Red Wings Weekly: Reality Check in Detroit

The Hockey Writers

Welcome back to Red Wings Weekly! In this weekly column, we like to take a look at the Red Wings’ most-recent week of play, identify any players and/or trends that stood out, and then look ahead and find out what the next week may have in store for the team from Hockeytown. As always, feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section down below.

Detroit Red Wings Weekly Moritz Seider and Dylan Larkin
Moritz Seider and Dylan Larkin (The Hockey Writers)

After the incredible highs of the first week of the regular season, it was to be expected that the Red Wings would eventually look a bit more human. This week, the team faced their first wave of adversity and have come out the other side with middling results.

The Most Dangerous Lead in Hockey

10/21 at Chicago Blackhawks, 4-3 OT loss

This was the first game of the season that I would categorize as a disappointment as the Red Wings squandered a 3-1 lead in the third period and lost in overtime. Corsi for and scoring chance metrics show that it was a relatively evenly matched game, with the slight edge going to the Chicago Blackhawks.

Dylan Larkin Detroit Red Wings
Dylan Larkin, Detroit Red Wings (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Without Jakub Vrana and Tyler Bertuzzi, this was a game of offensive experiments, with the top-six forward group being shuffled to a nearly unrecognizable extent. The new-look first line of Dominik Kubalik – Dylan Larkin – David Perron got absolutely caved in at even strength, being outshot 8-3 and only controlling about 18% of the expected goals while on the ice together (stats according to Natural Stat Trick).

Related: Red Wings Weekly – Detroit’s Hot Start

The second line of Lucas Raymond – Andrew Copp – Filip Zadina had a much better performance, outshooting the competition 9-3 at even strength and controlling 70% of expected goals. While it was no surprise to see Raymond buzzing around the ice, it was nice to get a glimpse at what Copp can offer as he continues to brush off some rust. It was also a great opportunity for Zadina to show what he can do in a top-six role. He looked solid but couldn’t capitalize on any of his chances.

Ultimately, this loss won’t mean too much, but these will be the kind of games that the Red Wings need to win if they want to take yet another step forward. 

Final Grade: C+

Duck Hunting Season

10/23 vs. Anaheim Ducks, 5-1 Win

The Red Wings looked great in this game, dominating the Anaheim Ducks to the tune of a 5-1 score. While both teams played mostly to a stalemate at even strength, Detroit put the game away with excellent performances from their special teams. The power play began to click in this game, with three goals on the man advantage, and the penalty kill remained perfect after killing another four penalties.

The Ducks gave a valiant effort, but Ville Husso was on a heater, making 32 saves and bringing his season save percentage up to a sterling .938 save percentage (SV%). Look out, Igor Shesterkin, there’s a new sheriff in town (please, nobody tell New York Rangers fans I said this unless Husso somehow keeps up a .930 SV% all season, then please tell them all). Overall, it was another great game for Husso, who saved 1.24 goals above expected (according to

Ville Husso Detroit Red Wings
Ville Husso, Detroit Red Wings (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Aside from John Gibson performing his idea of vigilante justice on Adam Erne in the middle of play, the biggest story of the game was the continued excellence of Kubalik in his tryout on Detroit’s top line. With a goal and two assists (all on the power play), he looks to be recapturing some of his rookie season magic, where he reached 30 goals on the Blackhawks’ first line. He now has eight points in his first five games with the Red Wings and leads the team. If he can maintain this level of production, even just on the power play, then he may lock in a spot in the top six sooner than later.

Final Grade: A

A Dose of Reality

10/25 vs. New Jersey Devils, 6-2 Loss

The New Jersey Devils were playing their second half of a back-to-back and lack of consistent goaltending, so this seemed like yet another game the Red Wings could win. In fact, going into the game, Detroit was the only remaining team without a regulation loss.

The Devils dominated the game, especially at five-on-five, where they outshot the Red Wings 39-17. They also managed to solve Detroit’s penalty kill, which had been perfect up until this game, killing 17 straight penalties. 

Jack Hughes New Jersey Devils
Jack Hughes, New Jersey Devils (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Alex Nedeljkovic stole the show in the previous meeting between the teams, but he was unable to repeat that heroic performance in this one. The Devils have been playing incredibly well to start the season, dominating opponents all over the ice, so earning two points over the first two meetings should be seen as a positive overall.

The Red Wings weren’t good enough to win, though it was nice to see Larkin and Kubalik still humming on the first line, combining for the first goal of the night. Kubalik also scored a goal of his own in the third period, but the game was too far gone for Detroit to stage a comeback at that point.

Final Grade vs. C+

Bruised by Boston, Despite Being Better Than the Box Score

10/27 @ Boston Bruins, 5-1 Loss

I know that losing 5-1 and being outscored 11-3 over two games is not good, but this game was actually a relatively positive one for a young Red Wings team that is still figuring out who they are and how good they can be this season.

My THW colleague, Devin Little, had been looking forward to this game for a while, noting that we’d get a real look at what the Red Wings are made of against a team with such a stout defensive structure and a long-standing culture of winning. How did they look?

Related: Early Look at the 2024 NHL Draft Prospects

Better than the box score shows. This was a special-teams loss more than anything, something most fans in Hockeytown have become accustomed to over the last few years. After killing 17 of their first 18 penalties, Detroit allowed three power-play goals against a superior Boston Bruins group that seemed to cycle the puck at will. After looking like a bright spot coming into this game, it’s disappointing that the Red Wings’ special teams failed to do much of anything, although nobody expects it to be perfect every night. 

