Red Wings Wednesday Weekly: Free Fallin’

Welcome back to Red Wings Wednesday Weekly! In this weekly column, we will take a look at the Detroit 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)

Some weeks feel longer than others. For the Red Wings, this week probably couldn’t be over fast enough. They played in three games and earned one out of a possible six points. The days of Detroit being a factor in the playoff race seem like a distant memory at this point, especially after they were outscored by a margin of 18-5 this week.

There is some soul-searching going on in Hockeytown right now. The team has to figure things out before they let all the progress they made this season slip through their fingers. The coaching staff seems to be living on borrowed time. And if you look around social media enough, you’ll find fans that are starting to question general manager Steve Yzerman’s decision-making. Despite all of that, this season will still go down as the most successful in Yzerman’s tenure – a sign that expectations are starting to rise, and disappointments are starting to sting a little more.

Related: Key Takeaways From Steve Yzerman’s 2022 Trade Deadline Presser

Plug your nose, take a shot of something strong and brace yourself – it’s time to recap this week from Hell.

Islanders Bury Red Wings Early

3/24 at New York Islanders, 5-2 loss

After 40 minutes in this game, the Islanders held a 3-0 lead. Goaltender Thomas Greiss stopped just 13 of 16 shots, and Alex Nedeljkovic had to enter the game in the third period after Greiss was removed due to an apparent injury. The Islanders would go up 4-0 in the third period before Pius Suter scored to show some life from the team in red. Brock Nelson would score just 42 seconds later to reclaim a four-goal lead for the Islanders, though, and a goal from Sam Gagner a little over a minute later was all that Detroit could muster in response. Nedeljkovic finished the game with eight stops on 10 shots.

Thomas Greiss Detroit Red Wings
Thomas Greiss, Detroit Red Wings (Photo by Glenn James/NHLI via Getty Images)

To be honest, even when the Red Wings showed some life in this game, they never really seemed to put up much of a challenge for the Islanders. This was a forgettable game that was only a hint of what was to come later in the week….

Final Grade vs. Islanders: D-

Red Wings Show Up in Loss to the Lightning

3/26 vs. Tampa Bay Lightning, 2-1 loss (OT)

The two-time reigning champions entered Little Caesars Arena on the 25th anniversary of “Fight Night at the Joe” and came away with a close victory over the home team. The sellout crowd was electric at times, and the Red Wings rewarded their passion with easily their best performance of the week. Nedeljkovic made several highlight reel stops, and Detroit genuinely gave the Lightning fits throughout most of the game. Through 40 minutes, this game was in a scoreless tie, quite the accomplishment for a Red Wings team that was looking for positives to build on.

Newly-acquired forward Oskar Sundqvist scored the Red Wings’ lone goal, putting Detroit up 1-0 with just over 11 minutes left to play. Unfortunately, Filip Zadina took a hooking penalty with a little over six minutes left to play, and the Lightning capitalized on the ensuing power play. Tied up 1-1, the teams went to overtime, where the Lightning would receive a four-on-three power play following a tripping penalty called on Tyler Bertuzzi. The Red Wings were unable to kill off the penalty as Brayden Point put away the game winner. This was a highly-competitive game that the Red Wings should have been able to build on.

Should have….

Overall Grade vs. Lightning: A-

Red Wings Get Embarrassed by the Penguins

3/27 at Pittsburgh Penguins: 11-2 loss

The Penguins scored so many times in this game that Beavis and Butthead called them afterwards to ask for some tips. I’m not even sure that Penguins fans enjoyed this game – it was akin to watching the first 10 minutes of Pixar’s Up: fun at first, and then just outright sad by the time it concluded.

Related: Red Wings’ Struggles Cast Spotlight on Coaching & Team Defense

If this isn’t the absolute lowest point of the Red Wings’ rebuild, I don’t know that fans will be able stomach much else.

Final Grade vs. Penguins: no grade, just endless shame.

3 Takeaways From the Week

1. This Week Sucked

Like…really bad.

2. The Detroit Tigers Start Up Their Season Soon

So at least Detroit sports fans have that going for them.

3. It’s Called “Etroit” Until They Find Some D

In the month of March, the Red Wings have allowed 61 goals. That’s a stretch that includes 13 games, meaning they’re allowing 4.69 goals per game this month. Hold on though, because I can make it worse. If you subtract the Red Wings’ shutout against the Vancouver Canucks on Mar. 17, they’re allowing 5.08 goals against per game. Pucks are filling the back of Etroit’s net at an alarming rate right now, prompting the overwhelming frustration that is spreading across the fanbase.

Upcoming Games

vs. New York Rangers (3/30, 7:30 PM ET)

Statistical Leaders (67 Games):
Goals – Chris Kreider (45)
Points – Artemi Panarin (77)
Wins – Igor Shesterkin (32)
Saver-percentage – Shesterkin (.936)

The Rangers are coming off of a 3-2 victory over the Penguins on Tuesday night. Shesterkin manned the crease against Pittsburgh, so the Red Wings will likely face backup goaltender Alexandar Georgiev, who has not been nearly as dominant as his counterpart. That being said, the Red Wings are still in for a good battle as the Rangers need the two points on the line to maintain their second place position in the Metropolitan Division.

