Red Wings Wednesday Weekly: Every Rose Has Its Thorn

Welcome back to Detroit 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)

After a raucous start to the 2021-22 season, the Red Wings seem to have settled in. While they dropped two out of three games this week, their most recent victory over the Chicago Blackhawks brought all the good vibes back to “Hockeytown”. With a record of 3-2-1 to start the season, the Red Wings find themselves ahead of teams like the Toronto Maple Leafs, Tampa Bay Lightning and the Vegas Golden Knights in the standings. Just as we all predicted.

Related: Red Wings Wednesday Weekly: The Boys Are Back in Town

Make no mistake: six games is hardly enough to draw serious conclusions about any team, let alone a team that has already experienced some severe highs and lows like the Red Wings have. The truth is often in the middle, and if this week’s games are any indication, this season’s Red Wings team has the talent to win on any given night – they just have to show up first.

Red Wings Burn Out Against the Flames

In their first game against the Calgary Flames since Feb. 23, 2020, the Red Wings were properly introduced to the new guy manning the crease for the flaming C: Jacob Markstrom. While Detroit outshot the Flames 33-28, the Swedish goaltender stopped every shot he faced, leading his club to a 3-0 victory over the Red Wings.

In terms of analytics, this performance was on par with the Red Wings’ 4-1 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Oct. 16. Per Natural Stat Trick, Against the Flames, the Red Wings had a team Corsi-For% (CF%) of 53.76%, and an expected Goals-For% (xGF%) of 63.89%. Lucas Raymond led the team with five shots. Sam Gagner led the team with an xGF% of 98.82%(!)

Sam Gagner Detroit Red Wings
Sam Gagner, Detroit Red Wings (Photo by Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images)

It was Givani Smith’s failed fight early on with Milan Lucic that was ultimately emblematic of the whole game. The Red Wings tried to take it to the Flames, but they wound up on their backs and the Flames skated away with hardly a scratch.

Quite frankly, this game was a mixture of sloppy play in transition, failure to convert on chances, and an excellent goaltending performance by the guy in the opponent’s crease. If the Red Wings can match what they did in this game while also cleaning up what they did wrong when they visit Calgary in March, they’re going to give themselves a great opportunity to win a hockey game. This was just one of those games.

Overall Grade vs. Calgary: B-

Red Wings Don’t Show Up Versus the Canadiens

I’m going to put in as much effort into this recap as the Red Wings put into this game:

The Red Wings lost 6-1. It was a bad game.

Overall Grade vs. Montreal: P, as in pitiful

Everybody Loves Raymond, Except the Blackhawks

Once again, it is important to state that six games is not enough to draw any meaningful conclusions about a team or a player. Small sample sizes can offer a glimpse into reality, but they do not paint the whole picture.

Now that that’s out of the way, it’s pretty clear that Moritz Seider’s biggest competition for the Calder Trophy this season is his teammate, 19-year-old Raymond.

Lucas Raymond, Detroit Red Wings
Lucas Raymond, Detroit Red Wings (Photo by Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images)

Drafted fourth overall in the 2020 draft, Raymond has wasted no time introducing himself not only to the Hockeytown faithful, but also the “Chelsea Dagger”-singing fans over in Chicago. After he essentially clinched a roster spot during a preseason game against the Blackhawks where he had a goal and an assist, he outdid himself when the game actually counted by scoring his first NHL hat trick against Marc-Andre Fleury, the reigning Vezina Trophy winner. By also adding an assist in the game, Raymond joined some elite company in Red Wings lore:

Might as well retire number 23 already, right?

In all seriousness, this was a 6-3 game that seemed even more one-sided than the score suggests. The Blackhawks failed to capture their first win of the season despite adding Seth Jones, Fleury, Tyler Johnson and others in the offseason. After declaring that they were embracing a rebuild before the start of the 2020-21 season, perhaps this game against the Red Wings where they were torched by a teenager will show them why rebuilds take longer than six months to complete.

Overall Grade vs. Chicago: A

3 Takeaways from the Red Wings’ Games this Week

1. Raymond is Not Bad for a “Consolation Prize”

Remember when fans were boo-hooing because the Red Wings fell to fourth overall in the 2020 draft? While it is too soon to write-off Alexis Lafrenière this early into his career, it’s worth mentioning that the first pick in that draft currently has 14 goals through 63 NHL games (.22 per game). With four goals through six games, Raymond is scoring at a ridiculous .67 goals per game rate.

The biggest flex, however, is how he absolutely dunked on the Blackhawks at the United Center while wearing the number 23. Call this a hunch, but there’s going to be a lot of jerseys with 23 on the back roaming around Little Caesars Arena sooner rather than later.

2. Hronek Did Something Bad

Realistically, there’s probably only a handful of people who truly know what the situation is with defenseman Filip Hronek. After leading the Red Wings in average ice-time through the first four games of the season (23:03), the soon-to-be 24-year-old defenseman was shockingly left out of the lineup in both the Canadiens and Blackhawks games.

This probably gives some fans flashbacks to last season when Red Wings head coach Jeff Blashill made winger Anthony Mantha a healthy scratch as well. While Hronek’s play has not been up to his usual standard to start the season, he has hardly been the team’s worst defender – and even Blashill seems to know this based on Hronek’s ice-time to start the season. It can sometimes be dangerous to speculate, but you can’t help but wonder if there’s more to this than meets the eye….

3. Red Wings’ Top Line is ELITE to Start the Season

Check out these numbers:

Your eyes do not deceive you – the Red Wings’ top line has been very good to start the season. Tyler Bertuzzi leads the team in goals (six, besting his total from last season in three fewer games) and points (nine). Dylan Larkin and Raymond both have seven points. Simply put: when the Red Wings’ top line is on the ice, good things are usually happening.

