Red Wings Weekly: The Playoff Race Continues

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 a somewhat disappointing road trip through California last week, the Detroit Red Wings had a quiet week, finishing off that road trip with a game against the floundering Columbus Blue Jackets and then opening a five-game homestand against the Nashville Predators. 

Related: Early Look at the 2024 Draft

This week we saw the real emergence of Filip “Handlebar” Hronek (although I’m a bit pedantic so I’ll point out that his moustache style is actually called the Horseshoe Moustache), an impressive night from Moritz Seider, and stop me if you’ve heard this before, a couple of great games by Ville Husso. Let’s get into my game thoughts first because I know you’re all recovering from American Thanksgiving yesterday and have no time for my thoughts on moustache shapes.

Blowouts Are Fun if You Win

11/19 at Columbus Blue Jackets, 6-1 Win

This was a great game for Detroit following their previous game against the San Jose Sharks that ended with a final score of 7-4 which looks like a blowout by the score but was a lot closer than it appears at first glance. With the Blue Jackets missing several of their most important players and generally having an all-around bad season so far, some people may argue that Detroit had to win this one, so a win isn’t impressive as much as it was the expectation.

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

I think you can still celebrate a 6-1 victory against a bad team because this really feels like the kind of game that the Red Wings of recent years would’ve found a way to lose after losing their 1-0 lead in the first minute of the second period. Instead, they turned up the pressure and scored five more goals in the final 34 minutes of the game, with Hronek scoring twice and Seider adding three assists. 

This one felt like a real moral victory (as well as being an actual victory) because it showed that this team can beat up on inferior teams when given the chance. 

Final Grade vs. A

Husso’s Third Shutout in 13 Starts

11/23 vs Nashville Predators, 3-0 Win

Husso is a bad man, and I mean that figuratively of course because he looks like he wouldn’t hurt a fly. With most of the league roughly at the quarter mark of the season, Husso leads the league in shutouts (three), is tied for ninth in Wins, is eighth in goals against average (GAA), and is tied for seventh in save percentage (SV%) with a .922 SV%. 

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

All this to say, Husso has been stellar ever since stepping foot in Hockey Town and this game marks his third straight victory, allowing just five goals in those games. This game was close for much of the time but Husso did everything in his power to not let the Predators get into the fight, and his teammates paid him back by finishing their chances and earning yet another win. 

Final Grade vs. B+

3 Takeaways From the Week

Goalie Controversy?

Husso has started four straight games, with his eyes set on a fifth on Friday against the Arizona Coyotes, while Alex Nedeljkovic hasn’t seen the starter’s net since November 12 against the Los Angeles Kings nearly two weeks ago. Now, we got the sense pretty early on that Husso had earned the starter position and Ned was going to be backing up in some capacity, but five straight games is a bit of a surprise.

Related: Diagnosing Alex Nedlejkovic’s 2022-23 Struggles

Latest News & Highlights

Steve Yzerman added another wrinkle to the situation this week by claiming goalie Magnus Hellberg off waivers from the Seattle Kraken. Does this mean Nedeljkovic is playing hurt and that’s part of why he hasn’t been playing? Are they looking at traded Nedeljkovic because they’re confident enough in Husso? Only time will tell, but I can tell you they didn’t claim Hellberg with intentions of playing him in the AHL because it’s becoming clear that he can’t make it past waivers. 

Hronek’s ‘Stache

Hronek shaved his beard into a large horseshoe moustache for Movember, an event designed to raise awareness for Men’s mental health awareness. What started off as a funny facial hair choice has become something of a local legend in Hockey Town as Hronek’s game seemed to improve almost instantly following the introduction of the stache. 

He had six assists in nine games this October, an impressive start. However, since the calendar flipped to November, Hronek has 10 points in his last 10 games including five goals in his last five games, the first Red Wings defender to do so since Nicklas Lidstrom in 2010. I’m thinking his moustache has some kind of magical power like Frosty the Snowman’s top hat but I’m just spitballing here.

Thanksgiving Playoff Bar

American Thanksgiving has come and gone, and the Red Wings are currently sitting in a playoff spot in a difficult Eastern Conference. Much has been made across the fanbase about how roughly 75% of teams that are in a playoff spot by Thanksgiving end up earning a spot in the post season when the season finishes in the Spring. 

I hate to be a buzzkill, but that leaves room for 25% of the teams to fall out of the playoffs which ends up being four of the 16 playoff teams. I don’t say this to take anything away from the team’s great performance so far this year, but to temper expectations a bit. Yes, Detroit is currently in a playoff spot, but the playoff race in the East is so tight right now that a single regulation loss could see them outside of the wildcard spots. 

3 Stars of the Week

3. Dylan Larkin (2g, 2a)
2. Filip Hronek (3g, 1a)
1. Ville Husso (2 Wins, .981 SV%)

Prospect Spotlight

I don’t know if this is cheating but this week, I want to highlight Jonatan Berggren who has been playing quite well in his first taste of NHL action. He only got into games because of the plethora of injuries that the Red Wings’ forward group has already faced, but he has made it difficult to justify sending him back to Grand Rapids.

Jonatan Berggren Detroit Red Wings
Jonatan Berggren, Detroit Red Wings (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

With four points in six games, Berggren has proven effective on offense so far in a depth role, and his contribution to the second power play unit has been impressive. He has been fun to watch so hopefully we get more of him this year. 

The Playoff Race Continues for Detroit

The next week or so will be vital for the Red Wings and their playoff hopes as they face two Atlantic Division rivals in the Buffalo Sabres and the Toronto Maple Leafs. Wins in these games (especially against Toronto), would go a long way in continuing to secure Detroit’s claim to a playoff spot in the league’s toughest division.

Then in early December, they face off against the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Florida Panthers in quick succession. If Detroit can keep their heads above the water through the next few weeks, they will have earned a lot more confidence from me that they could be a legitimate playoff team this year. 

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