Red Wings Wednesday Weekly: California Blue

The Hockey Writers

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.

Filip Hronek Dylan Larkin Detroit Red Wings Weekly
Filip Hronek, Dylan Larkin (The Hockey Writers)

It’s the first edition of Red Wings Weekly in 2022, and we certainly hope your new year is off to a great start! It’s been an up-and-down start to the season, and the Detroit Red Wings have had their schedule impacted due to COVID-19, just like every other NHL team.

Related: Red Wings Daily Download

The streaky Red Wings have won just one game in 2022, a 6-2 triumph over the San Jose Sharks on Jan. 4. They are 1-2-2 this month, and have lost their last two games in either a shootout or overtime. Fortunately for the club, its west coast trip is now over, and the team returns to the friendly confines of Little Caesar’s Arena for three of its next four games. Though it may not seem like much, the Red Wings are a stellar 12-5-2 at home, as opposed to 4-11-3 on the road.

Let’s dive in!

Lifeless in Los Angeles

1/8 at Los Angeles Kings, 4-0 Loss

The Red Wings started their west coast road trip a few days late after their initial game against the Anaheim Ducks was cancelled due to COVID-19 protocol, though it honestly didn’t look like they arrived in L.A. on time, either. Detroit turned in arguably its worst performance of the season in a 4-0 loss to the Kings, and frankly, most fans back home in Michigan were lucky if they didn’t stay up late to watch.

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

The Red Wings were outshot 42-21 in the game, and the first period was even more disastrous, as the shot count was 27-2 after the opening frame. Goalie Alex Nedeljkovic was the only bright spot in this one for the Wings, as he turned aside 38 of the 41 shots he faced in the loss. It was ugly all around, and captain Dylan Larkin summed it up best after the game.

“We weren’t ready to go,” he lamented. “We come in here and dip our toe in the water. We can’t play like that on the road. We weren’t ready to bring the battle to them.” (From: ‘Detroit Red Wings stumble as the L.A. Kings dominate in a 4-0 victory on Saturday night,’ Detroit Free Press, Jan. 9, 2022)

Overall Grade vs. Los Angeles: D (Nedeljkovic saved this from a Failing grade).

Better Effort, Fowl Results

1/9 vs. Anaheim Ducks, 4-3 Loss (Shootout)

The Red Wings’ makeup game against the Ducks resulted in their second game in as many nights, but this time their effort was much more sound in a 4-3 shootout loss. Each team led at least once in the game, and there were a total of six lead changes (0-1, 1-1, 2-1, 2-2, 2-3, and 3-3) before Anaheim ultimately won in a shootout. Detroit actually held the advantage in shots, 36-27, and was 1-for-4 on the power play.

Trevor Zegras Anaheim Ducks
Trevor Zegras had a goal and an assist against the Red Wings. (Photo by Debora Robinson/NHLI via Getty Images)

Goalie Thomas Greiss played well, stopping 24 of 27 shots in the game, but the team never clicked in the extra frame or shootout, and Anaheim was 2-for-3 while Detroit did not convert on either of its chances.

The Red Wings lost more than the game, though, as Larkin left early, did not return, and was ultimately ruled out for the team’s next game against the Sharks. That said, the long-term prognosis is promising for Detroit’s captain, and he may return as early as Thursday’s game against the Winnipeg Jets.

Overall Grade vs. Anaheim: C+

More Extra Hockey, Another Loss

1/11 vs. San Jose Sharks, 3-2 Loss (Overtime)

The Red Wings closed out their west cost trip in San Jose, and though it was another overtime loss, there were far fewer moral victories to be had in this one, short of earning a point. If not for Nedeljkovic, this one could have gotten out of hand quickly. Detroit was again outshot badly, 40-19, but the 26-year-old netminder stood on his head to help steal a point.

Alex Nedeljkovic, Detroit Red Wings
Alex Nedeljkovic stood on his head in Tuesday’s loss to the Sharks. (Photo by Jeanine Leech/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Defenseman Nick Leddy scored his first goal of the season to give the Redwings a 2-1 lead less than two minutes into the third period, but it was short lived, as the Sharks’ Jeffrey Viel responded 90 seconds later with the equalizer. San Jose’s Logan Couture ended the game in overtime, dodging a rogue octopus in the process, to send Detroit away with its third straight loss.

In all, it was a less-than-stellar road trip for the Red Wings, but a return to Detroit may be just what the doctor ordered for a team that has fared much better in Hockeytown this season.

Overall Grade vs. San Jose: C-

3 Takeaways From Last Week

1. Moritz Seider Continues to Impress

The Red Wings rookie has been nothing short of sensational this season, and has recorded an assist in three of his last five games, including two straight. His 21 assists and 24 points are first and third among all NHL rookies, respectively, and his impact in a game, both with and without the puck, is astronomical.

