Red Wings rookie Moritz Seider adding bite, physical edge to his arsenal

Detroit News

Detroit — Moritz Seider’s overall game is beginning to take shape and showing another wrinkle.

The big, young defenseman refuses to back down, even when facing some of the NHL’s most high-profile stars. Seider matched up with Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby and Toronto’s Auston Matthews over the weekend. He held his own and gained notice.

In Wings coach Jeff Blashill’s estimation, Seider has shown that competitiveness since opening night in October.

“I don’t think he’s ever backed down from anybody and that’s a great trait,” Blashill said. “I wouldn’t say it’s just specific to lately, he’s done that all season.

“He’s had in him the whole time.”

More: Red Wings continue to learn painful lessons after coughing up game to Maple Leafs

Blashill said Seider is doing a better job of recognizing the physical strength that’s common around the NH. Seider played in the Swedish Hockey League last season.

He has been more forceful physically, that way, in recent weeks and months.

“He’s learned how to leverage his body against big men in this league,” Blashill said. “That allows him to have some of that physical presence, too.

“Early on, he might have underestimated some of the strength of a few guys and was knocked backwards a little bit. It’s hard to get under people’s skin when that happens. Lately, he’s learned how to leverage his body and understand the strength of a number of people.”

There was minor concern earlier that Seider might wear down a bit as the long, 82-game regular season drags on. Seider has never played in that many games, against the best in the world.

Seider actually appears to be getting stronger, averaging 22:35 per game. He leads all NHL rookies with 25 assists, and only trails teammate Lucas Raymond (35) and Anaheim’s Trevor Zegras (32) in points, with 29.

“I’m not seeing him slow down at all,” Blashill said. “There’s still a learning curve there that he becomes more efficient within his skill set. He’s creating a bunch and not giving up much, and it’s still a learning process, but I definitely haven’t seen him slow down.

“He’s had a big impact on a number of games.”

Late-game situation

When Blashill, or any Red Wings player, is talking about “locking it down” late in the game, it doesn’t necessarily mean shutting an opponent completely down defensively.

It’s making the opponent play and work the entire length of the ice.

“Making them play 200 feet the whole time, that’s the best lock down,” Blashill said. “Consistently playing 200 feet, then you put yourself in a good position. There’s always going to be a natural push by the team that’s down, and especially in a situation like that.”

Saturday against Toronto, the Leafs pushed late in the third period and the Wings didn’t respond well. Blashill said the Wings’ played some 24 minutes in the defensive zone, much higher than the typical 18-20 minutes on a given night.

“We had pucks on our sticks and didn’t get them out,” Blashill said. “A lot of breakdowns are mental mistakes, and they happen when you’re late in your shifts and nobody thinks as well when they’re tired and on the back end of a back-to-back (games) and late in the game, and you’re under pressure.

“We just didn’t think well enough in those situations.”

Ice chips

Danny DeKeyser missed the morning skate, and likely won’t to be in Monday’s lineup, after he and his wife celebrated the birth of their baby.

… The Wings were off for 12 days in late December while on a holiday break combined with a pause due to a COVID outbreak. Now, they’ll be off for another six days beginning later this week due to the All-Star break.

Blashill said the situation can be positive.

“The whole league is doing it, so that’s a fair thing across the league,” Blashill said of the All-Star break. “Personally, those days off are great for the players to refresh. You’d like to have more than one practice before you play (the first game back) after having those days off, but the whole league is in the same situation. I’m sure guys will take full advantage (of the days off).”

Blashill isn’t totally getting away from hockey.

“I’ll be a youth hockey tournament in Chicago,” said Blashill, who will be watching one of his children play. “My sunshine won’t be the same.”

… The Wings assigned goaltender Calvin Pickard, who was impressive in Friday’s victory in Pittsburgh, and reactivated goaltender Thomas Greiss (COVID protocol).

ted.kulfan@detroitnews.com

Twitter; @tkulfan

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