based on Wednesday’s season opener, it looks like the move to the Eastern Conference is turning out well for the Detroit Red Wings.
Granted, the Buffalo Sabres might not be the most accurate measuring stick, but even in a game in which the Red Wings committed seven penalties, giving Buffalo ample opportunities, Detroit dominated the game much more than the 2-1 final score indicated.
“They were huge tonight,” Detroit right wing Daniel Alfredsson said. “Usually the goalie is the best penalty killer and he was outstanding tonight. Also guys were sacrificing themselves, throwing their bodies in front of shots. I’m sure Buffalo walks away here tonight with wasted opportunity with the amount of power play chances they had.”
Mistakes aside, it seemed a solid start to what many expect to be another season culminating in a chase for the Stanley Cup. The Red Wings fared well even though players admitted there was a difference playing a relatively unknown team.
“Being in West for so long, you just – you knew what was going to happen,” goalie Jimmy Howard said. “These situations are new, there are new players out there that we aren’t familiar with, but you’re going to get familiar with them relatively fast. Especially, the video, it does help tremendously, especially when we do that before the game.”
As much as video helps, though, it cannot replace the familiarity with an opponent that one only gains by playing them again and again.
“You have to be alert,” Howard said. “You have to expect the unexpected out there. When you’re playing against guys for the first time, and you read the sheets and you watch the video, but there could be totally different scenario out there in what they like to do, so for the most part right now it’s just expect the unexpected.”
The goalie seemed averse to using the newness of life in the East as any kind of excuse, however. He said video would essentially be sufficient to prepare the Red Wings for teams they have not faced and implied that any lack of experience playing those teams should not affect the outcome of games.
“There’s enough video nowadays that it shouldn’t really matter,” Howard said. “The coaching staff over there does a great job of breaking down the team for us, breaking down their players and their tendencies, so there shouldn’t really be any surprises for us.”
As the Red Wings as a group adjusted to life in their new conference, Alfredsson worked into a rhythm with his new teammates. A 17-year NHL veteran, Alfredsson spent his entire career until this season with the Ottawa Senators.
He could not deny he felt a little nervous before Wednesday’s season opener.
“It’s a new situation,” Alfredsson said. “I knew exactly what to expect when I was in Ottawa, what was going to happen before the game, who worked in the arena and who I know. It’s different fans, and you definitely want to show your best side, and that makes you nervous I think.”
“I wanted to have a good game and definitely wanted a big win here tonight,” Alfredsson added. “I think that made me nervous. Overall I feel – I’ve been here over a month now and gotten to know most of the guys and feel comfortable in the locker room. It hasn’t been that different. It’s still you come to practice, it’s the same setup, you have meetings before the games. It’s new guys, I knew some of them from before, so it’s been a lot of fun and it’s nice to win the first game here.”