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.
Did you seriously think the 2021-22 season was going to be a return to normal? Don’t let the sound of fans singing along to Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin'” fool you; we are still very much in a pandemic, and the Detroit Red Wings find themselves shelved until Dec. 27 because of it.
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If there is a silver lining about the situation, it’s that the Red Wings entered their league-mandated shutdown off the heels of win over the New Jersey Devils. That wasn’t the only game Detroit played this week, however….
Red Wings Can’t Weather the Storm
12/16 at Carolina, 5-3 loss
The Red Wings’ first game against the Carolina Hurricanes this season represented a bittersweet homecoming for goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic. After the Hurricanes traded the 25-year-old goalie for a third round pick and a passing glance from Jonathan Bernier, “Ned” has established himself as the main man in goal for the Red Wings season. He entered this game hoping to show the team that drafted him that they made a mistake by trading him away. With 28 stops on 32 shots, this game instead represents one of his weaker efforts over the last month or so.
Rookie sensation Lucas Raymond recorded two assists on this night, keeping him ahead of Anaheim Ducks center Trevor Zegras, who has been surging up the rookie scoring leaderboard recently. One of the Swedish winger’s assists came on a Dylan Larkin goal in the first period, and then both Raymond and Larkin assisted on a Tyler Bertuzzi goal in the second period which tied it up at 3-3. While the Red Wings eventually let this game slip out of their grasp, their top line combined for five points, and usually when their top line is going, the rest of the team is going too.
Overall Grade vs. Carolina: C
Red Wings Dance with the Devils
12/18 vs. New Jersey, 5-2 win
Speaking of the top line, they clicked once again two nights later, this time against the Devils, and with Grand Rapids Griffins head coach Ben Simon behind the bench due to Red Wings head coach Jeff Blashill entering COVID protocol prior to the game. While Raymond only put up a single assist, Bertuzzi recorded two goals, and Larkin notched his first career hat trick en route to a four point night. With the six points the captain recorded in these two games, as well as the goal he scored against the New York Islanders on Dec. 14, Larkin was named the NHL’s First Star of the Week.
Despite being shorthanded due to players and coaches being in COVID protocol, the Red Wings put forth a solid performance against the Devils. With the exception of a strong individual effort from the Devils’ rookie sensation, Dawson Mercer, they were able to keep New Jersey in check and made life fairly easy for goaltender Thomas Greiss – who was in need of a solid win. This win raised the Red Wings’ record to 15-13-3, placing them fourth in the Atlantic Division and in the second wild card position in the Eastern Conference with a three point cushion on the Boston Bruins (though the Bruins have five games in hand.)
Overall Grade vs. New Jersey: A-
3 Takeaways From Last Week
1. The Larkin Revenge Tour is Real
He read your comments on Facebook. He may have even read your comments on my articles and The Hockey Writers’ Grind Line over on YouTube. In response to “he’s a third line player at best”, he’s got 29 points in 27 games. In response to “he shouldn’t be the captain”, he responds with a gem like this:
Is he Connor McDavid? No. Is he Patrice Bergeron? Not yet. What he is, however, is the NHL’s First Star of the Week. His points per-game rate (1.07) ranks 24th in the league among players to play at least 15 games this season.
Sounds like the kind of guy the Red Wings should keep around.
2. COVID Sucks
These are the current Red Wings in COVID protocol: Robby Fabbri, Michael Rasmussen, Givani Smith, Carter Rowney, Nedlejkovic, Blashill, assistant coach Alex Tanguay, Filip Zadina…
….Sam Gagner, Pius Suter, Joe Veleno, video coach Jeff Weintraub, Adam Erne and Jordan Oesterle.
Stay safe this holiday season, everyone.
3. Moritz Seider is Weirdly Underrated
While everybody has their eyes fixed on Raymond and Zegras in the rookie scoring race, it seems like Moritz Seider has fallen by the wayside, at least a little bit. He is tied with Raymond in terms of rookie assists, and he holds an even plus/minus despite averaging 22:26 in ice-time this season. Rest assured, though, that his efforts aren’t going completely unnoticed:
In this writer’s opinion, Seider should be the favorite for the Calder Trophy this season. Sure, Raymond’s scoring pace is noteworthy and one of the main catalysts for the Red Wings’ resurgence this season, but the way Seider has quickly become this team’s best defenseman by making a difference at both ends of the ice is something that must be noted. As is often said, defensemen usually take a bit longer to mature and grow into high-end NHL players, but Seider is proving to be an exception.
at New York Rangers (12/27, 7:00 PM ET)
Statistical Leaders (30 Games):
Goals – Chris Kreider (18)
Points – Artemi Panarin (33)
Wins – Igor Shesterkin (13)
SV% – Shesterkin (.937)
This meeting marks the first time in almost two years that these two Original Six teams will face off. In their last meeting on Feb. 1, 2020, the Rangers won 1-0. Since then, New York has added Alexis Lafrenière, the top pick in the 2020 draft, to their lineup, and Gerard Gallant behind the bench. Between those two, this game will give fans their first look at two individuals that many wanted to join the Red Wings.
The Rangers hold an impressive record of 19-7-4, good for third in the Metropolitan Division. The blueshirts added grit to their lineup over the offseason in the form of former Vegas Golden Knight Ryan Reeves and former Tampa Bay Lightning Barclay Goodrow. With a potent mix of skill, youth, experience and grit, the Rangers are sure to give the Red Wings all that they can handle.
Players to Watch
While Gallant deserves some credit for the Rangers’ strong start, Shesterkin is on a Vezina-worthy pace through 18 starts. The 25-year-old Russian goaltender holds a 13-3-2 record this season and will be making his first start since Dec. 3 after nursing a lower-body injury. The Red Wings will want to test him early and often to see if there’s any rust in his game.
Doing his best to score on Shesterkin will be Raymond, who will also have the added motivation of playing against one of the three players that were selected ahead of him in the 2020 draft. While Lafrenière does not play as big of a role in the Rangers’ offense as Raymond plays in Detroit’s, the comparisons will likely be all over the broadcast and social media. Look for the young Swede to make a mark early and often.
The crazy thing about this week is that the one game the Red Wings are scheduled for may not even be played. Depending on the COVID situation, this game may be postponed to a later date. It’s crazy to think that an already short week could be cut even shor….
(Editor’s Note: Red Wings Wednesday Weekly has been placed in COVID protocol.)
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.