Why the Detroit Red Wings are playing their best hockey in two years

Detroit Free Press

The Detroit Red Wings are riding their rookies and their resilience into a winning streak that shows just how much growth the team has undergone.

They’ve won four consecutive games for the first time since spring 2019, days before Steve Yzerman was named general manager. Two of the players he drafted — Lucas Raymond and Moritz Seider — are key reasons the Wings feel good about themselves as they prepare to take on the New York Islanders on Saturday at Little Caesars Arena.

“We have a great group in there,” Raymond said. “There’s a lot of leaders that step up and take responsibility to get the team back on track. I feel especially since we had that tough road games, we got back, hit the reset button, and now we’re going again. It’s a lot of different things, but it comes from the locker room.”

WELCOME TO THE NHL: Red Wings’ Lucas Raymond is No Rookie of Month

Tyler Bertuzzi, the NHL’s only unvaccinated player, won’t be available for the next four games. Coach Jeff Blashill said Wednesday that Bertuzzi’s COVID-19 protocol would be a 10-day period.

The Wings won without Bertuzzi on Wednesday, thanks, in no small part, to Raymond and Seider, another rookie. Raymond scored his 10th goal of the season and Seider had two assists to help push the Wings past the Seattle Kraken, 4-3, a day after grinding out a 2-1 victory at Boston.

Yzerman drafted Raymond at No. 4 in 2020. Seider, the No. 6 pick in 2019, already has established himself as the team’s go-to blue liner, and leads the Wings with 14 assists.

Raymond, 19, has three goals in the past four games.

“I’m trying to find my game and I’m still learning every day, trying to get better at areas that are my weaknesses,” Raymond said. “I’m just trying to be an offensive forward that you can count on defensively who plays hard every night. Still working and going to find my identity as it goes on. My main thing is just to skate hard every night.”

Thomas Greiss was in net Wednesday, giving Alex Nedeljkovic a breather after four straight starts. Nedeljkovic — who Yzerman heisted from the Carolina Hurricanes for a 2021 third-round pick this offseason — is technically a rookie this season because of last year’s compacted schedule, even though he played 23 games for the Hurricanes and was a Calder Trophy finalist.

He has given the Wings outstanding goaltending and helped them get back to their game after an 0-3-1 road trip in mid-November.

Raymond leads the Wings with 22 points in 24 games; he and linemate Dylan Larkin — a “joy to play with,” as Raymond described — are tied with a team-leading 10 goals.

Blashill pinnned Raymond’s success to how smart of a player he is.

“He’s got a chance to have an impact,” Blashill said. “But you just don’t know and you keep watching. I’m not going to get ahead of myself. He’s a good player. He’s really smart, he plays the right way and he’s been able to produce while also playing the right way. That’s the biggest key. That’s why he’s been so transferrable — he doesn’t need to cheat to create offense, and so then he earns ice time.”

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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