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.
The Detroit Red Wings have been streaky all season long, and last week was no exception to that. The good news? If past performance this season is any indication, the club may be approaching yet another winning streak after Tuesday’s 2-1 win over the New York Islanders.
Prior to Tuesday’s win, the Red Wings had dropped three consecutive games, and were outscored 18-7 over that span. Before that losing streak, though, Detroit had won five straight, and the club’s 10-3-2 record at home highlights its success at Little Caesar’s Arena, where two of this week’s three games will be played. Road games, on the other hand, have not been nearly as kind.
The Red Wings went 1-2-0 last week, and may have started to rekindle an old rivalry thanks to a former teammate. Detroit was blown out in road games against the St. Louis Blues and the Colorado Avalanche, but a return to Little Caesar’s Arena helped inject life into the slumping club.
Let’s start from the beginning, and dive in to the week that was!
Red Wings Singing the Blues in St. Louis
12/9 at St. Louis, 6-2 loss
Detroit was already reeling from a 5-2 loss to the Nashville Predators just two days earlier, and its second matchup of the season against the Blues did not go well. The Red Wings fell down 2-0 in the first, and Robby Fabbri, who scored both goals for the team, got them to within 2-1 before things snowballed out of control.
Nathan Walker and Ivan Barbashev scored two goals within 41 seconds of each other midway through the third period to put the St. Louis up 5-1, effectively putting the game out of reach.
Both Alex Nedeljkovic and Thomas Greiss were called upon, but neither performed particularly well. Ned made 15 saves on 18 shots, while Greiss stopped five of the seven shots he faced. Though the Red Wings outshot the Blues 31-26 in the game, they were unable to break through Charlie Lindgren, who had plenty of goal support en route to the win.
Fabbri, for his part, earned a three-year contract extension with the Red Wings later on in the week, and is set to be part of the Red Wings’ blueprint for years to come.
Overall Grade vs. St. Louis: D
Former Red Wing Leads Avalanche to Victory
12/10 at Colorado, 7-3 Loss
This one was ugly from the start, and it was a tough pill to swallow considering longtime Red Wing Darren Helm was on the opposite side of the ice for the first time in his 15-year NHL career. From his perspective, it was almost poetic that his goal came on a breakaway.
Despite digging an early hole, the Red Wings did what they could early in the game to climb out of it. Vladislav Namestnikov potted his ninth goal of the season with under one minute left in the first period before Joe Veleno brought Detroit to within one early in the second.
The storyline was similar to the club’s previous game against the Blues, though, and the Avalanche scored the next three goals to put the Red Wings to bed. Filip Hronek did chip in his third of the season, for what it’s worth, but that was simply a footnote in the loss.
Helm’s goal provided a bit of comic relief, considering the forward was often criticized in Detroit for his failure to convert on similar opportunities. Even some of the Red Wings’ long-time beat reporters got in on the fun:
For the second straight game both Nedeljkovic and Greiss split time in net, with the former stopping 36 of 39 shots, while the latter stopped four of the seven shots he saw. The Red Wings were outshot 47-40, and though they killed off all three of Colorado’s power plays, did not fare well at even strength.
Final Grade vs. Colorado: D–
Return Home Spurs Red Wings to Win Over Islanders
12/14 vs. New York Islanders, 2-1 Win
The Red Wings returned home Tuesday for a date with the Islanders, and finally broke through to snap their three-game losing streak. Certainly spurred on by the return of Tyler Bertuzzi, both Dylan Larkin and Michael Rasmussen scored to elevate Detroit to a 2-1 win, and get things back on track.
Islanders forward Anders Lee made things interesting at the end of the third after cutting the Red Wings’ lead to one with 2:30 still left to play, but Detroit was able to hold off a furious Islanders rally at the end of the game, and Nedeljkovic stood tall as time expired to preserve the win. He just missed a shutout, stopping 33 of the 34 shots he faced.
The Red Wings finally turned in a complete team effort, and outshot the Islanders 39-34 while taking only one penalty, and converting one of their three power-play opportunities.They also won 26 faceoffs to the Islanders’ 25.
Final Grade vs. NY Islanders: B
3 Takeaways From Last Week
1. Tyler Bertuzzi is One of Detroit’s Most Important Players
It’s hard to believe that a player can have as much impact on a club as Bertuzzi has, but it’s unmistakeable – as Bertuzzi goes, so go the Red Wings. The team’s struggles without him in the lineup — whether it was his recent absence due to COVID-19 protocol or games missed in Canada because of the vaccination requirement — are obvious. The 26-year-old has 18 points in 21 games this season, good for fourth on the team despite having played fewer games than anyone else in the top ten.
