Red Wings Wednesday Weekly: Losing My Religion

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 are officially in a death spiral.

After hovering around .500 for most of the season, the Red Wings now hold a 24-29-7 record. With the playoff race fading off beyond the horizon, the attention now shifts to next Monday’s trade deadline and how many future assets general manager Steve Yzerman can acquire. Once that comes and goes, it’ll be time to focus on draft positioning (as of this writing, the Red Wings currently hold the ninth-worst record in the league.)

Related: Red Wings’ 2022 Trade Chips: Value, Comparables & Potential Trade Partners

While this week’s slate of games were a constant stream of disappointment, that doesn’t mean there weren’t some good things to take note of. Let’s pick apart the bad and try to find the good in the week that was.

Red Wings Lose Wild Affair

3/10 vs. Minnesota Wild, 6-5 loss (SO)

In some ways, this game was both disappointing and a relief. Prior to this matchup, the Red Wings had lost their previous three games while being outscored by a margin of 18-5. Their offense wasn’t doing enough, and their defense was nowhere to be found. While their defense (and goaltending) still let them down in this game, their offense gave them a chance to win. Forwards Lucas Raymond and Jakub Vrana both scored two goals in this game, and defenseman Nick Leddy might have had his best game with the Red Wings as he had three assists and generally did a great job facilitating play in the offensive zone.

With 35 saves on 40 shots, goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic did not do enough to break out of the slump he finds himself in. To make matters worse, one of the Wild’s goals was one that “Ned” directed in off of his own stick. If that goal doesn’t happen, the Red Wings take this game by a score of 5-4. Instead, the game went to the shootout and the Wild emerged victorious. This was a fun game to watch, but that doesn’t make the end result any less disappointing.

Final Grade vs. Wild: C+

Red Wings’ Hopes Go Up in Flames

3/12 at Calgary Flames, 3-0 loss

Through 40 minutes of play in this game, the Flames outshot the Red Wings 31-5. While Detroit made a push in the third period, outshooting the Flames by a margin of 14-12, they were unable to solve Flames goaltender Jacob Markstrom, leading to the Swedish goaltender’s ninth (!) shutout of the season. This marked the team’s fifth-straight loss, their longest losing streak of the season.

Quite frankly, the only player worth highlighting in this game was goaltender Thomas Greiss, who put together a strong performance with 40 saves on 43 shots. While the Red Wings finally received stable goaltending on this night, their offense was nowhere to be found. When it rains, it pours.

Final Grade vs. Flames: D-

Oilers Strike Down Red Wings’ Comeback Attempt

All the good will that Greiss earned during the game against the Flames went out the window in a hurry as the veteran netminder allowed three goals within the first five minutes of this game. Once he was replaced by Nedeljkovic, the Red Wings began to settle in, but the first period still ended with a score of 4-1.

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

The Red Wings put forth a valiant effort in the third period, tying the game up at 4-4, and then again at 5-5, and defenseman Marc Staal even recorded his first career two-goal game in the process. It wasn’t enough, unfortunately, as Oilers forward Evander Kane scored his second goal of the night to break the tie and give Edmonton a 6-5 lead. After scoring an empty-net goal, the Oilers squeaked away with a 7-5 win. The Red Wings showed good fight in this game, but it wasn’t enough once again.

Final Grade vs. Oilers: B-

3 Takeaways From the Week

1. Playoff Chase is Over

Realistically, you could probably say that the Red Wings’ playoff chase was over a long time ago. However, as they continue to slip further away from a .500 record, it seems definitive at this point: the Red Wings aren’t making the playoffs this season. The next step is selling off pieces at the trade deadline; the next step after that is finishing out the season, getting a look at guys they haven’t had a chance to yet this season, and then crossing their fingers and toes and hope that this is the year the lottery balls fall in Detroit’s favor.

Related: 2022 NHL Draft Guide

None of that is to discredit what this team has done this season, though. They were very much in the thick of the playoff race well into the new year, something that hasn’t happened since before Yzerman took over as general manager. Progress has been made this season; they just need to keep building on it.

2. Vrana is an Animal

Forgive me, but I thought Vrana would take a few games to get comfortable before he found the scoresheet. Silly me. Won’t doubt him again.

In all seriousness, if there is anything to take solace in during this rough stretch for the Red Wings, it’s the fact that Vrana is back and now we can all get a good look at what this team’s offense is capable of. With him playing on the team’s second power play unit (for now), it gives Detroit two legitimate power play units that are capable of doing some damage. It will be very intriguing to see if he can continue this initial scoring burst through to the end of the season.

3. Zadina Turning it Around?

Through the first half of the season, winger Filip Zadina had just four goals and 11 points. So far through the second half of the season, he has four goals and nine points. While he still isn’t scoring at the pace many had hoped he would this season, there are finally some signs of life, adding an interesting wrinkle to the ongoing trade talk surrounding the 22-year-old.

Zadina’s stint one the top line with Raymond and Dylan Larkin seems to have helped jumpstart him. He looked good while playing with them, and since he was moved off that line, he continues to do the things that made him successful on the top line. Confidence is key for players like this, and it will only continue to grow as he collects more and more points. The challenge now is to maintain this momentum and finish the season strong.

