A loss always hurts a little worse when it’s against an original six rival like the Toronto Maple Leafs. However, without their leading goal scorer, the Detroit Red Wings managed to hang around with a deeper and more talented team on the road.
Here are eight takeaways from Saturday’s 5-4 loss to the Maple Leafs.
#1: Joe Veleno belongs on the team. Veleno had a hell of a night in his 2021-22 season debut. After spending a few games in the minors with the Griffins, he’s hungry to prove that he belongs on the main roster – and that was very evident in his play. He scored a goal and an assist in the loss, zipping around the ice hunting for opportunities and creating chances with his intelligent speed and aggressive play. Detroit seems to finally be embracing the youth movement with some of their rookies – it is time to bring Veleno onto that hype-train.
#2: This team doesn’t quit. At multiple points throughout the game, Toronto scored some gut-wrenching goals. The goal that opened the scoring in the game with less than 20 seconds left in the first period. The second goal scored in similar fashion at the end of the second to retake the lead. The third goal 17 seconds into the third. And the other two third period goals that extended the lead back to two for Toronto each time. But every time the Maple Leafs seemed to hit that knockout blow, the Red Wings would claw their way back in. Even Mitch Marner’s back breaker of a goal with just over two minutes left in the game didn’t stop Detroit from trying to get back into it – Filip Hronek cut the lead down to just one. In the end, Toronto’s depth and talent was too much for the Wings to overcome, but unlike other iterations
#3: Captain Dylan Larkin: Larkin took a bit of a step back last year, but so far, he looks more like himself. While he didn’t appear on the stat sheet Saturday night, his cruised around the ice making plays on both defense and offense. Larkin’s attitude constant drive reflects the attitude of the team this season.
#4: Tyler Bertuzzi is a key piece of the first line. So far, the Red Wings have made two trips to Canada. They’ve lost both games, first a 6-1 loss to Montreal and then last night’s 5-4 loss to Toronto. That’s not to say that Bertuzzi would’ve changed the outcome of either – the more important thing is how much it changes the top-line. Larkin and Lucas Raymond just aren’t as effective without him on the line.
#5: Filip Zadina is gaining confidence. Last season wasn’t great for Zadina’s confidence. It was clear to those that regularly tuned into Detroit’s games that he wasn’t quite as bad as the stats portrayed. He became a stronger two-way player and improved his responsibility with the puck. This season, he’s off to a solid start, scoring a goal and two assists. Zadina is starting to become dangerous on the power play, ripping accurate shots from the right side. He did just that against Toronto. He hasn’t had quite the electric start of a Lucas Raymond or Moritz Seider, but he’s quietly improving.
#6: The defense is deep: While Detroit doesn’t quite have a great top-four lineup of defensemen, they have strength throughout the pairings. The only real anchor to the defense so far has been Danny DeKeyser, who is likely on his way out of Detroit this season anyways. Seider and Nick Leddy finally give Detroit’s blue line some offense ability (including on the power play) at the top, with Marc Staal (had a rough game against Toronto, but is usually defensively sound), Troy Stecher and Filip Hronek are solid throughout the lineup; Gustav Lindstrom and Jordan Oesterle have been effective seventh and eight men. While they aren’t a special group, there are enough pieces to put together a more than competent blue line.
#7: Filip Hronek is rebounding: Last year, the Red Wings leaned on Hronek often. He was put in high-pressure minutes consistently, putting up at least twenty minutes a night. After a bumpy start to the year, Jeff Blashill listed him as a healthy scratch for two straight games. So far, it seems as though Hronek has learned his lesson. Especially in last night’s loss to Toronto, he looked more like his 2019-20 self. He even managed to net a goal – and it wasn’t on an empty net.
#8: The officiating is just terrible: Let me say right away that officiating is not the reason Detroit lost this game. I hate that sort of narrative. However, some of the missed calls were just ridiculous – all in the pursuit of calling an even game. You guessed it, the two finished with the same number of penalties – two a piece. Crazy idea – what if they just called a penalty a penalty?