We made it! Opening night is here!

The Red Wings are set to embark on a new season, starting off with a date with the Nashville Predators. No matter what the outside world is predicting about this Detroit team, internally they will not care. This is an organization that wants to make the playoffs, or at the very least, be competitive every night. With that the case, they’ll want to start off the season on the right note.

This will be Nashville’s second game of the season. They opened their season on Thursday against Minnesota and came away with a 5-2 victory.

Projected Lines

Detroit Red Wings

This lineup comes with an asterisk. Jeff Blashill has deemed Andreas Athanasiou as a game time decision. That leaves us with two scenarios to break down:

1.) If Athanasiou does draw in, he’ll be on a line with Luke Glendening and Taro Hirose. During yesterday’s practice Athanasiou was the center and Glendening was pushed to left wing. I imagine that has something to do with faceoffs. As to who will actually be playing center during play, that is still a mystery, although my money is on Glendening. Don’t focus too much on who is the “second line” or “third line”, the Athanasiou line should be seeing the most ice time at 5-on-5 after the Larkin line.

2.) If Athanasiou doesn’t draw in, it seems Valtteri Filppula will join the Glendening-Hirose line and Darren Helm will sub in next to Frans Nielsen and Adam Erne. Filppula will also replace Athanasiou on the second powerplay unit.

No other major changes to what we’ve seen in practice are anticipated. Dylan Larkin was questionable earlier this week, but all signs point to him being a lock to take the ice. Jimmy Howard gets the start in net tonight, which most likely means Jonathan Bernier will start in tomorrow’s home opener.

Nashville Predators

Nashville had an eventful offseason. They went out and signed marquee free agent Matt Duchene to a long-term deal. To clear the needed cap space for Duchene, the Preds made the bold decision to trade away the exuberant PK Subban. The return for Subban was underwhelming, but it was either keep the D-man or address their center depth issues.

However, the addition of rookie defensemen Dante Fabbro made Subban expandable. Not to mention, Nashville’s D-corps is still one of the best in the league — featuring Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis, and Mattias Ekhom.

In net the starter is still unconfirmed. Pekka Rinne started their season opener and could very well be the go-to tonight.

Three Thoughts

1. The New Powerplay

The Red Wings powerplay last season was woefully inefficient, finishing 13th-last in the league. It was the first year with Dan Bylsma taking the reins and expectations were high, considering his sparkling track record of running the man advantage in Pittsburgh and Buffalo.

The personnel this year is slightly different. Michael Rasmussen is out, now playing in the AHL. Despite being a powerplay specialist, Rasmussen is still learning how to maximize his skill-set against the very best, so for now, his exit is a positive for the powerplay. Adam Erne comes in to take over the net front, and he flashed potential in that position during the preseason.

It also looks like Anthony Mantha will play on the flank full-time now. That is excellent news, as for so long he was being misused as a net-front presence. With Dennis Cholowski feeding him the puck, Mantha could be in for a big year.

One last notable change is on the second powerplay group. Mike Green will be playing the point and Filip Hronek will man the half wall. Statistics show that running 4 forwards and 1 defensemen is a much better strategy then going 3 forwards and 2 defensemen. So its interesting they decided to work backwards, but maybe an umbrella set-up won’t hurt them as much as a two-man high set-up.

2. Patrik Nemeth’s Debut

The Red Wings big signing on July 1, Patrik Nemeth will make his official Red Wings debut. He has been described as a defensive defensemen who excels on the penalty kill. Based on comments from Blashill, the head coach seems very high on the former Avalanche. When things start to get tight in late game situations, expect Nemeth to hit the ice often.

Paired with Green to start, Nemeth’s stay-at-home style will allow Green more freedom to join the rush and be more active in the offensive zone. If Nemeth’s sound game translates to Detroit, I wouldn’t be overly surprised to see him over take Danny DeKeyser on the depth chart. What DeKeyser and Nemeth will both have to worry about is how fast-tracked the play of Cholowski is. If the 2016 first rounder takes off, he’ll have to take one of the top-4s two spots on the left side.

3. The Top-Line’s Immediate Impact

The hype surrounding the Larkin line has been off the charts. Larkin, Mantha, and Tyler Bertuzzi were utterly dominate to close out last season, leading the league in prominent offensive stats spanning from the time the three were united. Their instant chemistry was what allowed them to work together so well right away.

However, one would say their time together was spent during garbage time. Detroit had been out of playoff contention long before they took off. They put up huge numbers in “meaningless” games.

Can that top-line hit that same stride this season is the question to ponder. Obviously, the chances of them replicating the same absurd pace they were on last year is not great, nor reasonable. But if they can rekindle even half of the pace they were on, that would go along way in helping Detroit stay in the playoff picture. That all starts tonight in Nashville.