The Detroit Red Wings hosted the St. Louis Blues in Calumet, Michigan in the 2019 Kraft Hockeyville preseason game. 700 people in the upper peninsula of Michigan turned out to see the Red Wings face the defending Stanley Cup champions. The Calumet Colosseum received $150,000 in arena upgrades.
Anthony Mantha scored two goals in the second period to give the Red Wings a 4-1 win. The other goals were added by Michael Rasmussen, who was the Red Wings’ top draft pick in 2017 NHL entry draft. Many expect Mantha, the 25-year-old soon-to-be RFA, to have strong season given his impending new contract. Mantha will have to prove that he deserves a new deal by improving on his previous season in which he tallied 25 goals and 23 assists. The 48 points matched Mantha’s career-high that he had set in the previous season.
Another bright spot was goaltender Calvin Pickard. Pickard started and made 37 saves in tandem with Filip Larsson. Pickard will not make the team to start the season, as Jimmy Howard and Jonathan Bernier will be on the roster, the same two goalies that played the majority of the games during the 2018-19 season.
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Aside from a stanchion in the arena that did not allow TV viewers to see the game action in the bottom left corner of the ice rink, the viewing experience was great. This was a minor inconvenience as it was nice to see fans in the arena who live so far away from professional hockey teams (the Little Caesars Arena is roughly nine and a half hours southeast of Calumet).
The Red Wings will finish the preseason with a home-and-home series against the Toronto Maple Leafs. With the Leafs expected to compete for the Stanley Cup, these two games will be a test to see where the Red Wings stack up against the elite teams in the NHL.
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One reason for optimism in Hockeyville is the strong finish to the 2018-19 season. Last year, the Red Wings finished the season by winning seven of their final 10 games. Thanks in large part to the emergence of forwards Tyler Bertuzzi, Anthony Mantha and Andreas Athanasiou. In addition, defenseman Dennis Cholowski played a large part of the team’s success.
The team enters the year with over $5 million in cap space available in order to make a move if necessary. Next year, they will have $36.85 million available, however, that will be needed to sign guys like Mantha and Bertuzzi who are set to be restricted free agents following the season.
Andrew covers the NHL’s Atlantic Division for Full Press Coverage. Follow Andrew on Twitter at @walshandrew89.