Upcoming Matchups

at Washington Capitals (10/27, 7 PM ET)

Statistical Leaders (six games):
Goals – (who else?) Alex Ovechkin (seven)
Points – Ovechkin (12)
Wins – Vitek Vanecek/Ilya Samsonov (two)
Save-Percentage (SV%) – Vanecek (.920)

This game will be Mantha’s first time playing against his former team. Larkin spoke about what it will be like playing against his good friend and what he expects from the power forward.

The Red Wings will also face a familiar face in defenseman Nick Jensen, whom the team traded to the Capitals back in 2019. They may also face defenseman Dennis Cholowski, the Seattle Kraken’s pick from the Red Wings who they then lost on waivers to the Capitals. Given that the Capitals are set to be contenders in the Metropolitan Division once again this season, this game should serve as another early test for the Red Wings to see whether or not this fairly successful start to the season is for real or not.

Vs. Florida Panthers (10/29, 7 PM ET)

Statistical Leaders (six games):
Goals – Sam Bennett/Anthony Duclair (four)
Points – Jonathan Huberdeau (eight)
Wins – Sergei Bobrovsky (four)
SV% – Bobrovsky (.942)

Just when you thought the Panthers’ $10 million man was on the outs, he comes back with a vengeance to start the 2021-22 campaign. Since joining the Panthers in the summer of 2019, Bobrovsky has a SV% of .904. Needless to say, his hot start this season is exactly what the Panthers thought they were getting when they signed him as a free agent. Assuming his strong play continues, the Red Wings will have their work cut out for them as they try to get pucks behind the two-time Vezina Trophy winner.

Like the Red Wings, the Panthers have their own pair of early Calder Trophy candidates in forward Anton Lundell (12th overall, 2020) and goaltender Spencer Knight (13th overall, 2019). This game should present an opportunity for Seider and Raymond to really assert themselves as the cream of the rookie crop in the early going this season.

Related: Panthers’ Lundell & Knight Are Both Calder Trophy Candidates

at Toronto Maple Leafs (10/30, 7 PM ET)

Statistical Leaders (seven games):
Goals – Jason Spezza (three)
Points – William Nylander (five)
Wins – Jack Campbell (two)
SV% – Campbell (.915)

To be quite frank, the Maple Leafs are not where they want to be right now, but they are not as bad as the numbers suggest. With a record of 2-4-1, Toronto has struggled to put together a complete effort, and it doesn’t help that Petr Mrazek – signed to play in a tandem with Campbell – went down with an injury 40 minutes into in his first game with the Leafs. Things are so blown out of proportion for the Maple Leafs that we’re already seeing stuff like this:

This won’t go on forever. The Maple Leafs have too much talent to dwell towards the bottom of the Atlantic Division for too long. Honestly, this game could very well be a repeat of the Red Wings’ season opener against the Lightning – a thrilling 7-6 overtime loss that had a little bit of everything. If nothing else, here’s hoping we get a healthy dose of the “let’s go Red Wings, go Leafs go!” chants.

at Montreal Canadiens (11/2, 7 PM ET)

Statistical Leaders (six games):
Goals – Mathieu Perreault (three)
Points – Jonathan Drouin (five)
Wins – Jake Allen (one, you might remember it)
SV% – Allen (.905)

I’m going to put as much effort into this preview as the Red Wings put into their last game against the Canadiens:

The Red Wings lost their last game against the Canadiens. They should try not to do that again.

Players to Watch

While fans of the Red Wings will likely have their eyes on familiar faces like Mantha and potentially Cholowski when they face the Capitals, this conversation begins and ends with Ovechkin. The Russian phenom sits just four goals behind former Red Wing Brett Hull for fourth all-time in terms of goals scored in the NHL. If you’re not watching “The Great Eight”, you would make for a poor defenseman.

In regards to the Panthers, it’s time for Aleksander Barkov to pass on the title of “most underrated player” to his teammate Huberdeau. If Huberdeau played for the Canadiens, he would probably be in line to become their next captain. With 506 points through 597 regular season games, the third pick of the 2011 draft is dangerous every time he is on the ice. In eight games against the Red Wings last season, he had a goal and nine points.

Jonathan Huberdeau Florida Panthers
Jonathan Huberdeau, Florida Panthers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

When watching the Maple Leafs game, keep your eye on Nylander. While that may seem like an obvious choice due to the fact that he currently leads his team in points, that should come across as impressive considering the teammates he has that are not producing at the same rate he is. This is a player that many fans in Toronto wanted booted off the island years ago, and yet now he stands as the only Leafs player coming close to living up to his contract to start this season. Also, he’s Swedish, and we all know how Hockeytown loves their Swedes.

I’m going to put as much effort into picking a player for the Canadiens as the Red Wings put into their last game against Montreal: Cole Caufield. Look out for that kid.

Final Thoughts

Look, nobody was expecting the Red Wings to win 82 out of 82 games this season. In fact, the majority of people expect this team to have a losing record when all is said in done. Yet here we are, two weeks into the season, and it seems like we’re looking at something much more beautiful than we anticipated. Like the popular song by Poison says, every rose has its thorn. This team is going to have moments where it hurts, but it seems like there will be plenty to admire as well.

With four games on the schedule for this week, the Red Wings will have played 10 games by the time the next Red Wings Weekly article comes out. While that still won’t be big enough of a sample to draw concrete conclusions from, it will be enough for us to really start to grasp what kind of team this is. If the Red Wings exit this week with a positive record, look out – this season may be a lot more fun than we initially gave it credit for.

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