Alexandar Georgiev New York Rangers
Alexandar Georgiev, New York Rangers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Considering how the Red Wings’ last game unfolded, they should enter this game eager to get off to a good start. With the Rangers playing their second night in a row, there is no excuse for the Red Wings to be outworked in this game. Expect the Red Wings’ best players to try to set the tone right off the hop.

vs. Ottawa Senators (4/1, 7:30 PM; 4/3, 1 PM ET)

Statistical Leaders (66 Games):
Goals – Josh Norris (26)
Points – Brady Tkachuk (47)
Wins – Anton Forsberg (15)
SV% – Forsberg (.919)

The Red Wings and Senators will go back-to-back this weekend, with the first game in Etroit and the second taking place on the Senators’ home ice. Both teams sit in the bottom half of the Atlantic Division, and both teams are seeing some signs of progress in their respective rebuilds. This should be a game filled with players who are eager to stand out as both teams begin their planning for next season.

One thing to look out for is the potential debut of Senators defenseman Jake Sanderson, who recently signed his entry-level contract with Ottawa. Drafted fifth overall in 2020, the skilled defenseman completed two seasons with the University of North Dakota where he collected 41 points in 45 games. He is currently recovering from a hand injury, so there won’t be a definitive answer on his debut until at least a day before gameday.

vs. Boston Bruins (4/5, 7:30 PM ET)

Statistical Leaders (66 Games):
Goals – David Pastrnak (38)
Points – Pastrnak (68)
Wins – Linus Ullmark (20)
SV% – Jeremy Swayman (.920)

The Bruins have taken two of the three games these two teams have played so far this season. Their most recent affair, played on Jan. 2, ended with the Bruins skating away with a 5-1 victory. Since then, the Red Wings have been on a tailspin, and the Bruins added defenseman Hampus Lindholm from the Anaheim Ducks at the trade deadline. In other words, this game could get ugly

Hampus Lindholm Boston Bruins
Hampus Lindholm, Boston Bruins (Photo by Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Bruins currently occupy the first wild card spot in the Eastern Conference, but are just three points back from the Lightning, who currently sit second in the Atlantic Division. This game has playoff seeding ramifications for the Bruins, and they won’t take this game lightly despite playing an inferior opponent. The Red Wings absolutely must bring their A-game to this contest, otherwise they might get booed off the ice at Little Caesars Arena.

Players to Watch

The Rangers are filled with promising young talent, and the latest player to introduce himself to the NHL is defenseman Braden Schneider, the team’s second first-round selection in the 2020 draft. Picked 19th overall, the 20-year-old has seven points in 29 games this season, and is already making believers out of the Big Apple with his solid all-around game.

Sticking with the 2020 draft, not only did the Senators pick Sanderson fifth overall, but they also picked forward Tim Stützle third overall, right before the Red Wings added Lucas Raymond at fourth overall. Whenever Raymond has an opportunity to go up against the three players selected before him in the 2020 draft, that’s must-see TV for Red Wings fans who are eager to declare Etroit’s misfortune in the 2020 draft lottery as a blessing in disguise. Stützle has 40 points through 65 games this season.

Lucas Raymond Detroit Red Wings
Lucas Raymond, Detroit Red Wings (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The Bruins have their own player worthy of Calder Trophy consideration, though he doesn’t receive the same type of chatter as others in this year’s rookie class. That would be goaltender Swayman, who has ascended to become the team’s top goaltender after a brief blip where veteran Tuukka Rask rejoined the Bruins, forcing Swayman down to the American Hockey League. While Ullmark is no slouch himself, the Red Wings will find it hard to score goals if Swayman gets the start on Tuesday night.

As for the Red Wings, fans continue to have their eyes on defenseman Jake Walman, acquired from the St. Louis Blues in the Nick Leddy trade. Not only has Walman impressed with his puck-carrying abilities and his confidence in the offensive zone, but he’s also something of a TikTok star:

@jakewalman Level up 😂 who’s next?? 🇨🇦 #duet with @you1stlondon #foryou #fyp #viral #foryoupage ♬ original sound – NaiHe

If nothing else, Walman’s TikToks are sure to give Red Wings fans something to cheer about for the rest of the season.

Red Wings Must Push Through

There’s no point in sugar-coating it: the Red Wings have fallen off in a big way in the second half of this season. It wasn’t that long ago that this column was pushing the idea that the Wings were a serious playoff threat; nowadays the only thing they’re a threat for is making you wish you were watching anything else. That being said, there are definitely some winnable games on this week’s schedule, so I wouldn’t jump to conclusions about how this week is going to play out.

If the Red Wings want to end this season with any semblance of hope, they will need to stop the blowouts right now. With just 16 games remaining on the schedule, the time is now for players to stake their claim to a 2022-23 roster spot, and to show management that this team is not nearly as flawed as they have looked in recent weeks. It’s not going to be easy, but it is absolutely necessary.

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