Upcoming Games

at Vancouver Canucks (3/17, 10 PM ET)

Statistical Leaders (61 Games):
Goals – JT Miller (24)
Points – Miller (73)
Wins – Thatcher Demko (27)
Save-percentage – Demko (.916)

The last meeting between these two teams was the Red Wings’ second game of the season, a spirited affair that saw the Red Wings leave Little Caesars Arena with a 3-1 victory. Since then, the Red Wings have climbed up and fallen down the standings, and the Canucks have changed their coach, their GM, and their team president. With a new regime in place, the Canucks are still in the playoff race in the Western Conference, and every point matters for them.

JT Miller Vancouver Canucks
JT Miller, Vancouver Canucks (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

It will be interesting to see who does and doesn’t suit up for this game. The Red Wings have their group of players that are trade deadline targets. Meanwhile the Canucks have to decide what they’re going to do with JT Miller, who has been, by far, their best forward this season. Overall, this game should provide some good insight into what the Canucks are thinking ahead of the deadline.

at Seattle Kraken (3/19, 10 PM ET)

Statistical Leaders (61 Games):
Goals – Jared McCann (23)
Points – McCann, Yanni Gourde (35)
Wins – Phillipp Grubauer (13)
SV% – Grubauer (.888)

Just like the Canucks, the last time the Red Wings played the Kraken, it was a victory in front of the crowd at Little Caesars Arena. This game marks Detroit’s first trip to the Emerald City, and they’ll face a Kraken team that has struggled throughout their inaugural season.

Again, like the Canucks, this game could feature even less of both teams’ everyday roster as the game will take place less than 48 hours before the trade deadline. Both teams will likely put their depth to the test as key trading assets sit this one out. The betting odds on this one could fluctuate a lot depending on what happens between now and when lineups have to be submitted.

vs. Philadelphia Flyers (3/22, 7:30 PM ET)

Statistical Leaders (59 Games):
Goals – Cam Atkinson (22)
Points – Atkinson (45)
Wins – Carter Hart (11)
SV% – .911

Once more, this time with feeling….

The last time the Red Wings played the Flyers, they won both games of a back-to-back series. Since then, the Flyers have continued to spiral in a season from Hell. If the season ended today, they would have the fourth-best odds at selecting first overall in the 2022 draft. Their season has been so bad that this game may very well be their first game without captain Claude Giroux, who has been listed as one of the top trade targets ahead of this year’s trade deadline.

Claude Giroux Philadelphia Flyers
Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

This game will be played at Little Caesars Arena after the Red Wings played their last four games on the road. It’s no mystery that Detroit has played better in front of their hometown fans this season, so if their struggles are continuing at this point, a home game could be exactly what the doctor ordered. With this being the first game after the trade deadline, we will start to get an idea of what next season’s team may look like based on the look of the roster for this game.

Players to Watch

Brock Boeser’s name has been out in the rumor mill lately, and the Red Wings’ game against the Canucks could be one of, if not his last game with Vancouver. He’s a skilled winger with 17 goals this season, and opposing defenses can never afford him too much space on the ice. Look for him to show well as he either makes his case to stay with the Canucks or head to a new city.

McCann recently signed a five-year extension with the Kraken, making him the first player in team history to re-sign with the NHL’s newest franchise. He’s an underrated offensive centerman that, while playing a bit above his depth in Seattle, has found ways to contribute all over the ice. He was a quality player before arriving in Seattle, and that hasn’t changed since he started wearing the Kraken’s blue and teal jersey.

In 37 career games against the Red Wings, Atkinson has 17 goals – his highest total against any of the 32 teams in the NHL. He regularly terrorizes the Red Wings, but he was kept silent in both of his games against Detroit this season. With one more opportunity to light up his favorite foe, keep an eye on the Connecticut-born winger – the Red Wings’ defense sure will be.

Cam Atkinson, Philadelphia Flyers
Cam Atkinson, Philadelphia Flyers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The Red Wings’ head coach Jeff Blashill is four wins away from 200 career wins. While he won’t reach that mark this week, there are three very winnable games on the schedule. If he can get his team to snap out of their losing streak, it would position him well to reach the 200 mark next week.

Red Wings Must Lean Into the Skid

As was mentioned at the top, the Red Wings are now in draft watch territory. While that is a little disheartening considering where this team was just two months ago, it’s important to note that their rebuild is far from over. They still have needs to fill, and their prospect pool is only going to get thinner as they continue to graduate more of their prospects. Another top 10 pick would do wonders for this team, and acquiring another first round pick at the trade deadline would add jet fuel to their rebuilding efforts – even if it means moving on from a fan-favorite player.

That doesn’t mean there won’t be fun hockey to watch though. Prospects like Jonatan Berggren may make their NHL debut in the coming weeks, and Raymond and Moritz Seider’s chase for the Calder Trophy will continue to be worth the price of admission. Tough times are ahead, but don’t worry – there will be some fun sprinkled in along the way as well.