However, this was Detroit’s best game at even strength since their season opener when they dominated the Montreal Canadiens. In 44 minutes of five-on-five hockey, the Red Wings had a Corsi-for percentage of 52% (the percentage of attempted shots in the game that were taken by Detroit), narrowly outshot the Bruins 24-23, and had an expected goals for percentage of 56%. The teams were even at two goals apiece at even strength, but Boston’s power play went three for six, and Detroit’s went zero for five.

Brad Marchand, Boston Bruins
Brad Marchand, Boston Bruins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Red Wings head coach Derek Lalonde has been pouring cold water over the team’s hot start since the beginning, talking about how their five-on-five game hasn’t been where he wants it, but that they’ve been getting lucky enough to win regardless. Despite the result, this is a game the team can be proud of because they were in it the whole way (until they allowed three goals in 90 seconds) and might have won with a better performance from their special teams or goaltender.

Final Grade: B-

3 Takeaways From the Week

1. Five-on-Five Play Needs Some Work

The Red Wings have improved through their first seven games, but they’ve been buoyed by great goaltending performances and a penalty kill that was perfect through five games. Both special teams have looked almost unrecognizably good, which will be a huge boon for the club; however, the team’s play at even strength will need to take several steps forward before they can become a true playoff threat.

2. Special Teams Might Actually Be a Bright Spot

The success of Detroit’s special teams early on this season has been a pleasant surprise when you consider that, in recent seasons, they’ve been as intimidating as a duck next to the sidewalk – Sure, it’ll give you a scare now and then, but it’s ultimately harmless. This season, they are more like an angry goose running toward you on the sidewalk – Capable of doing some actual damage, so you’re probably just better off avoiding it.

Do those analogies work? Doesn’t matter.

Both the power play and penalty kill look very different from last season in terms of style and success, with the newly acquired personnel making a huge difference. Kubalik has looked comfortable on the top power-play unit, and he will likely stay there for the foreseeable future as his shot looks as good as ever. The aggressive new penalty-killing style brought to the table by Lalonde and assistant coach Bob Boughner is bound to have some shaky nights (like Thursday against the Bruins) as the players try to master it, but it has also looked solid and could become an asset moving forward.

3. Is Kubalik the Real Deal?

When the Blackhawks decided against re-signing Kubalik last summer, one of the many casualties of the tank in Chicago, nobody really knew what to expect from him. After scoring 30 goals in his first NHL season at age 24, he hasn’t quite regained that form. The most goals he’s scored in a season since was 17.

Dominik Kubalik Detroit Red Wings
Dominik Kubalik, Detroit Red Wings (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

The Red Wings signed Kubalik to a low-risk/high-reward deal in free agency, which will keep him in Hockeytown for this season and next – a deal that nobody really knew what to do with other than hope for the best. Well, two weeks into the season, it appears that Detroit is getting Kubalik at his best, as he leads the team in scoring with 10 points. Ever since he was elevated to the top line with Larkin, he has been on his A-game. Is this sustainable? Not sure yet. Is it super exciting to watch? Absolutely.

3 Stars of the Week

3. Filip Zadina (CF% of 55% and xGF% of 59%) 
2. Dylan Larkin (3G, 1A in 4 games)
1. Dominik Kubalik (3G, 4A in 4 games)

Upcoming Games

Minnesota Wild – Oct. 29, 2022 

Current Record: 3-3-1
One Strength: Third-best power play in the league that’s humming along at 31%
One Weakness: Averaging the most penalty minutes per game of any NHL team
Key to Victory: Special teams success. Shut down their incredible power play and capitalize on a few of the man-advantage opportunities that the Red Wings are bound to get.

Buffalo Sabres – Oct. 31, 2022

Current Record: 4-3-0
One Strength: Averaging 3.57 goals for per game, seventh in the league
One Weakness: Allowing 36 shots against per game, 29th in the league
Key to Victory: The size and speed up front that the Buffalo Sabres have in Dylan Cozens, Alex Tuch, and Tage Thompson are incredibly intimidating. The Red Wings will need their most physically imposing players, like Ben Chiarot, Seider, and Michael Rasmussen, to stand up to Buffalo’s top forwards. 

Washington Capitals – Nov. 3, 2022

Current Record: 4-4-0
One Strength: Discipline. The Capitals are averaging only 7.8 penalty minutes per game, seventh in the league (just wait until Tom Wilson returns from injury, and that’ll double).
One Weakness: Their lack of center depth has left them with a 41.3% faceoff win percentage, the second-worst mark in the NHL
Key to Victory: Control possession more often than usual by winning the game in the faceoff circle. 

Prospect Watch

Keep an eye on William Wallinder. The Swedish defender was named Swedish Junior player of the year last season and has picked up right where he left off with an impressive 10 points in 13 Swedish Hockey League (SHL) games. He plays for Rögle BK alongside recent top draft pick Marco Kasper, and the two have formed a dynamic duo of sorts.

William Wallinder scores his 4th goal in 13 games, already matching his goal total of last season (47GP).
Here’s the full powerplay shift leading up to the goal.

Wallinder is the big defenseman controlling this power play, No. 54 in white. Everything that he brings to the table is on display here, his offensive IQ, excellent passing ability, and solid skating for his size. If he decides to make the jump to North America next season, I would expect the team to give him a real chance at making the NHL out of camp alongside Simon Edvinsson.

Moral Victories as Far as the Eye Can See

This week wasn’t ideal with only one win, but it did feature several more moral victories, and those are the only ones that really count right? Right?

Alright, well just because the NHL doesn’t count them on a team’s record doesn’t mean learning a lesson or showing off an improved five-on-five game aren’t valuable experiences for the Red Wings as they continue to work their way toward becoming a contending team. Patience was what kept Red Wings fans sane through the darkest years, and patience will keep them sane as this team sorts out its identity.

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