5 Takeaways From the Red Wings’ 2023 Red vs. White Game

The Hockey Writers

The annual ‘Red vs. White’ scrimmage has traditionally concluded the Detroit Red Wings’ time in Traverse City as the first phase of the preseason comes to a close. The team will soon head back to Detroit and prepare themselves for their first preseason game, set for Tuesday night against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

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But the Red vs. White game is far more than just a fun event for the fans. It’s a glimpse into what the coaches are thinking, which players have some chemistry going, and which facets of the team are working and which ones still need more work. This yearly scrimmage is usually a pretty high-scoring affair given that, above all else, players are trying to show well while also showing some restraint in order to escape without an injury. This year’s scrimmage, however, was a low-scoring tilt that put a spotlight on the team’s defense, penalty kill and goaltending.

Here are a handful of takeaways from this year’s edition of the Red vs. White game.

Red Wings’ Penalty Kill Shines, Power Play Has More Work to Do

This Red vs. White scrimmage wasn’t your typical exhibition game. The first period was the only one played like an ordinary game. While the third period was played in segments of 4v4 and 3v3, the second period was 16 minutes long and gave each team eight minutes of power play time to work with. The first unit from Team Red started things off, and then the second unit came on after a minute. They alternated like this until their eight minutes were up. Team Red’s top unit consisted of Dylan Larkin, Alex DeBrincat, David Perron, Shayne Gostisbehere and Mortiz Seider, a group that could legitimately be the Red Wings’ top power play unit when the season begins next month.

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While there was good puck movement and quality chances created by both teams, there wasn’t a single goal scored during this special teams focused period. On some occasions, the penalty killers were even able to push the puck up ice and create shorthanded opportunities. In goal, both Ville Husso and newcomer James Reimer looked especially dialed in while denying some quality looks from the opposition.

Aside from the goaltenders, a couple of standouts from this period were DeBrincat and Gostisbehere, both of which are entering their first season with the Red Wings. DeBrincat, who was acquired from the Ottawa Senators in a big offseason trade, looked very active on the power play and wasn’t afraid to get involved close to the net despite his small stature. While it did not lead to a goal, you could see the offensive skill he adds to the power play, and it seems like he’ll be just as capable of creating goals as he is scoring them. Gostisbehere, on the other hand, really stood out on the defensive side of the puck, partially because so much is made of his offensive game. His stick was active in the defensive end, and he always seemed to be looking for an opportunity to push the play in the opposite direction. There will definitely be a role for him on the penalty kill if he keeps this up.

While this initial look at the power play wasn’t exactly inspiring, there is something to be said for the process the power play units followed and the fact that they were able to create good chances. The penalty killers almost certainly knew what each power play unit were trying to do, so the fact they were able to move the puck around as well as they did counts for something. Still, for a team that needs to show more firepower this season, it is clear that head coach Derek Lalonde and his coaching staff will want to continue to work on the power play before the season begins.

Reimer Stands Out

We all know Ville Husso will lead the charge as the top goaltender for the Red Wings this season, but the the situation behind him is a bit fuzzier. In the offseason, the Red Wings added two goalies, Reimer and Alex Lyon, both of which have proven to be fully capable of stopping the puck at the NHL level. The two new guys split duties for Team Red, and when Lalonde was asked about the battle between those two, he had this to say:

Obviously both of those guys had really strong games. It was really hard not to notice Reimer today. If you were going to ask me [for] one guy that really stood out, it was him, which was obvious with the way he played. But Lyon had a good day today too, and [Husso] did too.

– Derek Lalonde on James Reimer and Alex Lyon’s play at the Red vs. White game.

Reimer, a veteran of 13 seasons in the NHL, has always been the favorite for the backup role behind Husso. Not only does he have a metric ton of experience compared to Lyon, but the 35-year-old is also getting paid more, and teams don’t typically sign third-string goaltenders to deals that pay them north of a million dollars. While the competition between Reimer and Lyon does seem to be authentic, Lalonde singling Reimer out is noteworthy, and it will probably take a herculean effort on Lyon’s part to secure the backup role.

Edvinsson Continues to Push

As you have probably heard by now, the Red Wings’ defensive depth chart is as full as it has ever been in recent memory. This presents a big challenge for the team’s defensive prospects, such as Albert Johansson and Simon Edvinsson. Though Edvinsson did feature in nine NHL games late last season, the Red Wings’ top pick in the 2021 draft is facing an uphill battle to claim a roster spot after recovering from shoulder surgery over the offseason. Still, that hasn’t stopped him from looking good when he’s had the opportunity to shine.

