Wings’ Lalonde relishes ‘phenomenal experience’ at hockey worlds

Detroit News

Detroit — Derek Lalonde is over the jet lag finally, settling into finally watching the NHL playoffs and spending time with his family.

Having been in Finland and Latvia for the world championships, as an assistant coach for Team USA, it’s been a whirlwind several weeks for the Red Wings’ head coach.

Plenty of mixed emotions during that time, too.

Team USA won its first eight games overall (all seven in the preliminary round, then the quarterfinal game) before losing to Germany in the semifinal and Lativa in the bronze-medal game — both losses in overtime.

“I loved it, a phenomenal experience,” said Lalonde, who had coached in various capacities before for USA Hockey but never at the men’s level. “You were probably no different than when the roster came out, wondering if we’d even make the medal round.

“It ended up being a real, real good team. We were young, but we wanted an identity of playing north and fast and we hit it early, and just did it with the buy-in, and it was unbelievable.”

The gut-wrenching losses, in the end, didn’t completely tarnish the entirety, for Lalonde, of what this national team accomplished.

“We felt good about it,” Lalonde said. “Even in the medal games, we did not play poorly. We were 83 seconds away from beating Germany (in the semifinals) and we played fine. It’s real tight. We’re pretty proud of the group and how well they played.”

Wings players Moritz Seider (Germany), Lucas Raymond and Jonatan Berggren (Sweden), Dominik Kubalik (Czechia), Olli Maatta (Finland), Jake Walman and Joe Veleno (Canada) and Carter Mazur (USA) also competed in the tournament.

Here are some of Lalonde’s impressions on the tournament, and his off-season thus far:

On Mazur, the Wings’ draft pick who was impressive for Team USA and could compete for a Wings roster spot in October: “I really liked Carter. He still has a ways to go, of course, in a lot of areas and he’ll need to keep growing, but what I really liked about him is already plays through the body and checks, and at our level, we’re usually teaching that of younger guys. He showed well. He’s real committed. We’ll see what happens (in training camp), but he’ll get a real good look at camp and we’ll go from there.”

On Seider, who led Germany to its first tournament medal (sliver) since 1953 and was named to the all-tournament team: “He played awfully well. It just speaks volumes of him and why he’s a special player, in that he had told the German federation he wasn’t going. He’s been non-stop for two or three years and he wanted to decompress. But he went to visit all those guys because they were in Munich (where Seider spends time) and he just got excited seeing the boys and asked Germany to play. He saw his (national) teammates and the pride, and he decided to play and I think he’s glad he did.”

On Veleno, who was suspended from the tournament for a stomp to the back of Swiss player Nino Niederreiter’s leg: “I called Joe the very next day, if anything, for just support. He was over in Latvia, so I wasn’t able to see him in person, and I just called him, basically for support, and I said, ‘I know that’s not who you are.’ You guys have seen him play for a couple of years. It was a play that just got away from him, and he took his punishment like a professional and moved on from this.”

On being a guest Hockey Night in Canada analyst during the Tampa-Toronto first-round series: “Those guys make it so easy over there. They’re so professional. They’re so good at what they do. It was probably my one-time chance to do it; they asked me because I was in that same series a year ago (when Lalonde was a Tampa assistant) and I’m glad I did it. It was a great experience and there was some growth out of that, too.

“It was my first time doing anything like that. It helped (dealing with) the media all the time (this season), but the workflow, and the producer, and turning things around, it’s not as easy as it looks.”

Thoughts on Florida and Vegas in the Stanley Cup Finals: “My initial gut is you have to ride the really hot goalie in Bob (Florida’s Sergei Bobrovsky) and the guy who is just an all-world difference-maker right now in (Florida’s Matthew) Tkachuk. But, that’s a little long layoff (last game, May 25), longer than normal (for Florida). Both teams are extremely capable. The purist in me, I like it when it feels like the two best teams playing right now.

“And as a coach, you root for the coaches — and one of these coaches (Florida’s Paul Maurice, Vegas’ Bruce Cassidy) will have his first Stanley Cup, which is pretty cool, too.”

On the rest of the summer: “We’re in the process of moving. The whole family is coming up now to Detroit (from Tampa), so I’m excited about that.”

Twitter: @tkulfan

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