Detroit Red Wings recover from trade deadline stress, new guys fit right in to beat Flyers

Detroit Free Press

The Detroit Red Wings shed the stress from the NHL trade deadline and from being sleepless in Seattle and moved forward.

They sounded as relieved as they looked after recording a victory Tuesday, one they needed after a wearying road trip and a worrisome deadline. Beating the Philadelphia Flyers, 6-3, at Little Caesars Arena, was a respite after a hard few days.

“The road trip and the trade deadline both caused lots of stress,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “When you don’t sleep it’s hard on your body, and yesterday at practice I thought there were some guys that hadn’t slept at all. And then with the trade deadline there’s angst involved in that, there just is. Everybody kind of doesn’t know what’s going on. I thought we came out and played with good energy early and that was an important part of the game.”

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Newcomers Oskar Sundqvist and Jake Walman made an immediate, favorable impression. Sundqvist was crashing the net on the first goal, by Joe Veleno, scored to make it 5-3, and assisted to make it 6-3. That’s an unusually high offensive output for a guy known as a 200-foot player, but the point is, he made the Wings better.

“I played against him in Sweden and from Pittsburgh,” Jakub Vrana said. “He’s a great defensive centerman, a two-way player, and can create offense as well. He does a lot of little things out there that people don’t see during a game.”

Blashill saw Sundqvist was something special when he arrived at Little Caesars Arena Tuesday morning.

“You could tell his veteran presence as soon as he stepped into my office,” Blashill said. “He was super comfortable with himself, super comfortable in his own skin. Knows what he’s good at, knows how to win. His smarts, and his experience, is going to help our team.”

It looks like Walman will, too. He stood out with his skating, and did a great job getting his shot through from the point. He and Sundqvist, along with a 2023 second-round pick, were acquired at Monday’s deadline from St. Louis for Nick Leddy and Luke Witkowski. The pick is good for the future of the rebuild, but gaining two players who can come right into the lineup and help — well, that’s what Vrana did last season, when he was a trade-deadline acquisition.

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“It’s not an easy transfer to go from city to city and join a different group of guys and these guys came in, they came to work and did a great job,” Vrana said. “We are happy to have them.

“It’s great for our confidence to get a win. We didn’t play great on the road trip, we have to be honest with ourselves. We came to play and we won the game and it’s good for us.”

It was only the Wings’ second victory in nine games. They visit the Islanders on Thursday, a chance to win consecutive games for the first time since mid February.

There’s certainly still things to correct: The Wings started well, but they needed Alex Nedeljkovic to bail them out in the third period, when the Flyers pressed and got it to 4-3.

But for a change it was the opponent who had to pull their goalie, and the Wings who took advantage. Ultimately they looked like a group that had a good deal more energy than the past week, when they went 1-3 on a trip that culminated with a loss to the Kraken, a team near the bottom of the NHL standings. Then came the deadline, when Leddy, Troy Stecher, and Vladislav Namestnikov left for other teams.

“It’s hard to see your friends leave, that’s for sure,” Vrana said. “But at the end of the day, it’s part of this business and it’s behind us now and we are looking forward.”

Contact Helene St. James at hstjames@freepress.com. Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames. Read more on the Detroit Red Wings and sign up for our Red Wings newsletter. Her book, The Big 50: The Detroit Red Wings is available from AmazonBarnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail.

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