It was Edvinsson that broke Team White’s scoring drought when he found himself in alone on Lyon and buried a wrist shot. The 20-year-old Swede also butted heads with Seider early on in the scrimmage as the two defenders battled each other with regular season intensity. It was a clash of the titans – both Seider and Edvinsson figure to be pillars of the Red Wings’ defense for the next decade – that fans would not get to see outside of this scrimmage. In Lalonde’s eyes, that moment was necessary as the team and its players grow to understand the intensity level that is required to reach their potential.

“I know there was some intensity to some parts of the scrimmage today,” Lalonde said. “But I think that’s a step in our growth.”

For what it’s worth, Johansson, Edvinsson’s closest competition for a roster spot on the prospect side of things, helped create Team White’s second goal with a good pass the found a wide open Lucas Raymond, who then buried it past Lyon. According to Lalonde, he expects that Edvinsson will see a lot of action throughout the Red Wings’ preseason schedule, citing the six games he played in last year’s preseason as a similar target for this year.

Matt Luff Can’t Catch a Break

This point will be pretty quick. In the first period, winger Matt Luff crashed into the boards and remained motionless for a brief period of time. A hush fell over the crowd in Traverse City as trainers walked onto the ice and tended to the fallen Red Wing. After a minute or so, he was able to get onto his feet and exit the ice surface with help from the trainers while favoring one of his shoulders.

Matt Luff Detroit Red Wings
Matt Luff, Detroit Red Wings (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

Luff, a 26-year-old that played in 19 games with the Red Wings last season, was skating on a line with the Red Wings’ last two top picks: Marco Kasper (2022) and Nate Danielson (2023) before the unfortunate injury. While Luff was almost certainly going to begin the season in the American Hockey League, he was playing for the opportunity to be one of the Red Wings’ first call ups just as he was last season.

After dealing with a couple injuries last season, Luff’s 2023-24 season is off to a painfully familiar start. While Lalonde did say Luff would be out for a while, you have to hope for Luff’s sake that the injury doesn’t keep him out too long.

Seider Looks a Cut above the Rest

Heading into training camp, much had been made of Larkin’s offensive potential with DeBrincat joining the team. A similar amount of chatter surrounded Raymond and how much strength he added to his frame over the summer. But there hasn’t been much talk about Seider and what his third season in the NHL could look like.

After winning the Calder Trophy as the league’s top rookie in 2022, his second season wasn’t quite as successful as he battled inconsistency in the first half before finding a fit alongside Jake Walman on the team’s top pairing in the second half of the season. The Red Wings’ top pick in the 2019 draft now has the opportunity to reassert himself as one of the best young defensemen in the NHL. If his play in the Red vs. White game is any indication, there’s a chance that he is ready to challenge Larkin for the title of the Red Wings’ best overall player this season.

Seider was as mobile as ever during Sunday’s scrimmage, and he brought an intensity level to the game that probably would not have been there otherwise. Plenty of stories and reports are out there that depict just how dedicated to the sport he is and how important winning is to him, so it should come as no surprise that he seems to be the one setting the tone for the team’s blue liners this season. If he can take his game to another level this season, not only will the Red Wings see a higher level of success, but he may even earn some votes for the Norris Trophy, awarded to the league’s top defenseman, when all is said and done.

Farewell from Traverse City

As was noted at the top, this scrimmage marks the end of the preseason festivities that take place in northern Michigan. The Red Wings’ first preseason game is just around the corner, and that’s where we’ll begin to get a better look at the lines and ideas the coaching staff have been refining since they arrived in Traverse City.

This year’s Traverse City experience might not have been as exciting as previous years (the Red Wings were winless in the Traverse City Prospects Tournament and the Red vs. White game wasn’t as high-scoring as it has been in years past) but that doesn’t mean the experience wasn’t just as valuable. With all of the new faces joining the team as well as the handful of prospects that are pushing for NHL jobs, this past week provided everyone with the opportunity to hit the ground running and get on the same page. The biggest moments happen in Hockeytown, but it all begins in Traverse City, and that remains true to this day.

But now that the first game of the preseason is just a day away, the real fun is set to begin.

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