The shocking news out of Ottawa that July day regarding their long-time captain, franchise player and community icon, Daniel Alfredsson, leaving the Senators to join the Red Wings made Alfredsson’s return to Ottawa an instant must-watch affair.
However, no one could have guessed then that this game would double as the Detroit Red Wings’ coming-out party for the 2013-14 season.
That was supposed to occur much sooner in the season as Alfredsson’s addition, combined with a team trending as positively as Detroit was at the time, essentially put the rest of the league on notice that the Red Wings were going to be a force to be reckoned with.
As far as coming-out parties go, later is decidedly better than never.
With their win over the Senators, the Red Wings seem to be heading in the right direction such that hope, or something like it, may now be warranted among the Detroit fanbase.
It isn’t just that this marks Detroit’s fourth win in a row or that it’s the first out of three chances the Red Wings have had to beat their divisional rivals; those things are significant, but this win is evidence of something more.
Despite the on- and off-ice distractions caused by Alfredsson’s return, the man and the team’s emotional reactions to the same, and the continued absence of top players in Pavel Datsyuk and Danny DeKeyser, the Detroit Red Wings executed their game plan from start to finish.
This game plan, consisting of a sound defense generating effective offense and a consistency of effort throughout the lineup, is the same the Red Wings have executed since their current winning streak began a week ago in Buffalo.
It’s something head coach Mike Babcock recognized after the team’s 5-0 win over the New York Islanders, as he expressed to Helen St. James at the Detroit Free Press, “To me it’s just like life. If you stick with the process and you stick together and keep working, things work out for you.”
That they have managed to continue executing this plan seems to suggest that the 2013-14 Red Wings may finally have found themselves. If so, the rest of the league may finally start seeing the team they expected to see shortly after that day back in July.
Be it “buying in” to head coach Mike Babcock’s system or “stepping up” in the absence of fallen comrades in Datsyuk or DeKeyser, the Red Wings, as a team, seem finally to be skating in the right direction and are earning wins on their own terms, whatever the label.
The Senators out-shot the Red Wings 32-23 and had four power-play chances to the Red Wings’ one. On chances alone, the Senators looked as if they should have beaten Detroit for the third straight time this season.
However, the Red Wings benefited from another strong goaltending performance by Jonas Gustavsson and managed to make the most of their scoring chances generated by an alert and responsible defense.
Indeed, for the fourth game in a row, Detroit’s defense had a significant part in its offensive production. Also, young blueliners like Brian Lashoff and Brendan Smith, though still learning their roles, seem to be getting the feel for life as a Red Wings defenseman.
Up front, the Red Wings are finally getting consistent effort out of Johan Franzen, who opened the scoring against the Senators. Unlikely heroes such as Drew Miller, who potted two goals on the night, are emerging more frequently.
Winning when out-shooting and out-chancing opponents is expected and, on most nights, any team that does this can expect to walk out of the arena with two points. However, winning despite what the opposition throws at you is evidence of a team working a system they believe in and working it well.
It appears that the Detroit Red Wings are starting to resemble the team so many thought they’d be when Daniel Alfredsson left Ottawa all those months ago.
That they chose his homecoming to make this statement was probably a bit behind schedule, but the timing could not have been better.