The Detroit Red Wings kicked off the 2021-22 season at home against the Tampa Bay Lightning yesterday, and though it looked like the night was going to end with a party at Little Caesar’s Arena, the Red Wings’ late three-goal lead disappeared in a flash. Detroit ultimately lost 7-6 in overtime, surrendering the game’s final four goals in the last nine minutes of play, including the extra frame.
It was a disappointing end to the team’s first game of the season, and certainly gave fans plenty of food for thought prior to Saturday’s matchup against the Vancouver Canucks. Let’s dive into what we learned after Thursday’s opening-night loss.
Tyler Bertuzzi Came To Play
Tyler Bertuzzi was the source of some preseason controversy, but any ill-will held towards him disappeared in a flash after he scored four goals in Thursday’s game. If any of the vaccine-related talk acted as a distraction before the season started, he did a remarkable job of setting that all aside prior to the season opener.
Thursday’s performance was nothing short of incredible, as Bertuzzi finished with four goals in 21:43 of ice time, and managed to simultaneously silence any critics regarding his commitment as a teammate when he jumped into a scrum to help captain Dylan Larkin. Despite the fact that the Red Wings were up by three goals on three separate occasions — and still managed to lose — the 26-year-old winger potted nearly as many goals as he had in nine games last season (5).
None were prettier than his second of the night, where he was able to split the defense, move in on Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy and bury a shot blocker side, which put the Red Wings up 3-0 at the time. Detroit (painfully) went up by three goals two more times (4-1 & 6-3) before ultimately falling in overtime.
The Team Needs To Work On Composure, Closing Out Games
Yes, it was fun to see Detroit up on the back-to-back champs, but that elation was quickly replaced by dread in the waning minutes of the game. That big lead was a mirage, though, considering the Red Wings were outshot 48-26 in the game, allowed the Lightning to go 3-for-7 on the power play, and gave the puck away eight times. The Lightning committed just three turnovers.
Perhaps more importantly, though, Detroit was baited into ill-advised penalties multiple times, which actually started with Larkin. Midway through the second period, the Red Wings’ captain was cross-checked into the boards by Mathieu Joseph — an absolute cheap shot, to be clear — but Larkin retaliated with a sucker-punch as Joseph skated by, drawing a match penalty for “intent to injure.”
On one hand, fans were energized to see the 25-year-old center stick up for himself, considering Thursday marked his first game back after missing the end of last season after being on the wrong end of a Jamie Benn cheap shot. Still, Larkin is Detroit’s leader, and he needs to be able to compose himself. His absence in the waning minutes of the third period was especially evident as the team floundered against Tampa Bay’s onslaught.
The Red Wings’ undisciplined play led to the team taking two penalties in the final 10 minutes of the game, which spelled doom for the remainder of the game. From that point on it just seemed as if Detroit was chasing Tampa all around the defensive zone, and literally didn’t even have one possession in overtime.
Yes, this was the defending Stanley Cup champions. Yes, the team played a solid 50 minutes. But in the end, if Detroit expects to get over the hump, it needs to learn composure and gamesmanship, and that starts with its captain.
Moritz Seider & Lucas Raymond Wasted No Time Impressing
The eagerly anticipated arrivals of both Seider and Raymond may have been dampened by the final outcome, but each managed to log points in their very first NHL game. Seider notched two assists and finished plus-1 while also logging three hits in 20:21 of ice time. 5:26 of that was on the power play.
The 19-year-old Raymond, meanwhile, recorded an assist and finished plus-1 on the night while registering one shot on goal over 18 shifts, totaling 16:27. Much of that was on the power play as well, as he played 4:36 while Detroit was had the man advantage.
Both Seider and Raymond need to be given a rather lenient learning curve, considering how long it takes to adjust to the speed of the NHL, but it was a promising start for a pair of skaters that fans have been clamoring to see for quite some time. It will be interesting to see how they develop as the season marches on, but it’s safe to say the duo passed their first test with flying colors.
Moral Victories Aside, There’s Plenty of Hockey Left
The good and the bad were both so extreme in Thursday’s contest, it’s easy to get wrapped up in the disappointment of the final outcome. It’s an incredibly frustrating way to lose, especially when it seems like the game is simply imploding at the very end. Still, these early games are not necessarily indicative of how a season is going to go (remember when they started 3-1 in 2019-20?), and if there’s a perfect time to go through such a dramatic learning opportunity, this is it.
For now, the Red Wings will take their lumps, regroup, and get back to it on Saturday against the Canucks.
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A die-hard hockey fan in the desert, and proud Iowa State alum. Detroit Red Wings and Arizona Coyotes contributor for The Hockey Writers.