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.
Just like that, the Detroit Red Wings have concluded their final full week of the season. A single game remains on their schedule, and then it’s time to start crossing your fingers and hope that the lottery balls fall in the Red Wings’ favor, resulting in one of the top two picks in this year’s draft. After that, a long offseason awaits, and it’s sure to bring plenty of change to the team from “Hockeytown”.
This week saw a depleted Red Wings team do their best to hang in there against the top two teams in the Atlantic Division, as well as a playoff and non-playoff team from the Metropolitan Division. Considering that slate of opponents, the end result was probably as expected. For the last time this season, let’s recap how the Red Wings’ week went.
Red Wings Lose to the Top Team in the East
4/21 at Florida Panthers, 5-2 loss
Coming off an impressive victory against the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Red Wings entered FLA Live Arena to take on the Eastern Conference regular season champion, the Florida Panthers. Considering Detroit was missing captain and top center Dylan Larkin, they put forth a pretty respectable performance. They outshot the Panthers 30-27, and Pius Suter recorded an assist on both of the Red Wings’ goals in this game. Those assists put the second-year forward’s point total at 35 for the season.
Unfortunately, the Panthers are simply too deep and possess too potent of an offense for a team like Detroit to handle. Florida did not have their best game on this night, but a Panthers team at 80 percent can still run over the Red Wings, especially when the Red Wings aren’t at full health.
Final Grade vs. Panthers: C-
Penguins March in Red Wings’ Home Finale
4/23 vs. Pittsburgh Penguins, 7-2 loss
Almost exactly a month after losing 11-2 to the Penguins in Pittsburgh, the Red Wings gave up a score that rhymes with that double-digit total. Seven may be better than 11 in this instance, but it sure isn’t good. To make matters worse, this game was the final game of the season at Little Caesars Arena. Fans hoping to bid farewell to their team on a high note were left disparaged and discouraged by what they witnessed.
Honestly, nothing encapsulates the second half of the Red Wings’ 2021-22 season better than that.
Final Grade vs. Penguins: F
Red Wings Say “Not Today, Satan”
4/24 at New Jersey Devils, 3-0 win
This game pretty much served as a reminder to Red Wings fans that, as bad as their team has been since February, the Wings are still better than a handful of teams in the NHL. One of those teams is the New Jersey Devils, a team that will finish at or near the bottom of their division for the fourth straight season. The end result of this game marked the fourth shutout of the season for Alex Nedeljkovic, the most by a Red Wings rookie goaltender since Roger Crozier posted six during the 1964-65 season. Of his four shutouts, none have come easier than this one as he only had to make 17 saves.
Tyler Bertuzzi had a goal and an assist in this game, bringing his career-high point total up to 60. One more goal will mark the first 30-goal season of his career. Oskar Sundqvist also posted a goal and an assist, and surging forward Michael Rasmussen rounded out the scoring with a goal of his own. No Larkin, no Filip Zadina, no Robby Fabbri, no problem for the Red Wings in this one has they absolutely handled the Devils.
Final Grade vs. Devils: A
Auston Matthews Buries the Red Wings
4/26 at Toronto Maple Leafs, 3-0 loss
Prior to this game, nobody had scored 60 goals in a season since Steven Stamkos did it during the 2011-12 season. With two goals against the Red Wings in this game, forward Auston Matthews became the first American-born player to reach the 60-goal milestone. The team in red was able to hang in there through 40 minutes, but the better team eventually broke through. The Toronto Maple Leafs outshot the Red Wings 36-20 in this one, and Nedeljkovic was the biggest reason why Detroit was able to stay in this game as long as they did.
Rasmussen was another bright spot for the Red Wings in this one. Despite not scoring, he was visible all over the ice, recording six shots while playing 19:12. He also won 71 percent of the faceoffs he took. The Maple Leafs clinched second place in the Atlantic Division with the win in this game.
Final Grade vs. Maple Leafs: C+
3 Takeaways From the Week
1. Lottery Watch is On
With the loss to the Maple Leafs, the Red Wings secured a first round pick that will be no lower than 12th overall. We are, of course, still a few days away from knowing exactly what range their pick will fall into prior to the lottery. Still, securing a first round pick in the top-10 will guarantee that Detroit is able to add a potential cornerstone piece to their rebuild. The top-10 of this year’s draft class is particularly strong, and while there are still a ton of quality prospects throughout the draft class, the top-10 is the real strength of this class.
2. Rasmussen Playing Up to Potential
Rasmussen only has five points (all goals) in the month of April, but he isn’t a player that you necessarily expect to light up the score sheet. Averaging 16:01 in ice-time this month, he’s playing the most minutes he has since the first month of the season, and his play against Toronto exemplified what has made him such a good story during this final stretch of the season.
The newly-minted 23-year-old still has room to develop his game, and he’s starting to look like the power forward Detroit envisioned when they selected him ninth overall in 2017. Whether he’s driving to the net, mucking it up along the boards, or scoring on a breakaway using his deceptively good shot, Rasmussen is finding ways to contribute all over the ice in every situation. With two more years on his deal at a $1.46 million cap-hit, “Moose” could be entrenching himself as part of the long-term solution in Hockeytown.
3. Blashill Coaches His Final Home Game?
I’ll keep this short and simple: with all the chatter surrounding head coach Jeff Blashill and the future of his employment status, it seems almost poetic that the last home game of the season ended in a 7-2 loss.
Last Game of the Season
at New Jersey Devils (4/29, 7 PM ET)
Statistical Leaders (80 Games):
Goals – Jack Hughes (26)
Points – Jesper Bratt (71)
Wins – Nico Daws (10)
Save-percentage – Daws (.893)
After shutting the Devils out this past week, the Red Wings will conclude their season with one last game against the team from New Jersey. With nothing left to play for but pride and ending the season on a positive note, hopefully this game is a bit more lively than their previous matchup.
The Devils play the Carolina Hurricanes in Raleigh the night before this game, so the Red Wings should be nice and rested and looking to capitalize on a tired Devils team in this one. Expect both teams to empty the tanks in this one, especially because both head coaches in this game might be coaching their final game with their respective clubs. There isn’t a ton of incentive to tune-in to this one other than to bid farewell to these teams until training camp comes around.
Players to Watch
Devils captain Nico Hischier is knocking on the door of 60 points this season. If he doesn’t get there against the Hurricanes, you can bet that he’ll be looking to get there against the Red Wings. This has been a breakout campaign for the Swiss forward, a positive sign for the player selected first overall in 2017.
As for the Red Wings, all eyes should be on Jakub Vrana to see if he can close out this season in style. Through 25 games this season, the 26-year-old has 13 goals and 18 points. His 13 goals has him tied for sixth on the team, an impressive feat considering he’s only played a little over a quarter of the season. A two-point night would give him an even 20 points on the season; I like the sound of that.
Until We Meet Again, Hockeytown
A long offseason begins at the end of this week. While it’s sad to see another season come to end, the excitement for next season can truly begin. By the time the next edition of this column comes out, we may be looking at a Red Wings team that feels much different from this year’s squad. Until then, thank you for following along with Red Wings Weekly.
You are hereby released from our silly jokes and occasional rants.
I am a Western Michigan University alum whose passion for hockey knows no limits. Dr. Pepper enthusiast. Catch me and my fellow Red Wings writers’ YouTube show “The Hockey Writers Grind Line” which drops every Saturday.