Red Wings Weekly: Fight for Your Right (to Party)

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)

You can say many things about this season’s edition of the Detroit Red Wings. With a 24-24-6 record, you could say that they’re painfully average, having hovered around .500 for basically the entire season. Their minus-34 goal differential is the fourth-worst in the Eastern Conference, so you could say that they need work defensively. Their Calder-worthy rookies, Moritz Seider and Lucas Raymond, have been such a huge part of the team’s progress this season that you could probably say that the Red Wings would be nowhere without them. But what you can’t say about the Red Wings this season is that they fold easily.

This team has a lot of fight, and that was never more evident than it was this week as Detroit took on three of the best teams in the entire NHL. They lost more games than they won this week, but they did everything in their power to make sure that their opponents know that any game against the winged-wheel won’t be an easy victory anymore.

If there’s one improvement the Red Wings have made this season, it’s exactly that: they won’t go down easily.

Red Wings Get Caught Up in an Avalanche

2/23 vs Colorado Avalanche, 5-2 Loss

After a pretty nonexistent effort in the first period of this game, the Red Wings found themselves down 2-0 against THE Stanley Cup favorite, the Colorado Avalanche. Both teams started their backup goaltenders in this game, and while Thomas Greiss didn’t have a phenomenal day at the office on this night, the team in front of him did him little favors as well. So while things looked bad entering the second period, the Red Wings made sure to show up in the middle frame.

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

The Red Wings were the better team in the second period, out-chancing the Avalanche, and generally looking like the better team. Filip Zadina scored his seventh goal of the season to make it a 2-1 game just over halfway through the game, and there were times where it looked like the Red Wings were going to tie it up. All of that hope was sucked out of Little Caesars Arena when Nazem Kadri scored with just under two minutes left in the second period to make it a 3-1 game. Despite their best efforts, including a goal from Robby Fabbri and a two-point night from Seider, the Red Wings were unable to overcome that third goal.

The Avalanche are what the Red Wings are building towards becoming. That was obvious on this night, and while it was great to see the boys in red make a game out of it, the end result was hardly ever in doubt.

Final Grade vs. Avalanche: C-

Red Wings Play Football with the Maple Leafs

2/26 vs. Toronto Maple Leafs, 10-7 Loss

This is a game where you might be forgiven if you missed a chunk of it because you simply thought the conclusion was inevitable. By the end of the second period, the Toronto Maple Leafs held a 7-2 lead over the Red Wings. Neither Greiss nor Alex Nedeljkovic seemed capable of making a save, and team defense seemed like a foreign concept to a Red Wings team whose bread and butter last season was an overall commitment to team defense. Turn it off and forget it ever happened, right?


Related: Maple Leafs Are Predictable in Their Unpredictability

Within the first six minutes of the third period, Detroit fought back to make it a 7-6 game. After Michael Rasmussen scored to make it 7-6, Ilya Mikheyev scored just 103 seconds later to give the Maple Leafs a 8-6 lead. 41 seconds after that, Raymond scored to bring the Red Wings back within a goal. As it turns out, team defense AND goaltending were a foreign concept for both sides in this game.

The Maple Leafs eventually pulled away, breaking double digits on Mitch Marner’s first career hat trick. This was the type of game that coaches loathe, but fans can’t get enough of. On a night where an outdoor hockey game was played in Nashville, Tennessee, the most exciting and entertaining game of the night was played in Detroit, Michigan.

Final Grade vs. Maple Leafs: C-

Red Wings Rock Carolina Like A Hurricane

3/1 vs. Carolina Hurricanes, 4-3 Win (OT)

The Carolina Hurricanes sit atop the standings in the Eastern Conference, and they sit second in the overall standings. They’re as much of a Stanley Cup contender as the Avalanche are. Following Detroit’s offensive affair against the Maple Leafs, it was anybody’s guess which version of the Red Wings fan would see on this night.

After 40 minutes of play, the score was tied 1-1, with Carter Rowney scoring the Red Wings’ only goal, his fourth of the season. Then, in the third period, things started to get interesting.

Rasmussen gave the Red Wings the early lead after scoring just 2:45 into the third period. The Hurricanes responded four and a half minutes later, tying it up on a goal from Jesper Fast. The Hurricanes’ captain, Jordan Staal, seemed to seal a Hurricanes victory once he scored with 3:48 left in the game. Instead, the Red Wings did what they did all week: they fought back, culminating in Dylan Larkin scoring off of an interception just 38 seconds later, tying up the game and sending it to overtime.

With just eight seconds to go in overtime and the Red Wings on a power play, Raymond took center stage by banging home a rebound:

With three goals and four points in three games this week, Raymond now has 16 goals and 43 points this season. He has a two-point lead in the rookie scoring race, and it appears that he’s starting to break out of the slump he hit around December and/or January. It’s fun watching the Red Wings win; it’s even more fun when one of the Red Wings’ rookies is the one who seals the deal.

Final Grade vs. Hurricanes: B+

3 Takeaways From the Week

1. Goaltending Remains a Concern

As previously mentioned, Greiss did not have his best game against the Avalanche. Neither of the Red Wings’ goalies put up much of a fight against the Maple Leafs’ offense, and Nedeljkovic finished the game against the Hurricanes with a save-percentage (SV%) of just .900.

To that latter point, “Ned” hasn’t posted a SV% north of .900 since Feb. 2, which was a loss against the Los Angeles Kings. In his last five games, he has a SV% of just .856, and his overall SV% for the season sits at just .903. The Red Wings’ defense hasn’t really helped out either of their goaltenders lately, but the game against the Maple Leafs was the most glaring recent example of how the Red Wings aren’t getting the same level of goaltending they were earlier in the season.

