10 thoughts on the Detroit Red Wings after 10 games: The kids are all right

Detroit Free Press

Ten games into their season, the Detroit Red Wings have shown that when they are their best, they are fun to watch.

They head into Boston smarting from an uninspired 3-0 loss in Montreal that leaves them 4-4-2 through 10 against. But that shutout stands in contrast to the fight they’ve shown most nights.

“I would say for a large part of those 10 games, our compete was extremely high, our work ethic was extremely high,” coach Jeff Blashill said Tuesday night. “It’s hard for me to talk about 10 games with the taste I have in my mouth right now, because that wasn’t close to what we’ve been. I think we’ve worked hard to develop an identity of being a team that’s hard to play against.”

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The Wings started the season with five points of a possible six, scored six goals for the second time this season in a trip to Chicago, and showed mettle in rallying from a two-goal deficit to win at Washington. Overall, the Wings have picked up a point in 60% of their games.

“We had a pretty good start, had a big win in Washington,” alternate captain Danny DeKeyser said. “Even the Florida game, we come back and tie it and get a point out of that one. It’s been an up-and-down ride and we want to try and level it out with a little more consistency.

“We just have to move forward to Boston and play better and get some confidence back.”

Tuesday’s visit to Montreal marked a stretch with 11 games in 19 days.

“We know the formula for us to have a chance to have success,” Blashill said. “We have to be better defensively over those 10 games, that’s one thing I think we can be better at, but we know the work and compete and the urgency with which we have to play.”

Here are 10 thoughts on the first 10 games.

Defensive Mo-mentum

Moritz Seider already is their best defenseman. At only 20, the rookie has averaged 22:26 of ice time per game. He set a franchise mark for defensemen with eight assists through nine games and was named NHL rookie of the month for October. “He’s just smooth out there,” said DeKeyser, his partner on defense. “He’s smart. He’s strong. He thinks the game very well, he sees the ice well, makes good plays. He’s confident out there. He looks like he’s going to be a real player.”

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Ray(mond) of light

Lucas Raymond is fulfilling everything general manager Steve Yzerman said after drafting him No. 4 overall last year: “We think he has all the tools to be an elite forward in the NHL. He’s a very creative player, good shooter. We like the whole package. We don’t see any real glaring weaknesses.” Raymond had one of the Wings’ few scoring chances in Tuesday’s Montreal game, and he’s tied for the team lead in points with nine (four goals, five assists).

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Rated rookies

Raymond and Seider are garnering early talk for the Calder Trophy, the rookie of the year honor awarded by members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association. Players from the same team have finished as Calder finalists before  most recently in 2014. That year, Ondrej Palat and Tyler Johnson of the Tampa Bay Lightning finished behind Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon. Likewise, in 2008, Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews of the Chicago Blackhawks finished in the top three, with Kane winning. The last time two Wings were finalists came in 1948, when forward Jim McFadden beat out teammate Red Kelly on defense.

Go fourth and prosper

Good things happen when the Wings draft fourth. In 1983, they consoled themselves with Steve Yzerman, after missing out on local prodigy Pat LaFontaine. Yzerman became the face of the franchise, brought the Stanley Cup back to Detroit after a 42-year absence, and is now in charge of the rebuild. If Raymond turns out to be half the player Yzerman was, it’d be a great consolation for a team that finished at the bottom of the standings in 2019-20 but was pushed back to fourth in the draft lottery.

Lex factor

The same year the Wings drafted Raymond, the New York Rangers went from the playoff bubble to picking No. 1, getting Alexis Lafreniere. Now in his second NHL season, the foward had three goals and one assist after nine games.

Shot down

Tyler Bertuzzi, the NHL’s only unvaccinated player, has missed three contests in Canada because he cannot cross the border under current regulations. Just how much the Wings miss him is evident in their 0-3 record in Montreal and Toronto. The good news? The Wings don’t have any games in Canada again until the end of February.

In the Nick of time

What a difference defenseman Nick Leddy has made. He’s an excellent skater, plays with a lot of calm and makes good decisions with the puck. He has added an offensive dimension to a blueline that sorely lacked it. Leddy came to the Wings in the offseason from the New York Islanders, who were in a bind because of the expansion draft. Yzerman took advantage by sending a draft pick (2021 second round) acquired in 2020’s Andreas Athanasiou deadline. That trade has yielded Leddy plus the returns in the original deal: veteran forward Sam Gagner and prospects Theodor Niederbach and Sam Stange.

Net gain

Thomas Greiss and Alex Nedeljkovic are forming a nice, dependable tandem in the crease. Greiss, who struggled at the start of the last season, has provided steady goaltending. Alex Nedeljkovic seems to be gaining his footing as he adjusts to coming over from Carolina. After giving up seven goals in the season opener, Nedeljkovic has a .930 save percentage and 2.22 goals-against average in five appearances..

Boxed in

One of the areas of progress last season was team defense, but that hasn’t been as solid this first stretch. The Wings give up too many quality scoring chances, and they take too many penalties, which has led to being scored on nine times while shorthanded.

Power outage

The power play (14.3%) remains such a sore spot. Since Blashill became head coach, four coaches — Pat Ferschweiler, John Torchetti, Dan Bylsma and now Alex Tanguay — have tried to figure out how to make the Wings look like they actually have an advantage on power playa. It started out promisingly, with conversions in the first two games, but since then, it’s been at 10.7%.

Contact Helene St. James at hstjames@freepress.com. Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames. Read more on the Detroit Red Wings and sign up for our Red Wings newsletter. Her book, The Big 50: The Detroit Red Wings is available from AmazonBarnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail. 

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