The 2021-22 season is officially underway, and it’s probably safe to say that Detroit Red Wings fans have had enough heart attacks for half the season. In overtime, they lost a big game to the Tampa Bay Lightning, and it certainly wasn’t low-scoring. The final was 7-6, with some individual results that I’ll go over in this article. To end the opening week, the Red Wings also played the Vancouver Canucks in a game they won 3-1. The biggest thing that may stand out is that a young team took the defending two-time Stanley Cup champions to overtime, and they’re already in the win column. The Red Wings could do none of that without a massive showing from the offense, and it’s an excellent sign for the team moving forward.
Bertuzzi Starts the Season Hot
We wouldn’t be able to talk about the offense without mentioning Tyler Bertuzzi. He’s a strong player on both ends, but his offensive ability is multi-faceted. He can win puck battles in the corners, and his primary role is going to the front of the net and creating havoc. He’s excellent at it. Not very many players in the NHL can agitate an opposing team like him. You wouldn’t think that he has prolific goal-scoring capabilities, but he didn’t take long to prove that narrative wrong in the 2021-22 season.
The first matchup of the first somewhat regular season since COVID made its way around the world was against the Lightning, and Bertuzzi lit them up. With a total of four goals in the game, he got everything started with a bang. Considering the drama that went down over the offseason with his vaccination status, it was great to see him come out and show that talk is talk, and what happens off the ice stays off the ice. It’s essential to indicate that all of the drama won’t affect his play. He made a statement in the opening game, and it’s hopefully a trend that continues throughout the season.
Seider and Raymond Making Their Contributions
The new kids on the block have come in and taken the reigns with relative ease. First, Moritz Seider is over a point per game with three assists in two games. He looks exceptionally comfortable quarterbacking the power play, and his 52.97 expected goals for percentage (xGF%) (per Evolving-Hockey) is second among defense and eighth on the team. He isn’t afraid to make creative plays with the puck, and it’s clear that he fits right in among the defense. I would only expect him to get better as time moves along and he gains more experience.
Second, Lucas Raymond — the 2020 NHL Draft’s fourth overall pick — came into training camp and earned himself a roster spot. He only has one point in two games, but he has earned much more than that. His xGF% is third on the team at 59.55 percent. Additionally, his expected goals for per 60 minutes (xGF/60) is fourth on the team. Even his defense hasn’t been awful with a placement of 10 on the team in expected goals against per 60 (xGA/60). All of the sources that use expected goals to assign a number value to particular shots, like what he has been doing on the ice.
Both of these young guys have excelled at their positions thus far. They’ve proved important to a Red Wings lineup that has needed an extra scoring punch. The first line became far more dangerous with Raymond. His ability to see the ice and create space for himself is something that can’t be taken for granted. The same is true of Seider, who uses his big frame to push players off the puck and keep them at bay along the blue line. Both players have been a huge boost already, and they’re only going to improve as the season moves along.
Offense Improvement Is Step in the Right Direction
One of the Red Wings’ biggest improvements to make over the offseason was figuring out how to score goals. It was arguably their biggest problem in the shortened 2020-21 season, and head coach Jeff Blashill knew that it couldn’t be their problem this season. It looks to be on the right track. With Bertuzzi scoring four goals of the team’s five in one game and the rookies making tremendous strides, everyone else should be able to build around it. One underrated part of the offense is the second line with Robby Fabbri, Pius Suter, and Filip Zadina. Fabbri and Zadina have found their way onto the scoresheet at some point against the Lightning and Canucks. And even though Suter has yet to register a point, he has still been a vital piece of the puzzle.
There are many things to like about this team’s ability to score moving forward. It has been a while since we saw the red and white score nine goals in a span of two games. The team is currently seventh in NHL with a 3.55 goals for per 60 (GF/60) and tenth in xGF/60 at 2.8. It’s a great start to a season that is pretty defining for a rebuilding franchise. The offense looks to be on a great pace, and it’s a great sign for the future.
Jeff is a consistent source for Red Wings content at The Hockey Writers. He was formerly a member of the Predators writing team, and he enjoys watching all sorts of hockey, from juniors to the pros. Jeff enjoys playing for his high school and local teams in Nashville as well. He’s a big proponent of hockey analytics, and you’ll often see him using lots of statistics and data to back up his main talking points. You can find his work here or check out his contributions on his Substack, Last Word on Hockey, On the Forecheck, Broad Street Hockey, Hockey Wilderness, and Puck Empire. Lastly, you can listen to him on the Youth Movement Podcast presented by On the Forecheck and the Triple Shift Podcast. For any inquiries about interviews or questions about statistics, analytics, or just general hockey opinions, you can message his Twitter, @jjmid04.