2. Raymond Making A Difference Again

From Dec. 1 to Feb. 2, Raymond scored just two goals – and both of those came against teams near the bottom of the standings (the Seattle Kraken and the Buffalo Sabres). Luckily, he was still putting up points, as he had 14 points through the 24 games in that stretch. More often than not, rookies hit a “wall” halfway through the season after the league starts to take notice and adapt to what those players are doing. It happened to Raymond, but it seems like he’s turning the corner and starting to get hot again.

Lucas Raymond Detroit Red Wings
Lucas Raymond, Detroit Red Wings (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Since Feb. 9, Raymond has five goals and eight points through seven games. He was one of the Red Wings’ most productive players in the month of February, and it will be interesting to see if he can keep it going through the month of March, especially as players start departing the team ahead of the trade deadline.

3. No Snowballing in Detroit

The longest losing streak the Red Wings have endured this season lasted four games, and they’ve lost four games in a row three separate times this season with the most recent stretch being from Jan 8 to Jan. 13. Even when things seem like they’re starting to get out of hand, the Red Wings have consistently managed to reel things in and prevent their season from slipping away from them. Even when they face tough competition like they did this week, they still managed to get a win in at least one of their games. Not only is this team learning to win, but their also learning how to stop the bleeding.

Upcoming Games

at Tampa Bay Lightning (3/4, 7 PM)

Statistical Leaders (52 Games):
Goals – Steven Stamkos (26)
Points – Stamkos (60)
Wins – Andrei Vasilevskiy (29)
SV% – Vasilevskiy (.921)

After taking on three Cup contenders this week, the Red Wings begin their next week of games against the defending champions, the Tampa Bay Lightning. These teams haven’t faced each other since the Red Wings’ season opener, which wound up being a wild affair that the Lightning won with a final score of 7-6. A lot has changed since then, and it will be interesting to see if this game is anywhere near as eventful as their first meeting this season was.

Another interesting wrinkle in this game is that the Lightning may be watching the Red Wings closely as they determine which players they want to target at the trade deadline. General manager Steve Yzerman has already worked out a few deals with Tampa Bay GM Julien BrideBois since Yzerman took over in Detroit, so it should not be surprising if the two meet up during this game to see if there’s a fit for both sides.

at Florida Panthers (3/5, 6 PM)

Statistical Leaders (53 Games):
Goals – Aleksander Barkov (25)
Points – Jonathan Huberdeau (75)
Wins – Sergei Bobrovsky (26)
SV% – Bobrovsky (.915)

Another team that may utilize their meeting with the Red Wings as a scouting endeavor, the Florida Panthers have hit a bit of a skid lately, but still remain among the top teams in the Eastern Conference. The last time these two teams met was on Oct. 29 when this craziness happened:

The Panthers came away from that game with two points after securing the victory in overtime, but that game was one of the earliest examples of how resilient this season’s Red Wings team is. Surely Detroit will have to show their resilience again as the Panthers look to keep pace with the Lightning and Maple Leafs in the race for the Atlantic Division title.

vs. Arizona Coyotes (3/8, 7:30 PM)

Statistical Leaders (53 Games):
Goals – Clayton Keller (21)
Points – Keller (46)
Wins – Scott Wedgewood, Karel Vejmelka (seven)
SV% – Wedgewood (.910)

The Red Wings have suffered all sorts of losses this season. 10-7, 7-3, 6-1, 4-0…the list goes on. However, their most frustrating loss of the season might be their 2-1 overtime loss against the Arizona Coyotes on Nov. 20. Wedgewood had a heck of a game for the Coyotes that night, and it would not be surprising to see him man the crease for the Coyotes again when they visit Little Caesars Arena.

To put it bluntly, the Red Wings have no excuses when it comes to this game. After finishing February and beginning March against some of the best teams in the NHL, this game should almost come as a relief for the Red Wings as the opportunity is definitely there for them to bank two points on this night. Make no mistake though, the Coyotes aren’t going to take it easy on Detroit, and they’ve made life hard for teams better than the Red Wings this season.

Players to Watch

Stamkos has had a ton of success against the Red Wings over his career. In 32 regular season games, he has 17 goals and 30 points. He’s having a very fruitful season, a welcome development after being limited to just 95 games over the prior two seasons.

If I would have told you at the beginning of the season that Huberdeau would be neck-and-neck with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl for the NHL scoring lead at this point in the season, would you have believed me? He has 30 points through 33 games against the Red Wings, and he is one of, if not THE most underrated player in the NHL.

Jonathan Huberdeau Florida Panthers
Jonathan Huberdeau, Florida Panthers (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

When it comes to the Coyotes, Keller’s performance this season is nothing short of remarkable. Scoring at an almost point-per-game pace while playing for a team with just 14 wins on the season is something to applaud. If the Coyotes produce a decent amount of offense against Detroit, chances are that he’ll have his hand in it.

As for the Red Wings, all eyes should be on Raymond to see if his recent hot streak can continue. The rookie scoring race is heating up, so if he wants to stay at the top of that list, he’ll have to keep producing one way or another.

NHL Trade Deadline Looms Large

As has already been mentioned, change is more than likely coming to the Red Wings’ lineup. Jakub Vrana is close to returning, and the trade deadline is now less than three weeks away. With Vladislav Namestnikov and Nick Leddy recently receiving promotions in the lineup, you have to think that they are both being showcased for potential trades. It will be interesting to hear which teams are interested in acquiring either player over the next week or so.

Related: Red Wings Have Lineup Choices to Make With Vrana Returning

Until then, the Red Wings have business to tend to. It won’t be an easy week – they are winless this season against all three teams they face this week – but that shouldn’t preclude them from putting forth a winning effort in all three games. If there’s one thing this season’s Red Wings have shown us, it’s that they’re going to give it their all in each of this week’s contests.

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