Detroit — What's the biggest thing the Red Wings have learned from this exhibition season?
Simply, the depth in the organization is real. And it's quite good.
That was made clear yet again Thursday while the Red Wings were defeating a minor league-dominated roster of Pittsburgh Penguins, 6-1.
Specifically in this game, the line of Teemu Pulkkinen (two goals, two assists), Dylan Larkin (two goals) and Tyler Bertuzzi (goal, three assists) was arguably the most impressive for either team.
Drew Miller added a goal, and goaltender Jimmy Howard stopped 34 shots, the only goal to beat him being from Pittsburgh's Beau Bennett's in the third period, as the Red Wings won their second in three exhibition games (2-0-1).
But again, it was the long list of young players who continue to open eyes, led Thursday by the Larkin line.
"The future is bright," said Larkin, a Waterford native making his professional debut at Joe Louis Arena. "All the young guys that are here playing. It's a compliment to the drafting they've done, and the people they've brought in and the players who've put in the work."
Another positive for the Red Wings was the return of Johan Franzen to the lineup. Franzen hadn't played since January after suffering a concussion, and played a regular shift on a line with Riley Sheahan and Luke Glendening.
Franzen played 16 minutes and had an assist.
"He looked real good," coach Jeff Blashill said. "I know he's worked hard because I saw it firsthand; he was in here in August and skating for a long time. He's gotten himself into good shape and he's eager to play."
Fans got to see even more hockey after regulation time. A five-minute, three-on-three overtime format was used in an effort to get both teams comfortable with the new rule.
The NHL is using the three-on-three format this season in an effort to have fewer games decided by the shootout.
But a Penguins penalty in overtime curtailed the 3-on-3 and gave the Red Wings a power play (Sergei Plotnikov scored shorthanded for Pittsburgh, although it didn't count in the final score).
But if this were a regular game, overtime would have been hardly needed.
Bertuzzi, Larkin and Pulkkinen all scored first-period goals to decide the outcome early.
"We worked together real good as a line, found each other, and rewarded ourselves," Bertuzzi said.
Larkin, the Waterford native making his first professional appearance at Joe Louis Arena, made it 2-0 on a five-on-three Red Wings advantage.
Larkin was all alone to put back the rebound off a Pulkkinen blast, much to the pleasure of hundreds of Waterford family and friends attending.
"It was pretty cool to look into the stands and see a lot of familiar faces," Larkin said. "It's pretty cool to see all the support."
With the Red Wings still enjoying a power play, Pulkkinen made it 3-0 at 18:11 on a pinpoint shot into the upper corner.
The organization's depth is good news for the Red Wings now, said Blashill, be it during this regular season when injuries are bound to occur — or long term as the young players blend into the roster.
"The depth can provide us success," Blashill said.