Welcome back to Red Wings Wednesday Weekly! In this weekly column, we will take a look at the Red Wings’ most-recent week of play, identify any players and/or trends that stood out, and then look ahead and find out what the next week may have in store for the team from Hockeytown. As always, feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section down below.
The Detroit Red Wings have started the 2021-22 season in exciting fashion, but once the team’s 4-2-1 start is examined beyond face value, it’s actually strikingly similar to how the team fared in each of its last two seasons. The Red Wings went 1-2-1 last week, beating the Washington Capitals in overtime before losing to the then-unbeaten Florida Panthers (in overtime), Toronto Maple Leafs, and Montreal Canadiens.
Looking at the similarities, Detroit started 2-2-0 last season before dropping eight straight games, putting the team behind in the standings after a promising start. The same happened in 2019-20, when the team started 3-1-0 before — you guessed it — dropping eight straight games in a season that ended prematurely due to the pandemic.
There are certainly plenty of parallels to draw from the last two seasons, but there are two things the Red Wings have going for them that they didn’t have in either of those seasons: Moritz Seider and Lucas Raymond.
Seider was recently named the NHL’s rookie of the month for October, and with Raymond leading all NHL rookies in total points, talk surrounding the Calder Trophy continues to heat up. In the meantime, let’s dive into the week that was for Detroit, and what to expect this week, because with four games last week, and another four this week, things aren’t slowing down for the team any time soon.
Red Wings Beat Capitals in Overtime
10/27 at Washington, 3-2 win (OT)
Detroit kicked off its week with a 3-2 overtime win against the Capitals, and it took the long road to get there. The Red Wings fell down 2-0 to Washington after giving up two power-play goals, but rallied with goals from Adam Erne and Robby Fabbri to tie it up and force overtime.
From there, fans got a fun little glimpse of the future, as captain Dylan Larkin scored the game-winning goal in overtime, and wouldn’t you know it, the goal was assisted by Seider and Raymond.
Now that’s fun.
It wasn’t all great for the Red Wings, who clearly have some work to do on the penalty kill front, but it was a good win against a quality opponent on the road, and there’s something to be said for that. Thomas Greiss played well for Detroit, stopping 26 of the 28 shots he faced. The team also won 30 faceoffs compared to Washington’s 22.
Overall Grade vs. Washington: B
Comeback Falls Short against Florida
10/29 vs. Florida, 3-2 loss (OT)
Two nights later the Red Wings were back in action, again finding themselves down two goals before any offense could be mustered against the (then) unbeaten Panthers. Florida jumped out to a 2-0 first-period lead, but Detroit’s adjustments helped it shut out the Panthers the rest of the way, while Sam Gagner and Pius Suter chipped in goals to force overtime.
Though the Panthers would ultimately win the game on Alesander Barkov’s game-winning overtime goal, the highlight of the game came in the third period with the Red Wings still trailing by one. A series of events on defense unfolded that will likely live in Hockeytown lore for years to come, as Detroit sacrificed body after body, and Alex Nedeljkovic made save after save, to keep it a one-goal deficit.
That sequence was the loudest anyone has heard Little Caesar’s Arena, well, ever, and led to the eventually equalizing tally. As far as “good” losses come, this one was as good as it gets. Nedeljkovic finished the game with 30 saves, and the Red Wings killed all three penalties they took.
Final Grade vs. Florida: B–
High-Scoring Affair vs. Toronto
10/30 at Toronto: Loss, 5-4
Detroit hit the road for Toronto, meaning no Tyler Bertuzzi due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, but ultimately fell 5-4 to the Maple Leafs in a back-and-forth, high scoring affair. Detroit had goals from Filip Zadina, Joe Veleno (who made his season debut), Vladislav Namestnikov, and Filip Hronek, but Toronto’s five goals on 38 shots proved to be too much for the team to overcome.
There was a familiar face in net for Toronto, as former Red Wing Petr Mrazek stopped 27 of the 31 shots he faced en route to the win. Detroit was outshot 38-31 in the game, and won just 35.6 percent of its faceoffs. The team’s four goals was a promising sign, but its defense failed to do enough to come away with a win.
Final Grade vs. Toronto: C
Shut Out in Montreal
11/2 at Montreal, 3-0 loss
Though losses earlier in the season have had some semblance of a moral victory — if you’re into that sort of thing — there was very little upside to Tuesday’s 3-0 loss against the Canadiens. It marked the second time Detroit was shut out this season (3-0 against Calgary on Oct. 21), and was the team’s third straight loss.
Suddenly, a 4-2-1 record is now 4-4-2, and the team’s season is taking what appears to be a familiar trajectory. Granted, the Red Wings were still without Bertuzzi, and Larkin was also out of the lineup, but the team was simply not up to par on either side of the ice, getting outshot 41-22 despite having to kill just one penalty all game. Detroit has now lost two games against Montreal this season by a combined score of 9-1.
Final Grade vs. Montreal: D
3 Takeaways From Last Week
1. Tyler Bertuzzi Means A Whole Lot To This Team
It’s absolutely crazy to think that one player can have so much impact on a team’s performance, but one look at the games Detroit has played without Bertuzzi shows just how much of a difference he makes. The Red Wings are 0-3 when playing in Canada, and have been outscored 14-5 in those games.
