Detroit — There’s much talk around the NHL about ‘the wall’ and how rookies tend to hit that wall at a certain point in their first season, getting mentally and physically spent.
But Lucas Raymond never heard about any sort of wall. And when you look at Raymond’s statistics, eyeball the way he’s played from Game 1 all the way through Friday’s 68th game where his two goals gave him 22 for the season, if there ever was said wall — Raymond likely skated right through it.
“It wasn’t really on my mind,” said Raymond of potentially hitting the wall. “If you stick with it and play hard, it should lead to good things.”
Raymond leads all rookies with 52 points, is second with the 22 goals, and is fourth with 30 assists. Teammate Moritz Seider is gaining traction as the Calder Trophy (rookie of the year) favorite, but Raymond deserves a measure of support, also.
His consistency and production have been impressive for a player who just turned 20 earlier in the week.
“He’s been incredible all year,” forward Sam Gagner said. “It’s a really hard league as a 19-year-old to bring it every night. I feel like his consistency has been great. He’s a really mature kid who puts a lot of pressure on himself to succeed. He’s been fantastic for us all year and fun to watch.”
What hasn’t been easy for Raymond is the losing. Especially this second-half swoon that has left the Wings dropping in the standings, and spoiling what was a successful first half of the season.
“It’s tough for sure,” Raymond said. “We have a very competitive locker room with every guy in there. No one wants to lose. We’ve had a tough stretch where we couldn’t pull through and win games, and we have to get through (it) and come together as a team and be able to win those games.”
Raymond feels like the Wings can begin building for the future with a strong finish this final month of the regular season.
“We need to start building here, not just for this year but in the future,” Raymond said. “It starts right now if we expect next season to be good, we need to start right now and play the right way. I feel like when we play the right way, we usually end up on top.
“We’re a good team with a lot of good players, skilled players, and competitive guys.”
Returning to the way the Wings played the opening several months, with more energy and passion, said Raymond, is important.
“The effort we put into the games was huge,” Raymond said. “Everybody remembers the Florida game here at home, where guys throwing themselves all over the zone to block shots. That’s the mentality we need to have if we’re going to win games and be able to win those close games, win games 2-1 or 1-0 or 3-2. Those tight, low-scoring games, that’s a huge part.”
Being on a younger team such as the Wings, where improvement and develop are crucial, has also made Raymond’s rookie season easier to navigate.
“I feel like every opportunity you get to play in the NHL, you are really grateful for that don’t take that for granted,” Raymond said. “Every day you come in and want to develop and get better, especially with the team we have and with so many good guys.
“We have a lot of fun and that makes it easier to come to the rink every day and stay focused on our goal.”
Dylan Larkin and Filip Hronek didn’t practice Saturday. Coach Jeff Blashill expects both to play Sunday in Ottawa, but isn’t completely sure.
“They are maintenance days for a reason, I don’t want to act like there’s no way they couldn’t be out,” Blashill said. “But I expect them to be in the lineup.”
…With Tyler Bertuzzi unavailable to play in Canada because of his non-vaccinated status, the Wings called up forward Kyle Criscuolo from Grand Rapids.
…Blashill has ruled out Givani Smith at least through this week’s games against Boston (Tuesday) and Winnipeg (Wednesday).
…With no Bertuzzi, in the reworked forward lines, Blashill moved Adam Erne into Bertuzzi’s spot on the top line with Larkin and Raymond.
“The last couple of games, he skated real good and been as confident as he’s been in quite a while,” Blashill said. “So, I’m going to reward him a little bit for that and it gives us, on that line, someone who can retrieve pucks and get to the net.”
…Ken Kal confirmed on social media Saturday he tested positive for COVID-19. Daniella Bruce, who filled in for Paul Woods earlier this season when Woods tested positive, will take Kal’s place alongside Woods for Sunday’s game.
Red Wings at Senators
►Faceoff: 1 p.m. Sunday, Canadian Tire Centre.
►Outlook: The Senators (24-37-6) defeated the Wings Friday, 5-2, with four goals in the third period…RW Mathieu Joseph had three of the third period goals, while C Josh Norris (Oxford/Michigan) scored the other goal, his team-leading 27th goal.