Game Preview: Red Wings Host the Lightning in Season Opener

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Hockey season is finally upon us, and the Detroit Red Wings will begin their 2021-22 season by hosting last season’s Stanley Cup Champion, the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The Opponent

Tampa Bay is the best team in the league. They’ve won back-to-back Stanley Cups and they are primed for another deep run this season.

The Lightning kicked off their season by losing to the Pittsburgh Penguins at home on opening night. It was a surprising loss, but if there’s a team primed for a quick turnaround, it’s Tampa. They’ve dominated the Red Wings for years now, holding a 16-4 record in their last 20 against Detroit. However, three of those losses came just last season, as the Red Wings finally seem to be trending up from their massive rebuild. This off-season, they’ve gotten better. It’s not going to be quite as easy to steamroll this iteration of the Red Wings – Detroit isn’t near the Lightning’s level yet, but they are certainly more competitive.

A Fresh Start

For the Red Wings, the 2021-22 season is not about Stanley Cup contention. It’s not even about playoff contention. The goal here is overall team improvement, especially among the youth. After scrapping together one of the oldest rosters in the NHL last season, Detroit is finally starting to inject some youth into the rebuild. While a good chunk of the prospects are still developing overseas or in the minors, there are some key players stepping into the lineup. The team has also made some additions through free agency and trades, which should go a long way in improving the roster. The new faces in the lineup will be the main thing to watch in Detroit’s first game of the season.

Three Players to Watch

Moritz Seider is coming off of a breakout season in the Swedish Hockey League. He was named the best defenseman in the league by Elite Prospects, making a name for himself with his crushing hits and fantastic puck movement. He’ll start his season paired with veteran defenseman Nick Leddy,

Lucas Raymond has had the best offseason on the entire roster. After a relatively average season in the SHL with Frolunda, he forced his way into Detroit’s 23 man roster after a good training camp and a stellar preseason performance. Not only did he look like the most offensively gifted rookie on the ice in exhibition, he looked like one on the entire roster. He illustrated his offensive playmaking ability and improved shot in the preseason, leading the team in points with two goals and four assists. If the Red Wings want to take a step forward offensively this season, Raymond is going to be a key piece (especially after Jakub Vrana’s injury).

Alex Nedeljkovic is Detroit’s new starting goaltender, and he’ll be another essential aspect of the Red Wings improvement. Jonathan Bernier and Thomas Greiss (at the end of the year) kept Detroit in plenty of games last season, keeping them competitive even when they were outplayed. Nedeljkovic has big shoes to fill, but he’s a Calder finalist and he already has some playoff starts. Protecting the crease against a team like Tampa Bay is going to be a tough way to start the year.

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