Detroit — Lucas Raymond is going through his first season in the NHL, and judging from the statistics and eye test, doing quite well.
But it also helps Raymond has a buddy who is doing the same thing.
Rookie defenseman Moritz Seider is going through the exact same things. The fact Seider has been around — to vent, hang out, talk, joke around, whatever — has been a big help. Raymond said.
“It’s huge,” Raymond said after Monday’s practice. “Mo and I are real good friends and we get along great off the ice, which usually translates on the ice as well, So, it’s really nice.”
The two recently were interviewed sitting courtside at a Pistons game at Little Caesars Arena. Raymond moved in with Seider once the regular season began, for a while. The two have done video hits for Red Wings’ website which were popular.
A friendship has blossomed between two young players who are likely to be the cornerstone of the Wings’ organization for a long time.
“Whether it’s just hanging out off the ice, or having someone to talk to or whatever, it could be since both of us are here without friends and family except for the guys on the team, but outside of hockey, it’s really nice to have (another young player to talk to) and we get along great,” Raymond said. “I lived with him in the beginning (of the season); that was real nice as well. We had a great time.
“We got along real quick.”
On the ice, Raymond saw a lot of Seider last season when both were playing on different teams in the Swedish Hockey League. Raymond could tell, then, Seider was a special player.
“Impressed, of course, but also I knew how good he was coming into this season, playing against him last year,” Raymond said. “He’s just a force out there. He can basically do it all, with the big hits and physical plays but the patience with the puck and skating and making plays. He’s a very well-rounded defenseman.
“It’s a lot of fun playing with him.”
The two young Wings have been mentioned most of the season as favorites, along with Anaheim forward Trevor Zegras, to win the Calder Trophy (rookie of the year).
But the consensus around the league recently appears to be Seider has taken a lead on any other rookie mentioned, if there were a vote taken today.
Seider leads all rookie with 34 assists, and has 39 points, while playing just under 23 minutes (22:56), more than any other rookie. Raymond leads all rookies with 42 points, with 15 goals and 27 assists.
If Raymond had a vote, his buddy Seider would get the nod for the Calder.
“He’s been playing great,” Raymond said, “so he has my vote for sure.”
Goaltenders Alex Nedeljkovic and Thomas Greiss were one of the more effective tandems in the NHL for much of this season.
But the goaltending has mirrored the team defense in recent games, culminating in Saturday’s 10-7 loss to Toronto.
The Wings sat 29th in the NHL Monday with an .891 save percentage, a statistic that got dinged after Saturday’s defensive collapse.
“The goalies are evaluated just like the players are,” Blashill said. “The goaltending position is the most important position in hockey. I hold our goalies to a high standard, so when they need to be better and execute at a high level, I make sure to let them know.
“But I’m also cognizant of the fact good defense can breed good goaltending. It kind of goes hand in hand. We probably need better of both. If you look at the couple of games, we need better from everybody. But we need to be better defensively from everybody.”
A meltdown like Saturday’s can leave a mark mentally, and specifically for the goaltenders.
“Certainly if you let it, for both of our goalies or our team,” Blashill said. “The only way to kind of not allow that to happen is to go back to work and execute shift by shift and save by save and if you really focus on the process of it, you get back on your game. Confidence matters 100% for a hockey team or skater or goalie. The problem is, nobody can give you confidence, you have to earn confidence and part of that is the work.”
Nedeljkovic has struggled in the last month, and Saturday only lasted until midway through the first period before Greiss replaced him. Nedeljkovic than returned to play the third period.
Blashill feels Nedeljkovic’s confidence has taken a hit during the slump.
“It’s nothing technical, certainly there are some technical areas that (goaltending coach) Jeff Salajko and Ned have worked on all season and continue to work on to get better,” Blashill said. “I just think it’s a matter of going out and let’s work to gain our confidence.
“When you see goalies get on a roll, usually they’re real confident. It works the other way, and we all have to regain (confidence).”
After a lackluster practice Friday, which Blashill felt may have contributed to Saturday’s loss, Blashill felt the emotion and intensity was much better Monday.
… Blashill tweaked lines and defensive pairings. Up front, the key flips were Filip Zadina with Joe Veleno and Michael Rasmussen, while Vladislav Namestnikov skated with Dylan Larkin and Raymond.
Defensively, the Seider and Nick Leddy pairing stayed, but Marc Staal was with Troy Stecher, Filip Hronek with Jordan Oesterle and Danny DeKeyser with Gustav Lindstrom.
Blashill will make a final determination on his lineup Tuesday before the Wings face Carolina.
… Blashill watched Saturday’s game one more time Monday.
“It was a wild game and I had a lot of texts from friends of mine that are in line to buy season tickets and felt it was great,” Blashill said. “I didn’t. But, listen, it’s good we were able to make it a game and if we score on the power play (potentially tying the game), who knows what happens? I just want to make sure we focus on what really matters, making sure we better hockey.”
Hurricanes at Red Wings
► Faceoff: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Little Caesars Arena, Detroit
► TV/radio: BSD/97.1 FM
► Outlook: The Hurricanes (37-11-4) have won five consecutive games and are the top team in the Eastern Conference. … C Sebastian Aho (23 goals, 55 points), D Jaccob Slavin (26 assists), and G Frederik Andersen (29-7-2, .930 SVS) lead a star-studded, deep lineup.