Goal-hungry Red Wings will face Maple Leafs’ potent attack
Toronto’s John Tavares (six goals), left, and Auston Matthews (seven) are just the third set of teammates in league history, and the first in 101 years, to each collect six-plus goals in their team’s first four games.
The Red Wings, who are struggling to score goals, will face a team that has had no problems in that area on Thursday night.
The Toronto Maple Leafs will skate into Little Caesars Arena (7:30 p.m., Fox Sports Detroit) with 20 goals in its first four games (3-1-0). Detroit has managed only six goals in three games (0-1-2) to begin the 2018-19 season.
The Wings have scored twice in each of their games.
Coach Jeff Blashill says his team has to shoot more.
“It’s hard to win at two goals a game,” he told the Detroit Free Press. “We are passing up on real good chances to try to create a better one – we have to forget that. We have to shoot the puck when we have opportunities.”
Said Gustav Nyquist: “We have been passing up too many shots in the slot where there is a grade-a scoring chance and we’re trying to look for somebody back door for a tap-in. It usually hits someone’s skate or someone’s stick and then it deflects in the corner and then it’s not a scoring chance any more.
“I think it’s a matter of when you have a good scoring chance, take it and shoot yourself. The guy who is waiting for a back door tap-in can get to the rebound.”
Tyler Bertuzzi leads Detroit with two goals while Dylan Larkin (1-2-3), rookie defenseman Dennis Cholowski (1-2-3) – who won’t play Thursday night because of an upper-body injury – and Nyquist (three assists) are tied for the team lead in points.
Larkin leads the team with 11 shots and Nyquist is second with nine.
Toronto’s Auston Matthews (7-3-10) has outscored the Wings by himself, and prize free agent addition John Tavares (six goals) has as many goals personally as the Red Wings. Matthews has scored in each of the Leafs’ first four games.
Matthews and Tavares are just the third set of teammates in league history, and the first in 101 years, to each collect six-plus goals in their team’s first four games of a season. The others came in 1917-18: Harry Cameron and Reg Noble with the Toronto Arenas and Newsy Lalonde and Joe Malone of the Montreal Canadiens.
Toronto’s attack also features defenseman Morgan Reilly (2-8-10) and forward Mitch Marner (2-6-8).
The Leafs, coached by former Wings mentor Mike Babcock, will present even more of a challenge than usual to Detroit’s youthful defense corps, which has featured as many as four rookies due to injuries. Three rookies (Libor Sulak, Filip Hronek and Joe Hicketts) will play on the blue line Thursday night, thanks to Cholowski’s injury, and Niklas Kronwall will make his season debut after being injured for the first three games.
"Hopefully they used up all their goals in the first couple of games," Hicketts told www.mlive.com. "They're definitely a high-octane team, a team that thrives on the power play. We saw it in the preseason. It's about managing the puck, staying out of the box and limiting their Grade A chances."
Cholowski joins veteran defensemen Trevor Daley (head), Mike Green (illness) and Jonathan Ericsson (upper body) on the sidelines.