The Red Wings truly appear to be a different team when he is on the ice: They play with more courage and confidence, and just always appear to have a little extra pep in their step. Bertuzzi is also the first to celebrate with his teammates when they score, and it’s clear he means so much more to the club than what fans can see at face value.
2. Lucas Raymond and Moritz Seider Continue to Impress
Rookies Lucas Raymond and Moritz Seider have cooled a bit on the scoresheet, but continue to make their presence felt on the rebuilding Red Wings. They’re no longer a secret to opposing teams, but even with the extra attention they continue to lead their fellow rookies in scoring this season.
As of Wednesday morning, Raymond’s 25 points lead all rookies, though Anaheim’s Trevor Zegras has been heating up, and is just three points behind the 19-year-old Red Wings forward. Seider’s 20 points place him third in overall scoring, while his 17 assists are tops among this season’s rookie class.
Raymond’s scoring pace has cooled considerably, and he has not recorded a goal since Detroit’s win over the Seattle Kraken on Dec. 1, but he continues to make plays away from the puck, and has three points in his last three games.
3. The Power Play is Starting to Wake From its Slumber
Detroit has enjoyed a resurgence of sorts with the man advantage, but still ranks just 25th in the league with the power play, converting on 16.88 percent of its chances. That said, the team has notched power-play goals in two straight games, three of its last four, and four of its last six.
The Red Wings’ latest power-play tally came courtesy of Larkin against the Islanders, and was set up by — who else — Raymond and Seider.
at Carolina Hurricanes (12/16, 7:00 PM ET)
Statistical Leaders (27 Games):
Goals – Sebastian Aho (15)
Points – Aho (32)
Wins – Frederik Anderson (4)
SV% – Anderson (.930)
The story here doesn’t start with whether or not the Red Wings can keep pace with the Hurricanes’ stellar offense, but rather, will the game even take place as scheduled? COVID-19 has been circulating through the Carolina locker room, and the team’s Tuesday night game against the Minnesota Wild was postponed after four players tested positive for the virus. This was in addition to Aho and Seth Jarvis, who tested positive on Monday.
Jordan Staal, Andrei Svechnikov, Ian Cole and Steven Lorentz were the four players who tested positive in addition to Aho and Jarvis, leaving Thursday’s game in doubt. For now, the Red Wings continue to wait for word on whether or not they will in fact play the Hurricanes on Thursday.
vs New Jersey Devils (12/18, 8:00 PM ET)
Statistical Leaders (27 Games):
Goals – Andreas Johnsson (9)
Points – Jesper Bratt (24)
Wins – Mackenzie Blackwood (5)
SV% – Blackwood (.904)
The Devils have had a rough go of it as of late, and have won just one of their last eight games, a 3-0 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers on Dec. 8. They have been outscored 13-5 in their last three games, and the Flyers exacted a little revenge Tuesday night en route to a 6-1 win.
Goalie Mackenzie Blackwood has gotten the majority of the starts recently, starting seven of the Devils’ last 10 games. It should be noted that he won two of those games, accounting for the team’s only victories over that span.
vs. Colorado Avalanche (12/20, 7:30 PM ET)
Statistical Leaders (26 Games):
Goals – Mikko Rantanen (13)
Points – Nazem Kadri (37)
Wins – Darcy Kuemper (13)
SV% – Kuemper (.907)
The Red Wings don’t have to wait long for a chance to exact revenge on their old rival, as the Avalanche head to Little Caesar’s Arena this upcoming Monday. Though Colorado got off to a rocky (Mountain?) start this season, it is currently in the midst of a five-game winning streak. In addition, the Avalanche have won 13 of their last 16 games, including the 7-3 drubbing over Detroit just a few games ago.
All eyes will be on the Red Wings to see how they respond against a true playoff contender just a few games after taking a bad loss, but with Bertuzzi in the lineup, it’s fair to think Detroit will respond emphatically.
Players to Watch
The Red Wings have plenty to keep them busy this week, and against the Hurricanes (assuming the game happens, of course), Sebastian Aho leads the way in scoring. His 15 goals and 32 points show he’s a force whenever he’s on the ice. Keep an eye on the Devils’ Jesper Bratt, who has been recording points at a feverish pace lately, notching 13 in his last 12 games. And finally, make sure to keep an eye on Nazem Kadri against the Avs, who has 12 points in his last six games.
As for the Red Wings, all eyes should be on goalie Alex Nedeljkovic, because when he’s playing well, the Red Wings can keep pace with just about any team in the league.
The Red Wings have been streaky all season long, so the hope is their latest win over the Islanders will help jump-start the team to another win streak. The task is tall, considering two of the three matchups this week are legit contenders, but if the team has shown anything this season, it’s how well it handles adversity after a long bout with losing.
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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.