Red Wings Wednesday Weekly: Welcome Home

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.

The Detroit Red Wings may have only played three games last week, and although they were 2-1 in those contests — including a two-game sweep over the Carolina Hurricanes — the week’s focus was truly on general manager Steve Yzerman’s stunning trade of Anthony Mantha, sending him to the Washington Capitals for a king’s ransom in a last-minute blockbuster deal. Mantha is out, Jakub Vrana and Richard Panik are in, along with a boatload of future picks, and suddenly things feel a little bit brighter for Red Wings fans, even in the doldrums of yet another playoff-less season.

And just like that, it became apparent that this was not just a good week for the Red Wings. This was a GREAT week for the Red Wings — and boy, it’s been a while since that’s been said out loud.

With all of that in mind, let’s recap the week, discuss what was good and bad, welcome the new faces to Detroit, and preview the week ahead!

Poor Play Against the Predators (Again)

4/8 vs. Nashville: Loss7-1

It was deja vu for the Red Wings, whose 7-1 loss to the Nashville Predators last Thursday was seemingly a mirror image of what happened on March 25, another 7-1 loss against the Predators. This time around, the game was close after one period, but seven goals over the final two periods doomed Detroit. Viktor Arvidsson netted a hat trick, and Jonathan Bernier allowed seven goals on 32 shots in his first game back from an injury.

Jonathan Bernier Detroit Red Wings
Jonathan Bernier had a rough return from an injury. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The loss was Detroit’s second straight overall, fourth straight against the Predators, and was a real gut-check after splitting a competitive series against the Tampa Bay Lightning just days earlier.

Overall Grade vs. Nashville: D

Bust Out The Brooms Against Carolina

4/10 at Carolina: Win 5-4 (SO)
4/12 at Carolina: Win 3-1

As if this were the movie Groundhog Day, the Red Wings bounced back from an embarrassing loss with a two-game sweep of their next opponent. The first time it was the aforementioned loss in March to the Predators, when Detroit responded with a two-game sweep over the Columbus Blue Jackets. This time the Carolina Hurricanes fell victim to the Red Wings’ rebound.

This time around the Red Wings were anchored by secondary scoring, outpacing the Hurricanes 8-5 in the two-game span. Both Bernier and Thomas Greiss picked up wins, and Adam Erne continued his scorching-hot play by recording a goal in each game, totaling eight shots. However, the real story here is how the team responded after after an emotional trade deadline.

The series was proof, yet again, that if the Red Wings put forth a complete 60-minute effort, they have the talent to hang with anyone in the league.

Overall Grade vs. Carolina: B+

Red Wings Trade Deadline Central

Yes, the 2-1 record for last week was nice, but as we called out, Yzerman was very active at the deadline. A recap of all of the deals can be found below:

April 12
F Richard Panik
F Jakub Vrana
2021 1st-Round Pick
2022 2nd-Round Pick
Washington Capitals 2007-Present Secondary LogoF Anthony Mantha
April 11
F Hayden Verbeek
2021 5th-Round Pick

D Jon Merrill
April 10
D David SavardD Brian Lashoff
April 10
2021 4th-Round PickD David Savard
April 9
2022 4th-Round PickD Patrik Nemeth

Read More About Detroit’s Trade Activity:

3 Takeaways From Last Week’s Games

1. The Rebuild Has Accelerated (Assets)

There’s plenty of debate around who the true deadline winners were, because multiple teams in this year’s Discover Central Division acquired numerous assets (first-round assets, at that) in the upcoming draft. The Red Wings, Chicago Blackhawks, and Blue Jackets were all in the top echelon of activity, but regardless of any clear “winner,” it’s become clear that Detroit’s rebuild was thrust into warp speed. Looking at the next two drafts, the Red Wings are poised to continue and stockpile talent.

2. The Rebuild Has Accelerated (Current Roster)

The team’s rebuild improvement was not just limited to the number of picks acquired. Both Vrana and Panik bring something unique to the 2020-21 version of the Red Wings.