His 19-year-old rookie counterpart, Lucas Raymond, continues to lead all rookies in scoring with 30 points, but the young forward has cooled off lately, recording two points in his last five games. He has not scored since recording a goal against the Seattle Kraken on Dec. 1.

2. Tyler Bertuzzi is Borderline Irreplaceable

Just about any player is replaceable in the NHL these days, but to put it simply, Tyler Bertuzzi has meant more to this Red Wings team than any player has in a very long time. It just seems as if whenever he’s on the ice he’s a major difference maker, and his stats recently have backed that up.

The 26-year-old has 10 points in his last nine games, including eight goals, and his 17 tallies lead the team. He’s third on the roster with 28 points, and is also constantly his teammates’ biggest cheerleader. Former USA Today and current Detroit Hockey Now reporter Kevin Allen summed it up perfectly during an appearance on The Hockey Writers’ Grind Line in 2021: Tyler Bertuzzi is the Red Wings’ courage.

3. Welcome Home, Perfect Human

Detroit’s front office really didn’t seem like it could possibly get any stronger, what with Steve Yzerman running the show and a strong core of executives including Kris Draper, but then it went and surprised everyone Tuesday and announced former great Nicklas Lidstrom is joining the team as the Vice President of Hockey Operations.

Lidstrom, lovingly dubbed as “the perfect human” after his unrivaled success as a defenseman in Hockeytown, brings an incredible resume to the team, but moreso, has the ability to help mentor the next wave of blue line greatness in Detroit. Seider and Gustav Lindstrom will obviously benefit greatly, but there are additional prospects that have yet to even make their NHL debut yet, such as Albert Johansson and William Wallinder, that will reap even more benefits.

The move is a home run for the Red Wings, and one that immediately energized their fan base.

Upcoming Matchups

vs. Winnipeg Jets (1/13, 7:30 PM ET)

Statistical Leaders (33 Games):
Goals – Kyle Connor (19)
Points – Connor (35)
Wins – Connor Hellebuyck (13)
SV% – Eric Comrie (.914)

The Winnipeg Jets have been streaky this season, but the team’s biggest concern right now is the drastic rise in COVID-19 cases amongst the team. At the time of publication, the Jets had seven players in protocol, and have had three straight games cancelled, all leading up to Thursday’s game in Detroit, which is very much in jeopardy of not being played. The Jets had won three of their last four games prior to any game cancellations.

Kyle Connor Winnipeg Jets
Kyle Connor leads the Jets in scoring this season. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The Red Wings have not yet faced the Jets this season, and the second game in the series does not happen until April 6.

vs. Buffalo Sabres (1/15, 7:00 PM ET)
at Buffalo Sabres (1/17, 1:00 PM ET)

Statistical Leaders (35 Games):
Goals – Tage Thompson (12)
Points – Thompson (23)
Wins – Dustin Tokarski (4)
SV% – Craig Anderson (.921)

The Buffalo Sabres are in the midst of a six-game losing streak, and have one game Thursday against the Nashville Predators before a home-and-home series against the Red Wings, albeit two days apart. It has not been easy going for Buffalo this season, and it has lost 13 of its last 15 games.

Detroit has won both meetings between the two this season, and both went to overtime: 4-3 on Nov. 6, and 3-2 on Nov. 27.

Players to Watch

Forward Nikolaj Ehlers is having a fantastic season to this point, and is currently third on the team with 25 points. He was on an absolute tear before the Jets where shut down due to COVID-19 protocol, logging seven points in his last five games, including a four-point effort against the St. Louis Blues on Dec. 19.

Nikolaj Ehlers Winnipeg Jets
Keep your eye on Nikolaj Ehlers. (Photo by David Kirouac/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

For Buffalo, keep an eye on, well, whoever is in net. Goalies Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen and Malcolm Subban were recently added to its injury list, and with Craig Anderson (out indefinitely) and Dustin Tokarski (COVID-19 effects) still out of the lineup, the Sabres had to sign Michael Houser and call up Aaron Dell from their minor league affiliate to ensure they have enough support between the pipes. Between the two of them, they have 11 total NHL appearances.

As for the Red Wings, keep your eye out for Lucas Raymond, who has cooled somewhat, but continues to lead all rookies in scoring, as mentioned earlier. He is well overdue to find the scoresheet, and neither the Jets nor the Sabres boast impenetrable defenses, so the 19-year-old has a chance to get back into the goals column on the scoresheet.

Final Thoughts

The team continues to navigate through yet another bizarre season, but one of the most striking parts of the team’s play this year is how well it performs at home. Though the Red Wings’ playoff hopes, which were virtually non-existent before the season started, have taken a hit on the latest road trip, the team has eight of its next 11 games at Little Caesar’s Arena, so if ever there was a time for a mini-run, now is the time.

What do you think about the Red Wings’ start to 2022? Sound off in the comments below!



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