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.
What a week.
The Detroit Red Wings faced a who’s who of the league’s best since the last weekly notebook, and survived to tell the tale. The club played four games in seven days, and all four opponents from the week that was are postseason-bound, and have at least 100 points on the season.
Faced with such a daunting schedule, Detroit finished 2-2 on its weekly slate.
Believe it or not, this is the second-to-last edition of our weekly Red Wings notebook, but the competition doesn’t get any easier this upcoming week. Here’s what we learned over the past seven days:
Solid Wins Bookend Ugly Losses
4/14 at Carolina Hurricanes, 4-0 Win
Heading into the game against the powerhouse Carolina Hurricanes, Detroit had won just two of its previous 10 games, and on the road in Raleigh, things seemed to be set up for another rough night at the office.
The game, as it turned out, belonged to goalie Alex Nedeljkovic.
The 26-year-old recorded a 46-save shutout, instantly giving Red Wings fans everywhere something to feed good about after blanking his former team. It was Ned’s third shutout of the season, while Moritz Seider, Adam Erne and Filip Zadina scored for Detroit, which wrapped its season series 1-1-1 against Carolina.
Sure, the Red Wings were outshot 46-22, but without much to feel good about lately, Detroit gets the benefit of the doubt in this one.
Final Grade vs. Hurricanes: A+
4/16 at New York Rangers, 4-0 Loss
Any emotional high from the previous game’s shutout against the Hurricanes was quickly grounded in a 4-0 defeat against the New York Rangers two days later. in what’s become a recurring theme this season, the Red Wings were outshot 37-20, and goalie Thomas Greiss received no goal support in the loss.
Detroit finished its season series against the Rangers 1-1-1, but was shut out for the seventh time this season in the most recent loss to the Blue Shirts.
Final Grade vs. Rangers: D
4/17 vs. Florida Panthers, 6-1 Loss
The assignment was even more difficult after the Red Wings returned home to host the high-flying Florida Panthers, and — for the second consecutive meeting — Detroit allowed six Florida goals. The Wings have yet to beat the ‘Cats this season.
There’s not much else to add on this one, as the Panthers used a four-goal second period to jump out to an insurmountable lead. Pius Suter scored Detroit’s lone goal, assisted by Jakub Vrana and Filip Zadina.
Final Grade vs. Panthers: D+
4/19 at Tampa Bay Lightning, 4-3 Win
Heading into Tuesday’s game against the Tampa Bay Lightning, Hockeytown was preoccupied with some different news: Captain Dylan Larkin underwent core muscle surgery following the team’s game against the Panthers, and will miss the remainder of the season. His expected recovery time is 8-10 weeks.
That news put a damper on things heading into the showdown against the defending back-to-back champs, but consecutive goals from Oskar Sundqvist, Vrana and Lucas Raymond turned a one-goal deficit into a two-goal lead. Though the Lightning eventually rallied to tie it in the third, Vrana buried the game-winner with a beautiful breakaway finish after creating a turnover in the defensive zone.
Detroit finished its season series against Tampa Bay 1-1-2, winning the fourth-and-final matchup between the two teams this season.
Final Grade vs. Lightning: B
3 Takeaways From the Week
1. Larkin Has Nothing Left to Prove
There was some Monday-morning drama in Red Wings twitter land after the blog Octopus Thrower published a post questioning whether Larkin was the correct leader for the team moving forward. The post in question caused such a stir (and was so wildly uninformed) that it has since been taken down, though plenty of tweets remain to tell the tale.
Larkin has posted his best season since a 73-point campaign in 2018-19, and has been the face of the franchise for years. He’s been there to address the media after every painful loss, and by all accounts, is one of the best locker room guys on the planet.
I try not to editorialize much, but simply put: Yeah, Larkin was the right call.
2. Jakub Vrana Continues to Impress
After the Mantha-for-Vrana deal went down last season, fans weren’t sure what to expect, but Vrana continues to impress. He scored twice in a 4-3 win over the Lightning, and has now recorded 20 goals with the Red Wings in just 32 games of service. For those keeping score at home, that’s two games faster than Steve Yzerman.
The biggest unknown is his durability, considering he has a rather small sample size of games with the Red Wings, but with two years left on his contract after this season, there’s still time to see the true impact he can have in Hockeytown.
3. Moritz Seider Deserves to Win the Calder Trophy
In addition to the ridiculous point totals Seider has put up as a rookie defenseman on one of the league’s worst defensive teams, he’s consistently making the correct play to help set up an eventual goal. That Hockey IQ was on display yet again in Tuesday’s win against the Lightning.
Take a look at the clip below. After shooting into traffic from the point, he quickly steps up to corral the rebound, and with a Tampa player closing in, he quickly moved the puck back to Danny DeKeyser while side-stepping a hit. DeKeyser shot it back into the net-front crowd, where Oskar Sundqvist chipped the puck in the net to even the score at one.
That’s just one example of the subtle plays Seider has made throughout to have such an impact in just his first NHL season, and with that superb decision making on full display, the 21-year-old is fourth in scoring (48 points), and first in assists (42) among all NHL rookies.
at Florida Panthers (4/21, 7:00 pm ET)
Statistical Leaders (76 Games):
Goals – Aleksander Barkov (37)
Points – Jonathan Huberdeau (111)
Wins – Sergei Bobrovsky (37)
SV% – Bobrovsky (.912)
If the Red Wings thought the Panthers were hard to play against last week, look out: Florida’s 3-2 overtime win against the New York Islanders on Tuesday was its 11th straight victory.