Vrana, the 13th-overall selection in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, is considered by many to essentially be a direct swap for Mantha. Granted, he has had much more support on a contender like the Capitals, but in five seasons with the team, he has recorded 157 points in 284 career games, including 76 goals. Some highlights:

Panik brings a veteran presence to the team, having recorded 190 points in nine years of NHL service. Though his journeyman experience is valuable to a young, rebuilding core, it’s entirely possible Yzerman exposes Panik for the expansion draft this upcoming offseason, too. His addition to the team allows for more options as those decisions are made.

3. The Penalty Kill is Stabilizing

The Red Wings’ special teams struggles have been well-documented this season, but last week highlighted an unexpected trend — the team did not allow a single power-play goal, killing off all seven chances against them. Detroit has only given up one power-play goal in its last six games, two in its last 10, and has killed off 26 of its last 28 penalties (92.86%).

Upcoming Matchups

vs. Chicago Blackhawks (4/15, 7:30 PM ET; 4/17, 7:00 PM ET)

Statistical Leaders (43 games):
Goals – Alex DeBrincat (21)
Points – Patrick Kane (54)
Wins – Kevin Lankinen (16)
SV% – Lankinen (.915)

The Blackhawks were just as busy as the Red Wings at the deadline, and despite having a surprisingly competitive year, they were still clear sellers at the deadline. They have dropped off a bit as of late — compiling a 5-5 record in their last 10 games, but have won three of their last four heading into Thursday’s game, and are still very much in striking distance of the final playoff spot in the Discover Central Division.

Alex DeBrincat Chicago Blackhawks
Alex DeBrincat, Chicago Blackhawks (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Chicago is 5-1 against Detroit this season, and the next two games will conclude the season series between the former Western Conference rivals.

at Dallas Stars (4/19, 7:30 PM ET; 4/20, 8:30 PM ET)

Statistical Leaders (41 games):
Goals – Joe Pavelski (16)
Points – Pavelski (38)
Wins – Anton Khudobin (Nine)
SV% – Jake Oettinger (.917)

The Stars have yet to find a groove since the start of their season was delayed, and time is running out for last year’s Stanley Cup runner-up. The team’s difference this season has been it’s surprising struggle in the extra frame, as 12 of its 26 losses this season have come in overtime.

Joe Pavelski Dallas Stars
Joe Pavelski leads the way for the Dallas Stars (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

This series kicks off the first of four straight games between the two games — the Red Wings have gone 1-3 against Dallas to this point.

Players to Watch

The Blackhawks continue to be led by — who else — star forward Kane, who has even heard some speculation for this season’s Hart Trophy. He continues to maintain more than a point-per-game in productivity, and is third overall in scoring this season, behind Edmonton’s Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.

The Stars need to stop the opposition’s offensive prowess, as they have won four of their last five games when allowing either one or no goals. Goalie Khudobin had won three straight contests before losing consecutive games to Nashville (shootout loss) and Florida (OT loss), and will need to be at his best against Detroit for the Stars to have any hope of staying in the hunt.

Anton Khudobin Dallas Stars
Anton Khudobin, Dallas Stars (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

For the Red Wings, all eyes will be on newcomer Vrana, who has a chance to try and jump-start his season after a disappointing year with Washington to this point. Fans will be watching to see how the team’s newest acquisition responds to his new surroundings.

Final Thoughts

With the trade deadline finally in the rear view mirror, the Red Wings can move forward with their new-look roster and try to finish the season on a high note. The coming weeks will bring plenty of new-look lines, fresh faces, and all-around anticipation, but it has become crystal clear in the previous week that Yzerman has a clear direction for this team — if that wasn’t clear already — and the days of a “floating” roster are beginning to creep to a close. Throughout the later stages of this season, many of the faces seen will likely be part of the team for years to come, and for the first time in a long while, Red Wings fans can look forward to a little stability.

Buckle up and continue to be patient, but be sure to enjoy the ride.

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