Welcome 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.
As of last Thursday, the Detroit Red Wings 2021-22 NHL season is officially underway! With three home games to open the first week of the schedule, the boys really were back in town. Finally, the long awaited debuts of Moritz Seider and Lucas Raymond were set to take place in Hockeytown.
Little Caesers Arena welcomed fans back at full capacity for the first time in more than 18 months with the grand opening of two new restaurants and a block party, complete with live music and dance performances. There was an extra buzz of excitement in the air, as the Wings prepared to open their season against the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning. With the building full of fans, and Wings legends in attendance, Detroit kicked off the season that most hope will be the beginning to the end of the rebuild.
That was only the beginning to what would turn out to be an eventful week for the Wings. From suspensions, to multiple missed no-calls, to producing at an offensive rate that is more than double than last season, the last week has been a lot of fun to be a fan of Detroit hockey.
Season Opener Against the Lightning
10/14 vs. Tampa Bay: Loss, 7-6 (overtime)
What a way to begin a season! Shortly after being properly honored as the 37th captain in franchise history, Dylan Larkin kicked off the scoring on the 2021-22 campaign. Larkin cleaned up a rebound after driving to the net on a Robby Fabbri shot from the left half wall, which had hit a Lightning stick causing it to flutter, therefore sneaking through Andrei Vasilevskiy.
That wasn’t the only excitement out of Larkin in the game. After getting boarded from behind by Mathieu Joseph and realizing no call was going to be made, Larkin decided to take justice into his own hands.
One main question coming into this season after losing Jakub Vrana to injury was: where are the goals going to come from? Tyler Bertuzzi wasted no time answer the bell, registering a hat trick in the second period against the Lightning, including a power play tally. He completed his Vrana impersonation in the third period when he scored his fourth goal of the game. However, blown assignments on the penalty kill, breakdowns in the defensive zone, and a shaky outing by Alex Nedeljkovic allowed the Lightning to erase multiple three-goal deficits and force overtime, where they would close out the comeback.
Overall Grade vs. Tampa Bay: B-
Bounce Back Against Vancouver
10/16 vs. Vancouver: Win, 3-1
Thomas Greiss earned his first start of the 2021-22 season and picked up right where he left off at the end of 2020-21 against the Vancouver Canucks. Facing 41 shots on the night, Greiss made 40 saves, giving up one goal for a .976 save percentage (SV%). Although the Wings only saw two power play opportunities, they made the most of the man advantage when Filip Zadina ripped home his first of the year, and the eventual game winner.
Detroit was without its captain, as Larkin served a 1-game suspension for his punch to Joseph. However, the Wings were ready to play and came out physical against the Canucks, outhitting Vancouver 15-5. The Canucks did outshoot the Wings, 41-21, but the phenomenal play of Greiss denied Vancouver any chance at gaining momentum.
Overall Grade vs. Vancouver: A
Lucas Raymond Scores His First
10/19 vs. Columbus: Win, 4-1
It only took three games for the young rookie to find his scoring touch. After two scoreless periods against the Columbus Blue Jackets, Lucas Raymond picked up a pass from Larkin at the right faceoff dot and blistered a wristshot past Joonas Korpisalo‘s catching glove. The 19-year-old winger has shown the flashes of skill that made him the fourth-overall pick in the 2020 NHL Draft, registering three points in his first three games with the Wings.
Raymond would add an assist on the Wings’ second goal of the game, recording his first multi-point game in the NHL. That goal, which would hold on to be the game winner, was Bertuzzi’s team-leading fifth goal of the season. Vladislav Namestnikov and Adam Erne would connect on back-to-back empty net goals to close out the Blue Jackets.
Overall Grade vs. Columbus: A
3 Takeaways From Last Week’s Games
1. The Kids Have Arrived
While it was only a very small sample size, both Seider and Raymond looked comfortable playing at the NHL level. Both players have been productive and have been already chipping in offensively.
Seider is tied for the team lead in assists with three, while Raymond’s three points are spread out across a goal and two assists.
2. Detroit Will Not Be Pushed Around
After years of being the league punching bag, the Detroit Red Wings have finally had enough. Whether it was frustration from almost suffering an injury similar to what knocked him out of last season, or just blind rage in the moment, Larkin has shown multiple times already this season that he will not be walked all over. For what has seemed like years of asking for the Wings to get more grit and toughness in their lineup, the captain is the one who is taking it upon himself to lead the way.
