John Niyo and Ted Kulfan preview the 2018-19 Red Wings season. The Detroit News
Detroit — The expectations aren’t all that high.
You look at what many analysts are projecting from the Red Wings this season — and the projections aren’t great.
If they’re not one of the bottom-five teams in the NHL, it’ll be a successful season in many analysts’ minds.
But Wings players, not surprisingly, aren’t paying attention to it. If anything, they’re motivated to do even better.
As for coach Jeff Blashill, the unknowns ahead intrigue him after similar looking seasons in his coaching career.
“There’s a lot of unknowns, and anytime there’s a bunch of unknowns it’s hard to put expectations out there. You’re just not sure,” Blashill said. “I can tell you I felt that my first year in Grand Rapids (AHL), my first year at Indianapolis (junior hockey), my first year at Western Michigan (NCAA).
“You just don’t know.”
And, despite the big question marks heading into those seasons — at varying levels of hockey — Blashill’s teams had fine seasons.
“We had lots of success — to great success,” Blashill said.
The Wings began the regular season Thursday with three defensemen (Dennis Cholowski, Filip Hronek, Libor Sulak) making their NHL debuts, and a fourth (Joe Hicketts) playing only his sixth NHL game.
Two forwards (Christoffer Ehn, Michael Rasmussen) also made their NHL debut for the Wings in the 3-2 overtime loss to Columbus.
How the young players progress and develop could dictate how the Wings play in the immediate future.
“(It’s) a lot of unknowns,” Blashill said. “That doesn’t mean it can’t be great. It just means you’re not sure.
“Certainly when you return four or five superstars, you know where you’re going to be. Somebody asked me what our goal is. Our goal is to win the (next) game and make sure we get better today and tomorrow and the next day. That’s the way we’ll focus on it.
“We’re not going to look any further past that. Once that game is over, we’ll put it behind us and try to win the game (ahead of it).”
Sometimes the two goalies on a given NHL team get along — sometimes, not so much.
When the Wings signed free agent goaltender Jonathan Bernier on July 1, there was always the chance Bernier and Jimmy Howard could have two personalities that simply didn’t mix.
But the two veteran goaltenders have gotten along perfectly, always a hopeful ingredient to any goaltending relationship.
“Most important is that guys play great,” said Blashill, himself a former goalie. “There’s situations where the relationships are healthy and some where they’re not.
“As long as guys play great, that’s what matters most. Having good chemistry and a good relationship helps guys play great a lot of times. That’s where to me, it becomes important, being able to have that type of chemistry.”
Speaking of chemistry, it seems forward Dylan Larkin and Anthony Mantha have developed a rapport over the past year.
And despite experimenting with several variations during the exhibition season, Blashill kept Larkin and Mantha together on a line, adding Gustav Nyquist just before the season began.
Larkin was pleased.
“For us, we both felt pretty good together in the preseason,” Larkin said of playing alongside Mantha. “It’s just the preseason and it doesn’t mean a whole lot, but the chemistry, you could feel it and it does feel like we have that.
“The biggest thing is we’re pretty good buddies so there’s a lot of communication, there’s open conversation, where sometimes if we don’t like what’s going on, we are talking it through, switching it up.
“It would be nice if we got here and we win some games early, creating offense and helping the team win. It would be awesome to play with a player like him all season.”
Red Wings at Kings
Faceoff: 10:30 p.m. Sunday, Staples Center, Los Angeles
Outlook: The Kings lost to San Jose in overtime in their regular-season opener. C Anze Kopitar had one of the Kings goals, after enjoying an MVP-caliber season last year…Kings G Jonathan Quick is regarded among the top-tier in the NHL.