Detroit — Watching Friday’s Red Wings game in New Jersey, after Tyler Bertuzzi scored his 30th goal in the waning seconds, it was difficult to tell who was more excited.
Bertuzzi, or the Wings’ bench?
“That was a lot of fun,” Bertuzzi said Tuesday, during an end-of-season media Zoom call. “Just to see the reaction, it was funny and it meant a lot to me that they cared that much. It was a good moment.”
Bertuzzi’s empty-net goal, moments after hitting a goal post on an attempt, ended what had been a difficult second half — and end of the regular season — with a lot of positive feelings.
“It was a special moment for me, and they made it even more special,” Bertuzzi said. “To see their reaction, it meant a lot to me.
“That was my goal (to reach 30), not really coming into the season, but as the season went on, I really wanted it and I’m very happy I did. My teammates played a big part in it and that was a special moment.”
Sam Gagner set up Bertuzzi on the milestone goal and felt everyone was attempting to get Bertuzzi to that number all night.
“We knew he was at 29 and it was one of those situations where everyone was trying to feed him and get him chances,” Gagner said. “He had a few great chances throughout the game, and his reaction when he hit the post there with 15 seconds left was pretty funny, but he was able to put one in.
“Certainly, it was a cool moment. Scoring 30 goals in this league is a hard thing to do. When you have a guy within distance, you want to try and help him out.”
Bertuzzi erased any concerns of being able to return from back surgery, which he had early last season. There were skeptics, considering it was back surgery and the physical style Bertuzzi plays, but Bertuzzi was able to stay healthy and have a career-best season.
“That was the biggest thing for me, just trying to stay healthy,” Bertuzzi said. “COVID got most of us (Bertuzzi was one of the NHL’s few unvaccinated players) but other than that, I was healthy and that was the biggest thing for me.”
Bertuzzi experienced some issues during training camp with his back, and he took a few days off the ice.
“It was getting a little sore, and I was actually kind of worried about it,” Bertuzzi said. “But then it was real good throughout the year, I had no problems at all. Other than training camp, and training camp is hard, that was the thing for me to get over, training camp, and it was real good the rest of the year, no problems.”
Bertuzzi had Jeff Blashill as a head coach at the minor-league level in Grand Rapids, then with the Wings the last seven seasons. He was disappointed to hear about Blashill not being brought back with the Wings next season.
“We’ve had a lot of success in Grand Rapids and in Detroit, no playoffs in Detroit but we’ve won games and had some good moments,” Bertuzzi said. “It’s a tough spot, like guys getting traded, or not making the team.”
Passionate coaching staff
In terms of Blashill’s dismissal, Gagner said Blashill, assistant coach Doug Houda and goaltending coach Jeff Salajko, all of whom weren’t retained for next season, worked passionately to make the team better.
“I just know from experience and getting the chance to work with them, working with (Houda), specifically, on the penalty kill and Blash with just overall team play, they really cared about us players and wanted us to succeed,” Gagner said. “They tried to help us right to the end, and as a player, you really appreciate that.
“Personally, I think about the game all the time and I’m always trying to think of ways to get better and improve upon my game. When you have coaches that take the time to try to develop you as a player and person, and you talk about the development of young players, I still feel like I have a lot of room to grow as a player, too. You want coaches that are going to try and help you and I felt they did a great job of that.
“I’m thankful for the time I got to spend with them and I feel like I’m a better player and person for it.”
Defenseman Marc Staal was nominated late in the season for the Masterton Memorial Trophy by the Detroit Chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association.
The Masterton Trophy is awarded annually to the player who “best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to the game.”
Staal, 35, played his 1,000th NHL game this season, in a long career that has included a serious eye injury and multiple concussions.
“To be in the league and play this game as long as I have has been a blessing,” Staal said. “I’ve enjoyed every second of it and I don’t want it to end. I love this game and I have a lot of passion for it, and I want to continue that.”
Staal is an unrestricted free agent but would like to return to the Wings for a third season.