“Who’s Brian Rafalski?”
That’s the question fans in Detroit might be asking thanks to the play of offseason free agent pickup Ian White. In Detroit’s undefeated start through four games, White has picked up two goals and an assist and helped make sure that Red Wings faithful aren’t missing their former stud defenseman in Rafalski.
White has bounced around over the past two years playing on four different teams (Calgary, Toronto, Carolina, and San Jose) but now that he’s landed in Detroit, he’s giving them the offensive steadiness that Rafalski always used to. He can move the puck, he can play responsible enough defense, and he’s making sure younger guys like Jonathan Ericsson and Jakub Kindl aren’t forced into playing too many minutes of their own when they’re not ready.
Instead, White’s veteran savvy mixes well with the likes of Nicklas Lidstrom, Brad Stuart, and Niklas Kronwall and gives Detroit’s top four on defense. White’s play even has Kronwall saying that he plays like Rafalski but with more of an edge to his game. It’s not like Rafalski was ever the toughest guy on the block. Having a bit more sandpaper to your game goes a long way in the NHL, especially out West.
Detroit always used to be the team making the big move in the offseason, now they’re just making the smartest ones.
In some ways, it really felt like their first-round series.
For all the talent on both ends of the rink with the Detroit Red Wings and Tampa Bay Lightning, each squad can really smother opponents defensively when things go that way.
Through two periods, the two teams were very quiet. Things really picked up when Justin Abdelkader unleashed a big hit, a moment that injected enough life into the proceedings for the Red Wings to eventually build a 3-1 win.
Maybe they’re slipping under the radar a bit compared to previous iterations of the team, but it’s interesting that the Red Wings are now undefeated in three games.
They’ve been impressive at times, too, outscoring opponents by a combined score of 11-4.
Call it a refreshing time after Mike Babcock or merely carryover from a subtly solid run last season, but either way, the Red Wings may just be able to keep up their end of a brewing rivalry.
Taking three games to score your first NHL goal isn’t a big deal, unless you’re someone like Connor McDavid.
The mega-hyped wunderkind must feel relieved to finally find the net, as he tied tonight’s Edmonton Oilers – Dallas Stars skirmish with a 2-2 deflection goal, which you can watch above this post’s headline.
To no surprise, there were plenty of reactions, including Pierre LeBrun’s tweet (which inspired part of this headline).
Of course, there were the inevitable Wayne Gretzky comparisons:
Interesting thing you might not consider: Stars fans will have to stomach this one even more frequently than that time Patrik Stefan biffed that empty-netter (also against the Oilers):
McDavid may have also delivered his first questionable check, too: