For about 50 minutes, the Detroit Red Wings matinee game at the Buffalo Sabres seemed like it was going to be one of “those games”. The offense couldn’t create much in terms of quality scoring chances and the Sabres were doing just enough to squeak out a win.
But Detroit seemed to flip a switch after a shorthanded goal from Vladislav Namestnikov. Dylan Larkin scored to force overtime and scored again to secure the win and a season sweep of the Sabres.
Let’s extract some observations from the exciting come-from-behind road win.
#1: Dylan Larkin deserves to be an all-star this season. There was a bit of frustration from fans that Lucas Raymond wasn’t the Red Wings selection (although he still has a shot to get in as the last-one out), but the captain truly has been the best forward on the team this year. Leading the team with 18 goals and 18 assists on the season, Larkin is fighting the idea that he’s not a true number one center – he has been truly electric for the offense this year.
#2: The offense still has flashes of excellence. Since the start of the new year, the Red Wings offense has been a little shaky (to say the least). However, there are still those flashes of greatness among the top two lines. For most of Monday’s matinee against Buffalo, it seemed that Detroit wouldn’t net a single goal. But in less than 10 minutes, the Wings knotted things up and stole the game in overtime. The offense is still in a concerning place, but it is somewhat reassuring that the effectiveness is still there.
#3: So is Bertuzzi on the second line actually working? It was a bit of a surprise to see Tyler Bertuzzi shuffled down to the second line with Pius Suter and Robby Fabbri. But in two games against the Sabres, it seems as though the experiment might actually be working. Fabbri and Suter have both improved with Bert on the ice, and the team now seems to have two lines that pose an offensive threat. Bertuzzi’s talent will push him back to the top line eventually, but for now, the entire team is benefitting from the move.
#4: Namestnikov is going to be a extremely valuable at the deadline. Namestnikov is an extremely versatile forward, and he’s illustrated that with the Red Wings this season. He’s played well on the bottom-six, he’s slotted into the top-six on multiple occasions (for example, against Buffalo today) and he’s effective on the penalty kill. Namestnikov’s stock seems to trend just a bit higher every week, and he boosted it just a bit more with a shorthanded goal against the Sabres. Whether or not he gets dealt, there will be multiple teams calling at the deadline for Vladdy.
#5: The penalty kill is actually really solid right now. Even when the Red Wings were pretty good at the start of the season, the penalty kill unit wasn’t great, typically hovering in the 20s in league rankings. However, after an impressive stretch of play, the pk unit’s 78.7 percent effectiveness rank is the 18th best in the league. Not too mention the multiple shorthanded goals the unit has collecting in the past few weeks. Detroit’s penalty kill isn’t anything special, but there have been some major strides of late.
#6: Alex Nedeljkovic was strong in net. This observations can essentially be placed into any game that Neddy starts this year. The rookie netminder was excellent against the Sabres, stopping 26 of Buffalo’s 28 shots on goal (.929 save percentage). Nedeljkovic just keeps proving how valuable he is to the team, and Monday’s game against the Sabres was no exception.
#7: That’s a series sweep for the Red Wings. With the win against Buffalo, Detroit has officially swept their first team of the 2021-22 season, with three overtime victories and a 4-0 win under their belt. The Sabres aren’t a good team, but it’s still nice to see that the Wings can take care of teams below them.
#8: The inconsistency continues. After a four game skid, the Red Wings are now on a two game winning streak. Don’t be surprised if more wins follow. This team is extremely streaky, as both wins and losses fill the column in chunks.