Yep. 11 straight, which includes last week’s 6-1 rout.
The Panthers’ 116 points is tied with the Colorado Avalanche for the league’s best, and both have six games remaining. Colorado has five more regulation wins, so there’s no doubt Florida will try to take advantage of a Red Wings team that’s limping its way into the offseason. Huberdeau is in the midst of a career season, and a three-point night against the Islanders on Tuesday vaulted him into first place in the NHL’s scoring race, with Edmonton’s Connor McDavid right behind him at 110.
Florida’s tandem of Bobrovsky and Spencer Knight have the team on cruise control, as the former has earned six wins during the Panthers’ current winning streak, while the latter has posted five.
vs. Pittsburgh Penguins (4/23, 12:30 pm ET)
Statistical Leaders (77 Games):
Goals – Jake Guentzel (37)
Points – Sidney Crosby (80)
Wins – Tristan Jarry (34)
SV% – Jarry (.919)
Though the Penguins have already clinched a spot in the postseason, the remainder of their schedule can still have a rather large impact on their playoff fate. Pittsburgh’s 97 points puts it in third place in the Metropolitan Division, just one point ahead of the Washington Capitals, who have a game in hand. Though a number of scenarios remain, the current playoff picture would put the Pens against the Rangers, while Washington would face the Panthers.
Yeah, there’s some motivation to win.
The Penguins haven’t done themselves any favors lately, and are just 2-5-1 in their last eight games. Though Pittsburgh and Detroit have split the season series 1-1 to this point, the last meeting between the two was an ugly one in the Steel City on March 27, as the Pens demoralized the Redwings 11-2.
Detroit won the first meeting on Jan. 28, 3-2 in a shootout.
at New Jersey Devils (4/24, 1 pm ET)
Statistical Leaders (76 Games):
Goals – Jack Hughes (26)
Points – Jesper Bratt (70)
Wins – Nico Daws (10)
SV% – Jonathan Bernier (.902)
No offense to the New Jersey Devils, but after facing a gauntlet of Stanley Cup-caliber teams over the past week, Detroit may find a little relief against a team that it’s statistically better than.
Like everything this season, though, it’s won’t be a cakewalk. For one, they’re playing in New Jersey just 24 hours after facing the Penguins. Beyond that, though, the Devils are 3-1-1 in their last five games, including a win over a desperate Vegas Golden Knights team on Monday.
This is only the second meeting between the two teams this season, as the Red Wings won the first one 5-2 on Dec. 18. They’ll meet for a third and final time on April 29.
at Toronto Maple Leafs (4/26, 7 pm ET)
Statistical Leaders (77 Games):
Goals – Auston Matthews (58)
Points – Matthews (102)
Wins – Jack Campbell (30)
SV% – Campbell (.913)
If Sunday’s game against the Devils is a reprieve, then Detroit’s subsequent Tuesday matchup against the Toronto Maple Leafs is the exact opposite. They’ve won four straight, though with upcoming matchups against the Lightning, Panthers, and Capitals, the Leafs still have a tough road before hosting the Red Wings.
Toronto’s 108 points has it comfortably in second place in the Atlantic Division, eight points ahead of Tampa Bay, though the Lightning do have a game in hand.
Toronto is 3-0 against Detroit this season, and has scored at least five goals in every game between the two. The last matchup, a 10-7 Red Wings loss on Feb. 26, was a wild back-and-forth affair in which both teams’ offense was on full display.
Players to Watch
Though Huberdeau’s point total is off the charts, keep your eye on the young Spencer Knight, who has won seven of his last eight starts. Of course, don’t sleep on Sergei Bobrovsky, who has won his last 11, and will be up to the task if called upon instead of Knight. Make sure to keep an eye on Sidney Crosby, who continues to put up impressive point totals at 34 years old, and Jesper Bratt is one of the most underrated players in hockey today with three points in his last five games. Finally, Auston Matthews is resoundingly the player to watch against Toronto as he continues to seemingly score at will.
As for the Red Wings, keep an eye on the much-maligned Filip Zadina, who has three points in his last four games, and was an impressive plus-2 against the Lightning on Tuesday. He continues to excel anytime he’s on the ice with Vrana, and has been skating very well lately.
Wrapping up the Season
It’s hard to believe, but there’s just one game on the schedule after this week of play is up — Friday, April 29 against the Devils. From there, all eyes will turn to the 2022 NHL Entry Draft in July, where general manager Steve Yzerman will look to add to the stockpile of talent in the organization alongside names like Jonatan Berggren, Simon Edvinsson, Albert Johansson and Sebastian Cossa.
It’s been a tough end to a long season, but even as it begins to wind down, it’s still pretty easy to be excited about what lies ahead. What do you think about the Red Wings’ week that was? Let’s hear it in the comments below.
A die-hard hockey fan in the desert, and proud Iowa State alum. Detroit Red Wings and Arizona Coyotes contributor for The Hockey Writers.