Detroit Red Wings: Atlantic Division Debut a Stark Contrast to Last Year's Start

Matt HutterAnalyst IOctober 3, 2013

DETROIT, MI - OCTOBER 02: Jimmy Howard #35 and Niklas Kronwall #55 of the Detroit Red Wings celebrate a 2-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres at Joe Louis Arena on October 2, 2013 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

It was, very likely, the worst game the Detroit Red Wings have played in 20 years.

Disorganized, uninspired, offensively anemic and defensively horrific hockey that would need a great deal of work to rise to the level of embarrassing.

It was a 6-0 graphic dissection at the hands of the St. Louis Blues, and it set the lowest of bars for the Red Wings' 2012-13 season and the hope of a stunned fanbase.

Aside from the uniforms, there's virtually no resemblance between the team that began that season and the one that just made their Eastern Conference debut against the Buffalo Sabres.  The 2013-14 Detroit Red Wings are off to a far more promising start than the team from a year ago.

The newest Red Wings, Daniel Alfredsson and Stephen Weiss, looked confident and comfortable on a line with Red Wings veteran Johan Franzen.  Each of them generated offensive chances and drove the net with authority.

The top line of Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk and Justin Abdelkader looked downright lethal nearly every time they cleared the boards.

A third-line trio of Dan Cleary, Joakim Andersson and Todd Bertuzzi—we might call them the "two goats and a kid" line—impressed with considerable jam and net-front presence.

However, it was Detroit's fourth line, centered by Cory Emmerton, who had the ignoble distinction of being waived only to be brought back due to an injured Patrick Eaves, that provided the most surprising performance of the night.  Along with wingers Drew Miller and Mikael Samuelsson, Emmerton's line was responsible for opening the scoring and made legitimate threats to continue the same throughout the night.

Still, as impressive as the forward corps was on this night, it was Detroit's young defense that deserves the most fanfare.

Top to bottom, Detroit's young blue-line group demonstrated that their superb performance that began the last month of the 2012-13 season and on into the playoffs was no fluke.

Kyle Quincey, Brendan Smith and Danny DeKeyser in particular looked hellbent on pushing the action at uncomfortably brisk pace against a Sabres team that not only had no idea who the hell these guys were, but also had no idea how the hell to beat them.

Which brings us to Jimmy Howard.

Howard, despite a behind-the-net miscue that gifted Buffalo with their lone goal, exhibited nothing but the calm, steady presence he's provided for the past three seasons.  From start to finish, the Red Wings were in total control of their destiny on this night.

However, just like the horror from a season ago, it must be acknowledged that this is only the first game of the season.  Furthermore, and with all due respect to the Wings' opponents, the Buffalo Sabres are not exactly expected to be a powerhouse in the Atlantic Division this year.

Promising start or no, Detroit has an 81-game climb ahead of them and a summit that isn't close to coming into view.

Though the new additions look right at home, the veterans ready to keep on rolling, the young defenders prepared to anchor the back end and their goalie capable of a convincing brick wall impression, the Red Wings' success this season is far from guaranteed.

Nevertheless, contrasting their start from a season ago, they're providing their fanbase with a whole lot more to be hopeful about.