By CHRIS ZADOROZNY, Sports Editor
Last Wednesday, the Detroit Red Wings started a 20-year old in net against one of the toughest teams in the league. Petr Mrazek, fresh out of the American Hockey League (AHL) was the youngest goaltender to start a hockey game for the Red Wings since Chris Osgood started in 1993.
The Red Wings went on to defeat the St. Louis Blues 5-1 in what was arguably their best performance of this short season. Who would have thought, a 20-year old rookie, starting in net for the Red Wings, would help defeat one of the league’s toughest?
It’s not only that Mrazek started and won his first career game though. It was the contributions from everyone else in the lineup. No more Lidstrom, no more Stuart, no more Rafalski, no more Holmstrom. The veterans are all but gone.
The free agent destination that players once clamored to come to is no longer. Detroit is now just another place to play, despite the awesome perks that are given by Red Wings management.
The Wings now have to grow internally by drafting well and producing some great players. So far, they have done so with Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, Niklas Kronwall, the list goes on and on.
On Wednesday, the Red Wings proved to the hockey world that they can still do that. Three of the five goals came from players that they drafted and developed throughout the system and another came from excellent scouting.
Dan Cleary got the scoring going, and he was a free agent pickup years ago, who many thought his play was on the decline. He picked it up wearing a winged wheel, and scored his first of the season to get the scoring going.
Defenseman Jakub Kindl was a first round draft pick, the highest in a long time (19 overall) and he scored his first of the season. Then, forward Cory Emmerton followed suit with his first of the season. He was a second round draft pick (41 overall).
Forward Damien Brunner, the result of some amazing scouting scored his fifth of the season and is on the top line with Zetterberg.
Finally, Valtteri Filppula, a mainstay on the team since 2005, was a third round pick (95 overall), and he scored his third of the season to really put the game away in the third period.
No longer are we seeing these top veteran players coming in to Hockeytown to rake in the cash and play along the best players in the league. The Red Wings are a scrappy team, kind of like the ones we used to see in the 1990s.
I’m not saying the Red Wings don’t have the best talent, but they certainly don’t have the worst. In fact, they could be one of the dark horses this year going into the playoffs. Don’t underestimate the Red Wings.
Hockeytown may not be what it once was, but that could be a good thing. Brace yourselves hockey fans, the game is changing, and so are the Red Wings, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be any more parades down Woodward.