Red Wings’ Sweep of Sabres & Golden Knights Shows Player Improvement

The Hockey Writers

The Detroit Red Wings took on the Buffalo Sabres in Buffalo and the Vegas Golden Knights at home. Thanks to some big performances, they managed to sweep the weekend. Here are three takeaways from the matches.

Suter on the First Line Leads to Big Bounce Back

Dylan Larkin was out for personal reasons against the Sabres, which is not optimal for the roster for many reasons. He has played exceptionally well up to this point, with Tyler Bertuzzi and Lucas Raymond on his wings. However, since he was out, that meant the struggling Pius Suter would take his spot on the first line. It helps to play with more talented players, but Robby Fabbri and Filip Zadina are no slouches for scoring ability. It is concerning that he hasn’t been able to make anything work up to this point. Against the Sabres and Golden Knights, Suter looked like a different player.

Related: Red Wings’ Larkin Putting Up League-Best Stats with New Linemates

With all the doubt circling his name, one could assume that he needed to start to clear it up. So, of course, he scores 16 seconds into the game. It was the perfect start for both the Red Wings and the young struggling center. Bertuzzi threw it to the front of the net, and after some whacking and hacking, Suter managed to bury it in the back of the net. It took some force, but it went in, and that’s all that matters. The team got an early lead off of hard work and getting to the dirty areas.

Pius Suter Detroit Red Wings
Pius Suter, Detroit Red Wings (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

However, his game didn’t just stop there. Suter ended with an assist and a 0.69 individual expected goals (ixG), only behind his linemate Raymond, per Evolving-Hockey. He also had an 82.48 expected goals for percentage (xGF%), which was good for second on the team. He allowed only 0.43 expected goals against (xGA), which is extremely impressive, and it’s the kind of defensive performance that the team needs from him on a nightly basis. Overall, he had one of his best games in a Red Wings uniform and possibly his career.

It was the same story against the Golden Knights. Suter ended the game with a goal, an assist, and the first star of the game. In terms of analytics, he possessed the highest ixG and the sixth-highest xGF% on the Red Wings. He was above average in both aspects. He’s doing what Red Wings fans expect him to do, and it’s an excellent sign for the future.

Nedeljkovic Stands Out

Alex Nedeljkovic was a Calder Trophy finalist in 2020-21, and the Red Wings obtained him for essentially nothing in the offseason. He was one of the best goalies in the entire NHL, but he hasn’t looked like it all the time this season. In his time with Detroit, the numbers are probably not as good as one would expect from a player who is expected to be a part of the tandem of the future. Nedeljkovic’s goals saved above expected (GSAx) is 1.07 after last night’s contest. His delta Fenwick Save percentage (dFSv%) — the difference between his Fenwick save percentage and expected Fenwick save percentage — is 0.36. Among players with a minimum of 200 Fenwick attempts against, he is 19th out of 34 goalies in both statistics.

Alex Nedeljkovic, Detroit Red Wings
Alex Nedeljkovic, Detroit Red Wing (Photo by Jeanine Leech/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

It’s not entirely optimal, but we have to remember that there is always an adjustment period. He was playing behind one of the best defenses in the NHL on the Carolina Hurricanes. Now, he’s on a rebuilding team that, while they have improved on defense, are not nearly as strong at that end of the ice. As for this particular game, the numbers don’t do him justice. He had a minus-0.7 GSAx and a minus-1.63 dFSv%. By most standards, that’s not a great game. The good thing is that he had a .906 save percentage (Sv%), so the numbers don’t look entirely bad.

You would need to watch this game to get a sense of how good Nedeljkovic was. He made some incredible saves on cross-ice passes, and if he didn’t play well, the result would have been different without a doubt. The goals that were allowed weren’t good, but they weren’t entirely his fault. Overall, I think he played much better than the numbers might suggest. He is continuing to look more comfortable, and that’s what you need if you’re head coach Jeff Blashill.

Seider Scores His First

I would be remiss if I didn’t say one of my takeaways was the stud rookie defenseman, Moritz Seider. Not only did he play a solid game, but he scored his first NHL goal. It wasn’t just an ordinary goal, either – it was the overtime winner! Before the game, he had nine assists for nine points, and now he’s into the double digits. He continues to make his Calder Trophy case stronger and stronger.

Moritz Seider Detroit Red Wings
Moritz Seider, Detroit Red Wings (Photo by Roy K. Miller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

It wasn’t necessarily just scoring the goal that made me happy. Instead, it was Seider’s ability to fight off the defender and perfectly place the puck on the far side of the net that impressed me. The way that he used his edges and shoved off Rasmus Asplund along the wall after taking a pass in the neutral zone from Bertuzzi was seriously impressive. We’ve seen it before on the power play at the top of the zone, but you can see he’s getting more and more confident in his skating. It’s incredible to see a young kid play with this much swagger, and the best part is that he’s just getting started.

A sweep on the weekend over two teams built very differently and connected on a deal regarding elite center Jack Eichel is enormous. Every win matters, and beating both of these teams helped push the Red Wings over the .500 mark. They hold a record of 6-5-2, and they are tied with the Tampa Bay Lightning (yes, you read that right) for third in the Atlantic Division. They’re not back-to-back Stanley Cup champions by any means, but it’s still something to be aware of as the season continues to move forward.

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