3. Thomas Greiss is a Vezina Candidate
Okay, this one won’t likely last for long, but in the two games he has played, Greiss has been the best goalie in the league. In fact, he currently is tied for second in goals-against average (GAA) and first in SV% with .969. While most people were expecting this to be Nedeljkovic’s crease to take over, Greiss doesn’t look to be giving it up any time soon. If Nedeljkovic is able to find his game from last season, this will be a very good problem for the Wings to have.
Vs. Calgary Flames (10/21, 7:30 PM ET)
Statistical Leaders (2 Games):
Goals – Elias Lindholm (2)
Points – Lindholm (2)
Wins – Jacob Markstrom (0)
SV% – Markstrom (.881)
The Calgary Flames come into Detroit looking for their first win on the season. Led by Elias Lindholm in scoring with two goals, along with Johnny Gaudreau and Rasmus Andersson who have a pair of assists each, the Flames are second to last in the league with only four goals scored in two games.
With goaltender Jacob Markstrom giving up an average of 3.43 goals a game, and the Red Wings averaging 4.25 goals scored a game, this should be another opportunity for the Wings to gain confidence shooting the puck.
At Montreal Canadiens (10/23, 7:00 PM ET)
Statistical Leaders (4 Games):
Goals – Jonathan Drouin (2)
Points – Drouin (2)
Wins – N/A (0)
SV% – Jake Allen (.885)
Once again in a division with both the Stanley Cup champion and Stanley Cup runner-up, the Wings will take their first road trip of the season across the border. Montreal has started the season cold at 0-4-0 and is the only team left in the NHL to have not earned a point thus far. Leading the way in scoring for the Canadiens is Jonathan Drouin, fresh off his return from taking care of his mental health, Drouin looks revived and ready to prove the doubters wrong.
The Red Wings swept the regular season series the last time these two Original Six franchises met during the 2019-20 season. Although the Habs have been struggling out of the gate to start the year, expect them to be a tough game on their home ice.
At Chicago Blackhawks (10/24, 7:00 PM CT)
Statistical Leaders (4 Games):
Goals – Kirby Dach (2)
Points – Patrick Kane (4)
Wins – N/A (0)
SV% – Kevin Lankinen (.885)
Although the Chicago Blackhawks are the third winless team on the schedule for next week, one can never count out a team that features Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, and Marc-Andre Fleury. Fleury has yet to find his Vezina-winning form, giving up 12 goals over three games to start the season.
However, not all the blame can be placed on Fleury when the Blackhawks are only averaging two goals per game. Anytime the Hawks and Wings get together you can expect sparks to fly, and next Sunday should be no different!
Players to Watch
The Flames have one player that can get under a team’s collective skin, cause havoc, and score goals at will and that is Matthew Tkachuk. Although he only has one assist on the season, Tkachuk leads his team in shots with 14. Tkachuck is the type of player that a team needs to be aware of anytime he is on the ice.
In Montreal, the player to keep an eye on is Cole Caufield. Currently held off the scoresheet, Caufield is the rare rookie that has deep NHL experience. Although he is the favorite for the Calder Trophy this season, Caufield spend last year’s playoffs gaining invaluable experience. Detroit needs to make sure it isn’t the team that helps Caufield find his scoring touch.
Chicago is a hard one to choose because they have so many good and dangerous players. However, for this series the player to watch will be Kirby Dach. Dach is tied for the lead in goals on the Blackhawks and has the ability to pop off for multiple goals at any time.
Detroit’s player to watch is an easy one. Raymond has Hockeytown hyped and, heading into a week against three struggling teams, has a great chance to build on this early momentum. Look for him to keep his confidence high and put pucks toward the net. This kid is going to be a lot of fun to watch.
No matter how this week turned out the result was always going to be the same: Hockey. Is. Back. Nothing else this early in the season really matters. Yes, it is good for Seider, Raymond, and the rest of the young guys to continue to develop and gain confidence, but at this point you don’t want to push them too hard, too fast. Let them play and get used to the speed of the game at the highest level in the world. They seem to have it figured out thus far!
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Born and raised in Michigan, Kyle Knopp started playing hockey when he was 3 years old. Knopp has played, coached, or worked at every level of ice hockey — including three seasons in the Ontario Hockey League and two seasons with the Detroit Red Wings where he was part of the Stanley Cup Championship team in 2008. He covers the Washington Capitals and Detroit Red Wings for The Hockey Writers and is the editor of THW’s Morning Skate newsletter. You can follow him on Twitter @THW_Knopp.