In another 10 days, there won’t be any Detroit Red Wings games to watch until October.
That in itself is a reason to stick around for what’s left on the slate, which resumes Tuesday at the Tampa Bay Lightning. From there, the Wings play at the Florida Panthers Thursday, at home Saturday against the Pittsburgh Penguins, and the last week holds two games against the New Jersey Devils sandwiched around a trip to the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The challenge was exacerbated Monday when Dylan Larkin underwent core muscle surgery, robbing the Wings of their captain and leading scorer for the duration of the season.
The Wings (29-37-10) are in the middle of a stretch against elite teams and lost weekend games against the New York Rangers and Panthers after going into Carolina and earning a 4-0 victory. Monday was a day off, a chance to recover from the latest disappointment and try to gather optimism for the task ahead.
CAN’T HAPPEN: Dylan Larkin: Detroit Red Wings must show more pride
The Wings have missed the playoffs for a sixth straight season, but here are five reasons to keep watching:
Moritz Seider approaching milestone
Moritz Seider is the primary reason the Wings have been more competitive than last season. He’s a joy to watch, from the way he commands the puck to the way he uses his 6-foot-4 frame to back down opponents. To do what he’s doing at 21 — he leads all rookies with 41 assists — should garner him the most votes for rookie of the year. With three more points, he’d be the first Wings defenseman to reach 50 points in a season/ since Nicklas Lidstrom had 62 points in 2010-11.
Two 30-goal scorers
Tyler Bertuzzi has five games (his unvaccinated status means he’ll miss the April 26 game against the Leafs) to score three times and reach the 30-goal plateau for the first time in his career. Larkin had 31. If Bertuzzi follows suit, it would mark the first time since Larkin and Andreas Athanasiou in 2018-19 that the Wings have two 30-goal scorers.
There might have been three, had Jakub Vrana not missed the first 56 games recovering from shoulder surgery. As it stands, he has 10 goals in 20 games, which extrapolates to 40 over a full season. The Wings haven’t had three 30-goal scorers since Zetterberg, Datsyuk and Marian Hossa in 2008-09.
Hell-bent in net
Goaltender Magnus Hellberg joined the Wings April 15 trying to making a comeback after five seasons in the KHL. He hasn’t played since February, and there aren’t many practices/morning skates for him to acclimate , because the schedule is relentless (four games next six days). It hardly seems fair to throw him in against Lightning, Panthers or Penguins — teams that have clinched playoff berths and still have home ice advantage on the line — but the April 24 game at the Devils could present an opportunity to get a look at the 6-foot-6 Swede.
The Wings are 18-15-7 at Little Caesars Arena, their most recent victory coming against the Boston Bruins on April 5. It’s on the Wings to give fans at Saturday’s matinee something to cheer, but on the whole, there’s been good vibes at home. Larkin said after the victory against the Bruins that he noticed LCA “had the most energy it’s had since it opened. It’s great to see.”
It was the Penguins who routed the Wings in that 11-2 loss on March 27, so having a better showing against them should be a matter of pride. Plus, when the teams met in Pittsburgh on Jan. 28, Seider got in Sidney Crosby’s face. Imagine how that would go over before a home crowd.
The Devil wears Red
The Wings beat the Devils, 5-2, back on Dec. 18, a notable game because of who was in pandemic protocol: Six players (including Alex Nedeljkovic) and coach Jeff Blashill, which led to Grand Rapids coach Ben Simon manning the bench. The virus was going around the NHL, prompting Christmas break to start early, and the Wings didn’t play again until New Year’s Eve.
Despite having 2019 No. 1 pick Jack Hughes and 2017 No. 1 Nico Hischier, the Devils are out of playoff contention, too, and the Wings look down on them in the standings. The Wings haven’t won their last game of the season since April 9, 2017, when they bid farewell to Joe Louis Arena — with a victory over the Devils.
Contact Helene St. James at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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 Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail.