Is it just me, or did this season go by in the blink of an eye?
It feels like just yesterday we were pleading with Jeff Blashill to keep Lucas Raymond on the roster. Earlier this season, many of us thought the Montreal Canadiens would be Cup contenders. Some of us even thought the Vegas Golden Knights would be a lock for the playoffs.
Boy were we wrong.
A lot has changed over the last 81 games. Tonight, the joy and agony of the season came to an end. The only thing standing between the Red Wings and the long offseason was the New Jersey Devils, a team that foils Detroit in practically every way. Where the Red Wings played a little above expectations, the Devils fell short of what should’ve been their first season in the playoffs.
Last time around, Detroit blanked the Devils with a 3-0 win. This game was one of pride — one where both teams left everything they could on the ice.
The Bally Sports broadcast began with a very rough start. From delays in footage to random green bars, the network struggled in their last day before the playoffs. Fortunately, it didn’t take long for the Red Wings to have a little fun. After receiving some praise early on from the announcers, Michael Rasmussen pots an early goal for a 1-0 lead!
The “jersey” jerseys look great, despite what some may think. The Devils are such a slow team that you can really make out all the detail that goes into them. The broadcast’s scorebug disappeared at one point. It didn’t help the Devils, as the Red Wings continued to stifle the Devils’ efforts. Tyler Bertuzzi narrowly missed the net quickly after, firing a shot just wide of earning his 30th on the season.
Rasmussen was all over the ice early in the first, fighting off Dawson Mercer and Alex Holtz to gain control of the puck. If there was an award for Most Improved Player on the team, it would go to him. What an impressive end to the season for the first-rounder. Zetterlund from the Devils nearly scored against starter Magnus Hellberg, who was able to make a quick, late save.
Raymond dangled out a Devils defender, creating space for Bertuzzi to net another shot. Raymond’s improvement throughout the season was quiet, efficient, and more and more lethal by the day. A chipping effort from Rasmussen and Bertuzzi nearly netted the second of the game. Between the top line’s efforts, Rasmussen’s strength, and the sluggishness of the Devils, it looked like the momentum had tilted in favor of Detroit early on.
It’s sad that we’ll have to go nearly half a year before hearing Ken and Mick again. I, for one, love when Ken Daniels tells me where a player is from or who drafted him. It’s like trivia during the game!
One rookie scored in the first period. Unfortunately, that rookie was not from Detroit. Zetterlund set up a Dawson Mercer goal after Seider botched a pass to the point. It was a rare mix-up for Seider, and a too-common mistake for Detroit. It doesn’t help that Seider was being double-covered — as he’ll likely be for much of his career.
The first ended with a tie. Two (ish) periods of hockey to go.
Raymond’s passing has measurably improved through the season. He started the period early with a rink-wide pass, setting up a Veleno chance that pushed the momentum back in Detroit’s direction. The ice at the Pru Center, after the pass, decided to throw some chaos into the hat. At least four players fell within a three-minute period. One of the best parts of hockey this season was watching the amount of players fall down. Makes me feel better about my skating.
The first half of the game felt like a brief glimpse into a future playoff series. The Devils and Red Wings appear to be on a very similar timeline, albeit with both sides missing different pieces.
A chipping battle had a good shot from Pius Suter, who managed to get it back to Gagner and Jake Walman. Vrana’s wicked shot almost created a lead, only to have a late save from Blackwood stymie the chance. The momentum, thankfully, stayed in Detroit’s favor, as Moritz Seider hit his seventh goal and 50th point of the season!
Seider is the first Red Wing defenseman to reach 50 points since Nick Lidstrom in 2010-11. Neat! (It also goes to show how starved for scoring the blue line has been for well over a decade).
I’m sure a lot of Canadian media would be much more excited for Seider if he had a leaf on his jersey, or if he possessed the knowledge of the great pyramids like Michael Bunting does. All the same, it doesn’t matter, as they’re not the ones with the final say on it.