Even after sitting out those games due to pandemic-related travel restriction, the 26-year-old forward leads the team in points (nine) and goals (six), highlighting just how important he is to the team’s offense. The Red Wings have enjoyed an offensive resurgence of sorts, as their 29 goals scored this season is eighth-best in the league, but that number would be even higher if their best scorer hadn’t had to sit out three games to this point.
Time will tell how this plays out long-term, but for now, the team has clearly struggled without Bertuzzi in the lineup.
2. Special Teams Still Need To Improve
Though it seemed like Alex Tanguay’s arrival would help bolster the Red Wings’ power play, they’re not faring that much better than through all of last season. This year’s mark of 14.3 percent with the man advantage is slightly higher than last season (11.41 percent), which ranked 30th in the league. The team still ranks near the bottom, coming in at 25th-best, though it truly has felt as if there have been more chances, and they’re cycling the puck much better.
On the flip side, Detroit’s penalty killing ranks 24th in the league at 74.29 percent, down slightly from last year which was 78.71 percent. If there’s any silver lining here, the team ranked 20th last season with 155 power-play opportunities against, and ranks seventh this season to this point.
There’s quite a bit of work to be done still, but more was expected of this group after the departure of Dan Bylsma.
3. Slight Uptick in Faceoff Percentage
Detroit’s mark of 50.1 percent in the faceoff circle was encouraging last season, and the team has improved slightly to 50.5 percent this season. Bertuzzi leads the way, though he has only taken four this season, but Fabrri, Larkin, Sagner, Michael Rasmussen, Namestnikov, Adam Erne, and Carter Rowney all have percentages at 50 or above.
Of last season’s team leaders, only Erne maintained a mark above 50 percent (Bertuzzi was 1-for-2, so not counting him here), a promising sign for a team with as much youth as the Wings have.
at Boston Bruins (11/4, 7:00 PM ET)
Statistical Leaders (7 Games):
Goals – Brad Marchand (4)
Points – Marchand (8)
Wins – Linus Ullmark (3)
SV% – Ullmark (.927)
The Bruins have been hot-and-cold for most of the season, but are coming off a 3-2 shootout loss against the previously unbeaten Panthers. The Bruins are coming off of a tough stretch that saw them play unbeaten teams in three-straight games, two against Florida and one against Carolina, and they finally emerged victorious in Saturday’s tilt.
Boston will be returning from a long layoff when the Red Wings arrive in town on Thursday, as they have had no games between Saturday’s win and their match against Detroit.
at Buffalo Sabres (11/6, 7:00 PM ET)
Statistical Leaders (9 Games):
Goals – Victor Olofsson (5)
Points – Olofsson (9)
Wins – Craig Anderson (4)
SV% – Dustin Tokarski (.936)
The upstart Buffalo Sabres have surprised a lot of folks out there, tuning out the Jack Eichel drama to jump out to a 5-3-1 record, despite being expected to dwell in the basement this season. The team has lost two straight to this point, though, and faces off for the first-ever time against the Seattle Kraken on Thursday before Saturday’s game against the Red Wings.
Vs. Vegas Golden Knights (11/7, 6:00 PM ET)
Statistical Leaders (9 Games):
Goals – Chandler Stephenson (4)
Points – Stephenson (9)
Wins – Robin Lehner (3)
SV% – Laurent Brossoit (.920)
The Knights have seemingly righted the proverbial ship after starting the season 1-4, as they’ve gone 3-1 in their last four games with wins over the Colorado Avalanche, Dallas Stars, and Anaheim Ducks. Vegas travels to Ottawa and Montreal prior to its arrival in the Motor City — having already played (and lost) in Toronto on Tuesday) — and may be ready to return home by the time they step into Little Caesar’s Arena.
Two of their last three wins have been in either overtime or a shootout, so the Golden Knights have proven their late-game mettle.
Vs. Edmonton Oilers (11/9, 7:30 PM ET)
Statistical Leaders (8 games):
Goals – Leon Draisaitl (7)
Points – Draisaitl & McDavid (17)
Wins – Mikko Koskinen (5)
SV% – Koskinen (.933)
Another year, another stellar offense for the Oilers. Edmonton is fourth in the league with 33 goals scored, and eighth with 21 goals allowed. Their lone loss came at home against the Flyers last week, and they host both the Nashville Predators and New York Rangers before heading to Detroit next Tuesday.
Players to Watch
There’s quite a bit to take in this week, with four games in seven days, but fans should keep their eyes on Bruins goalie Ullmark, Sabres goalie Anderson, and the Golden Knights’ Lehner, because scoring has not been terribly kind to the Red Wings lately. As for the Oilers, well, Draisaitl and McDavid are tearing it up as usual, and both have 17 points in eight games.
Regarding the Red Wings, keep your eyes peeled on both Seider and Raymond, who are no longer unknowns in the NHL. How will they handle the additional attention that they receive moving forward in the league? There’s a lot at stake, Raymond defied all the odds to even make the team, but can he possibly continue to score at the pace he’s started out at?
Seider is fresh off his NHL Rookie of the Month award, and has shown incredible poise and vision in his first month of NHL play. Can he keep it up?
It’s been busy for the Red Wings, and the upcoming week is no different, with four games on the slate. The big question facing the time right now, is can it avoid a massive losing streak similar to what it’s seen in years past? It would certainly be a step in the right direction, and a promising sign for fans in Hockeytown, if the team can get back to its winning ways this week.
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A die-hard hockey fan in the desert, and proud Iowa State alum. Detroit Red Wings and Arizona Coyotes contributor for The Hockey Writers.