Everyone knew this portion of the schedule would be a gauntlet for the Red Wings. Not even an early two goal lead could save Detroit in a 7-4 loss to Minnesota. But progress was still measurable in the loss–something that will be a reoccurring theme in this version of eight observations:
1: Dylan Larkin‘s torrid goal scoring continues to make everyone forget last year’s offensively challenged season shortened by injury. There were whispers that maybe he wasn’t a top line center and perhaps at best a second line center. His numbers during the 2018-19 season previewed a game breaking forward and then two tough seasons–one historically bad–reared its ugly head. Like the Red Wings, Larkin is not only back on track but rising.
2: The debut of the Smith Brothers–Givani and Gemel–was a fun thing to see. Perhaps it’s me being sentimental, but there was always something to playing on the same team as my brother when we were younger. Can’t even imagine it on the biggest stage in hockey.
3: The Wild are a very good team so while yielding a quick two-goal lead and seeing it morph into a two-goal deficit is disheartening, the Red Wings are going to learn some good lessons here. The schedule didn’t do them any favors in the short term, but in the long term this could pay dividends when the Red Wings are on the other side of these contests, drawing wisdom from games that went awry during this stretch.
4: The Red Wings have done a better job of generating offensive chances, especially with possession. But unless it’s Tyler Bertuzzi out there, and at times Adam Erne, they struggle to generate traffic in front of the net when shots are from the point.
5: The penalty kill struggled against a potent Wild power play, giving up three goals on the man advantage to Minnesota. Another tough lesson showing that the Red Wings aren’t exactly where they want to be yet on special teams or as an organization.
6: Lucas Raymond‘s beauty of a goal puts him at 13 on the season. After not scoring at will like he was earlier in the season, it’s not out of the realm of possibility he can still hit 20 by season’s end. I also enjoyed the Brett Hull like drop-to-a-knee glide and snipe.
7: Say what you will but the Red Wings fought to the bitter end, and turned what could have been an embarrassing loss and brought it back to a one-goal deficit before an empty net and quick goal seconds later finished it for good. Again, it’s about progress and that was it here.
8: Which leads to the final point: The marathon sequence that went through a power play and then resulted in Sam Gagner‘s goal. From the effort, to the puck possession, to the final product seeing a Red Wings goal marks that improvement from year’s past. It might be a tough stretch of games against some tough teams, but shifts like that will help the fanbase tough it out.