A VERY scary Nate Bastian shot almost tied the game up. Hellberg’s pad save stifled the scoring. The following faceoff saw more back-and-forth play headlined by Bertuzzi, Veleno, and a few good looks from Raymond again. Rasmussen was noticeable every time he set foot on the ice. From his second point assisting Seider’s goal to a few great scoring chances in the second, he was nothing short of lethal through the half.
Olli Juolevi (he’s still playing?) made a late hit against Jimmy Vesey (HE’s still playing?!), resulting in a penalty. Watching the Devils attempt a power play was like watching the Red Wings attempt a power play. In other words, it was not good. The stoppable force met the movable object.
If you were thinking to yourself “wow, the Red Wings were pretty dominant”, Dougie Hamilton was very quick to assuage your confidence, setting up a Nolan Foote shot to tie the game at 2-2. What is it with players named Foote and scoring against Detroit?
There’s something especially deflating about the 2021-22 Wings and the way they let one bad play get to them. After the game-tying goal, the Wings began to falter, letting the momentum tip to the other side. An important lesson the team could learn next season is managing momentum and not relying on just a few players to make an impact.
One period left to go!
The good news is, the Wings were able to shake off the momentum ghost early on. The better news is, after Bertuzzi was unable to secure a breakaway, he set up Veleno for the third goal of the night, making it 3-2!
Veleno’s rise to relevance is another great story on the season — and it’s become more apparent with each game. While he likely won’t pan out as a 2C, he makes for a fantastic depth threat for Detroit.
On the flip side, Suter looked a little lazy, letting a sloppy pass go that led to the Devils taking the zone and nearly scoring. A penalty on the Devils set Detroit on the flipside of the earlier penalty kill, showing that, yes, Detroit’s power play is just as bad as New Jersey’s. To make matters worse, Igor Sharangovich almost scored a late shorthanded goal from a line change.
Vrana yet again nearly scored, this time, from a Chel style slapshot from the point. You thought the game was all set in stone? Don’t worry! A Gustav Lindstrom miscue led to a Zetterlund goal. The Swede’s had himself quite a game tonight. Maybe the goaltender who hadn’t played NHL hockey in years wasn’t the best choice to start. Then again, it’s the end of the season and nothing matters, so who cares?
Turner Elson got scrappy with a few Devils players, with Seider squaring up against Subban. It was the longest time PK went without slew footing someone. Vrana and Suter put on a shooting clinic, resulting in a…review? Replays showed the puck enter the net, but Hamilton swept the puck away after it passed the line. Upon second review, the goal is good! Suter makes it 4-3.
With his second assist of the night, Lucas Raymond ended his first season with 58 points. He’ll wind up third in rookie scoring behind Trevor Zegras and Michael “Somehow Still A Rookie in 2022-23” Bunting.
With 6:30 left in the period, the Red Wings were up 35-20 in shots. Usually, it’s the other way around. Oesterle nearly helped the Devils tie the game for the fourth time with a late failure to grab the puck. After Bertuzzi was high-sticked and slashed, the Red Wings entered the power play for the last time in the season (thank goodness). Like some sort of fever dream, the Red Wings, yet again, failed to turn it into anything. Will this fugue state of impotent power plays come to an end next season? I’ll let you know in a few months.
Despite their best efforts, the Red Wings were able to finish the game off strong. The Devils pulled their goaltender with just two minutes left, hitting Detroit with all they had. Bertuzzi went for an empty net, only to be completely rocked by Dougie Hamilton. Fair, but also funny. The good news is, he didn’t have to wait too long — the empty net gives Detroit two 30 goal-scorers on the season!
With the final horn, the game was called as Detroit finished the season with the 8th best odds to win the lottery.
I just wanted to say that it’s been a real pleasure to cover these games with all of you. Here’s to many more memories next season (and hopefully a few less embarrassing blowouts).