Red Wings Wednesday Weekly: How’s It Going To Be?

Welcome back to Red Wings Wednesday Weekly! In this weekly column, we will 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.

Filip Hronek Dylan Larkin Detroit Red Wings Weekly
Filip Hronek, Dylan Larkin (The Hockey Writers)

The Detroit Red Wings’ schedule last week wasn’t taxing in terms of quantity — they played just two games in the span of a week — but given the end result of both contests, the team must be ready to move into its next week of play. Detroit was 0-1-1 last week, and there’s no rest for the weary, as it has four games crammed into the next seven days, including today.

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On the ice, the team has remained consistently inconsistent, though the results as of late have been especially disappointing for a team that looked like it had potentially turned a corner earlier this season. The Red Wings have lost eight of their last 11 games (3-5-3, to be fair), and two of those three wins came against the 13-22-7 Buffalo Sabres.

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Just past the halfway point of the season, the question remains: Which version of Detroit will show up to play? The team that started its season 13-9-3 by early December, or the one that has gone 5-9-3 since?

Let’s dive in.

Seeing Stars

1/21 vs. Dallas Stars, 5-4 Loss (Overtime)

This one stung.

The Red Wings entered last Friday’s date with the Dallas Stars looking for vengeance of sorts, considering they lost 5-2 earlier this season while never truly rectifying the Jamie Benn/Dylan Larkin situation, whether it be with a show of strength, or even just a win.

The game itself felt like it would end well for Detroit. It was a see-saw affair that featured nine different lead changes (0-1, 1-1, 1-2, 2-2, 3-2, 3-3, 4-3, 4-4, 4-5), and the energy at Little Caesar’s Arena made it one of the more exciting games to watch in recent memory. Tyler Bertuzzi’s power-play goal with just over six minutes to play in the third sure felt like the team was on its way to its third straight win, but Jason Robertson‘s tally with 1:03 to go in the game evened things up and silenced the crowd.

Alex Nedeljkovic, Detroit Red Wings
Alex Nedeljkovic, Detroit Red Wing (Photo by Jeanine Leech/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

From there, Robby Fabbri took an ill-advised tripping penalty in overtime, a call that the Red Wings’ forward visibly disagreed with, and Roope Hintz buried the game-winner shortly thereafter. The loss was a tough one for the Red Wings to swallow, especially considering they hit the road for a game against the Nashville Predators the very next day.

Goalie Alex Nedeljkovic let in five goals on 32 shots, while Bertuzzi led the way for Detroit with one goal and two assists.

Overall Grade vs. Dallas: C

Smashed to Pieces

1/22 at Nashville Predators, 4-1 Loss

Unfortunately for the Red Wings, their second game in as many nights didn’t go any better. They fell down 2-0 to the Predators in the second period, gave up two more in the third, and if not for Adam Erne’s fourth goal of the season late in the middle frame, wouldn’t have had anything to show on the scoreboard.

Yes, Detroit outshot Nashville 29-25, but the Red Wings were 0-for-5 on the power play, allowed the Predators to tally a goal with the man advantage, and won just 44 percent of their face offs.

That said, Saturday’s loss wasn’t all bad. For one, Detroit protected the puck well, committing just nine turnovers, compared to Nashville’s 17. In addition, the Red Wings had 10 takeaways, vs. nine for the Predators. However, the team wasn’t able to convert on its quality scoring chances, and the game just felt flat after Friday’s showdown against the Stars.

Overall Grade vs. Nashville: D

3 Takeaways From Last Week

1. Zegras Edges Slightly Ahead of Raymond, Seider in Calder Race

The Anaheim Ducks’ Trevor Zegras has created quite a buzz among NHL rookies this season, and he appears to be the current favorite to win the Calder Trophy among NHL writers midway through the season. As you can imagine, Red Wings fans have not taken too kindly to the news that the 20-year-old has 67 votes in a midseason poll, compared to Moritz Seider’s 62 and Lucas Raymond’s 59.

