Detroit Red Wings preseason observations: Much-needed improvement from defense

Detroit Free Press

The Detroit Red Wings took a well-deserved and much-needed day off Sunday, an opportunity for everyone to get a break before the last week of the exhibition season.

The Wings have another four games to go: Monday at home against the Pittsburgh Penguins, Wednesday at Washington, Friday at home against the Toronto Maple Leafs, and Saturday in Toronto. Finishing with a back-to-back makes it unlikely we’ll see most of the guys projected to be in the lineup for the Oct. 14 opener in one preseason game.

“We’ll continue to shift lineups because we need the bodies,” coach Derek Lalonde said. “I even think that last weekend, when we have Toronto back-to-back, I don’t know if you’ll see a full NHL lineup just because we want to give guys looks and spread the lineup out.”

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The Wings went 2-2 in their first week, and here are four observations based on those performances:

Lalonde’s message getting through

The Wings have surrendered five even-strength goals through 240 minutes of play. Both Ville Husso and Alex Nedeljkovic, the tandem earmarked to carry the Wings in net, have played well, but they’ve also benefitted from the team in front of them. Husso made 16 stops in his first start, playing half of Friday’s 2-0 loss to the Capitals. But he didn’t see more than a couple of grade-A scoring chances. This is what general manager Steve Yzerman wanted to see, and why Lalonde was hired: To make the Wings a better team defensively. It’s an encouraging sign for the season ahead.

Raymond and Seider

The tough part about having successful rookie seasons is having to do it again. But both Calder Trophy-winner Moritz Seider and Lucas Raymond, who finished fourth in voting, have looked excellent. Raymond had a goal and two assists in Saturday’s 3-0 victory at Chicago, stealing pucks and creating scoring chances. Seider has looked really good paired with Ben Chiarot; Lalonde isn’t set on who’ll partner with whom, but those two seem to click. Chiarot is a smart player who uses his stick well, helping free Seider to get involved offensively, which he loves to do. Sophomore seasons can be tough — Dylan Larkin struggled in his second year, but Raymond and Seider are on a much deeper team than Larkin was after his head-turning debut.

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Edvinsson’s situation

From two high-profile youngsters to another: Simon Edvinsson. In talking to people in the organization, the sense is if the No. 6 pick from 2021 ends up starting the season in Grand Rapids, that’s fine. The 6-foot-6 defenseman would be a go-to guy with the Griffins, playing in all situations. It certainly helped Seider to develop under GR coach Ben Simon and his staff in 2019-20. There’s no question Edvinsson is skilled, but he’s had some hard lessons losing the puck to opponents. He’s played two games so far, getting special-teams time in both, and has been paired with Gustav Lindstrom, who does project to be in the opening night lineup.

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Next, please

Elmer Soderblom finally got a game off Saturday, after playing in the first three. He looked tired Friday, but overall, he has impressed. Like Edvinsson, Soderblom is learning hard lessons about puck-protection at the NHL level, but Soderblom has handled himself well and been a part of offensive situations. I’ve liked Jonatan Berggren’s game, too — another guy who has high-end skills with the puck. Each could get into as many as three games this week, and further make their case to stick around.

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 latest book, On the Clock: Behind the Scenes with the Detroit Red Wings at the NHL Draft is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail.

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