Though the disappointment is understandable — many Red Wings fans believe Zegras has commanded the attention after an insanely creative assist earlier this season — it’s important to keep things in perspective, and not get lost in the shuffle of individual awards. Consider this:

  • The Red Wings have not one, but TWO rookies in the thick of the Calder race.
  • Nedeljkovic himself is also having a stellar season, and combined, these three have made an immediate impact on the club.
  • Raymond still leads all rookies in total points, with 33. Zegras is second with 30, and Seider is tied for third with 26.
  • Raymond has more goals (11) and assists (22) than Zegras (10 and 20, respectively)
  • Seider leads all rookies in total assists with 23.
  • Nedeljkovic leads all rookies with 12 wins.

Keep all of that in mind when the hardware is handed out at the end of the season, because whether or not a Red Wing becomes this season’s rookie of the year, it’s undeniable Detroit has the most impactful set of rookies in the league … and it’s just getting started.

2. Alex Nedeljkovic Needs a Dependable Backup

Look, this is not a dig at Thomas Greiss, who has been out since Jan. 16 due to the league’s COVID-19 protocol. That said, it’s become clear that while Nedeljkovic has separated himself as the clear starter on the team, he needs help. The 26-year-old is relatively old for a rookie, and though he’s been impressive between the pipes, the team really has nowhere else to turn.

This was evident after “Ned” started the game against Nashville just one day after a heartbreaking loss to the Stars. His appearances in 30 games this season are more than what he had played in his career to this point, and he needs to be able to confidently rest. Greiss has not recorded a win since Dec. 18 against the New Jersey Devils.

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Greiss’s most recent absence due to protocol isn’t his fault, but a quick glance at the numbers returns disappointing results, with a 3.36 goals-against average (GAA) and .894 save percentage (SV%). Though he won the Jennings Trophy for the best goalie tandem with the New York Islanders in 2018-19, he does not provide that same stability in the Motor City, so don’t be surprised if he’s not back following the expiration of his contract at the end of this season.

3. Dylan Larkin is a Man on a Mission

Red Wings captain Dylan Larkin continues to impress in a major way, and is on pace for his best season since a 73-point campaign in 2018-19. He’s as even of a scorer as you’ll find in the league (19 goals, 18 assists), and continues his point-per-game average just one season after many wrote him off as a second, or even third, line center.

Dylan Larkin Detroit Red Wings
Dylan Larkin has led by example this season. (Photo by Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images)

It’s been a bounceback season of epic proportions for the 25-year-old, whose hockey IQ and effort shine with a much-improved supporting cast this season. He is playing exactly as he needs to, leading by example, and whole-heartedly deserves the All-Star nod he received this season.

Upcoming Matchups

vs. Chicago Blackhawks (1/26, 7:30 PM ET)

Statistical Leaders (42 Games):
Goals -Alex DeBrincat (24)
Points – Patrick Kane (36)
Wins – Marc-André Fleury (13)
SV% – Fleury (.913)

The Chicago Blackhawks are in the midst of a four-game losing streak, though two have come in either overtime or a shootout, with their most recent setback a 2-0 loss to the Colorado Avalanche on Monday. The Blackhawks have been just as streaky as the Red Wings this season, if not moreso, and are 4-2-2 in their last eight games, having earned at least a point in six of them.

Marc-Andre Fleury, Chicago Blackhawks
Marc-Andre Fleury will try to help get the Blackhawks back in the win column. (Photo by Brian Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

Wednesday’s game marks the second and final time the two former-division rivals will play, with the Red Wings winning 6-3 on Oct. 24.

at Pittsburgh Penguins (1/28, 7:00 PM ET)

Statistical Leaders (42 Games):
Goals – Jake Guentzel (21)
Points – Guentzel (40)
Wins – Tristan Jarry (23)
SV% – Jarry (.926)

Look out, because the Red Wings head to Pittsburgh to face the hottest team in the league on Friday. The Penguins have won 17 of their last 19 games, improving from 10-8-5 on Dec. 1 to their current record of 27-10-5. Truly impressive stuff. They have won six straight.

Goalie Tristan Jarry has been key, as he has started in each of the Penguins’ last five wins, but the team has also been scoring at a rate that’s hard for the opposition to keep up with. During its most recent win streak, Pittsburgh has outscored its opponents 27-14.

vs. Toronto Maple Leafs (1/29, 7:00 PM ET)

Statistical Leaders (38 Games):
Goals – Auston Matthews (25)
Points – Matthews (41)
Wins – Jack Campbell (19)
SV% – Campbell (.927)

The Toronto Maple Leafs’ high-flying offense is no secret, but they got an even bigger boost with the return of former Red Wings Petr Mrazek, who has only appeared in five games this season to this point. He stopped 27-of-28 in his latest game, a 3-1 win over the New York Islanders, and though Jack Campbell has effectively stood on his head this season for Toronto, Mrazek’s return offers even more stability between the pipes.

Petr Mrazek, Toronto Maple Leafs
Will former Red Wings Petr Mrazek face his old team? (Photo by Richard A. Whittaker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The Maple Leafs won the first meeting between these two teams, 5-4 on Oct. 30, and the clubs are set to meet once more following Saturday’s game, on Feb. 26.

vs. Anaheim Ducks (1/31, 7:30 PM ET)

Statistical Leaders (44 Games):
Goals – Troy Terry (23)
Points – Terry (37)
Wins – John Gibson (14)
SV% – Lukas Dostal (.929)

Well look at this — it’s a battle of the Calder Trophy favorites! Zegras is set to face-off against Seider, Raymond, and Co., and the upstart Ducks have some making up to do after losing nine of their last 13 games (4-7-2). That said, their most recent wins, 5-3 over the Boston Bruins and 5-1 over the Tampa Bay Lightning, have been impressive.

Trevor Zegras Anaheim Ducks
Trevor Zegras appears to be the front-runner for the Calder Trophy. (Photo by Debora Robinson/NHLI via Getty Images)

Anaheim won in a shootout when the two squared off back on Jan. 9, and Monday’s game marks the final time these two will meet in the 2021-22 regular season. For what it’s worth, Zegras won round one, notching two points on a goal and an assist against Detroit. Nonetheless, Raymond and Seider both found their way onto the scoresheet, as each recorded an assist in the loss.

Players to Watch

Against Chicago on Wednesday, keep your eye on Patrick Kane. His 36 points in 38 games lead the Blackhawks, though he’s logged just three points in his last five games, including 0 in his last two. The 33-year-old winger has shown throughout the season he’s got plenty left in the tank, and it should be noted that he had recorded at least one point in nine straight contests before his two-game point-less streak.

Against Pittsburgh, the entire team has been hot lately, but keep your eyes especially peeled for defenseman Kris Letang, whose point-per-game pace in the last five games has certainly helped the Penguins sustain their winning ways. He’s second on the team in points, and has 17 points in his last 12 games, recording at least a single point in all but one of those games.

Kris Letang Pittsburgh Penguins
Kris Letang has been on a tear lately. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The Maple Leafs are a no-brainer, as you can never take your eyes off Auston Matthews, but it’s possible Petr Mrazek gets the nod, so it’s always fun to see how the former Red Wings performs. As for Anaheim, well, look no further than rookie phenom Trevor Zegras, whose creativity both with and without the puck has earned him high praise throughout the league.

As for the Red Wings, Lucas Raymond continues to get on the scoresheet, but his goal scoring has dropped significantly as the season has worn on. He has just two goals since Dec. 1, and has been held without a point in four of his last six games. Tyler Bertuzzi is on a four-game point streak, and has two goals and six assists over that span.

Final Thoughts

The expectations for the Red Wings don’t add up to a playoffs appearance this season, and in fact, it’s almost decidedly better if they end up with a higher draft pick, as opposed to an early playoff exit. The postseason seems like a longshot at this point, anyways, as Detroit presently sits eight points shy of the Boston Bruins for the last wild card spot, and the Bruins have three games in hand.

Even so, Detroit has been exponentially more fun to watch this season, and it’s hard to not be excited about how the team has developed under general manager Steve Yzerman’s watch. With four games in the span of seven days this week, the direction of this season will likely become crystal clear in the not-so-distant future.

What do you think about the Calder Race? Sound off in the comments below!