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.
After dropping three games in a row to close out the previous week, fans of the Detroit Red Wings were beginning to fear that history was about to repeat itself. The past two seasons saw the same thing happen to the Wings, start the season strong only to follow it up with an eight-game losing streak.
However, this Wings team has already proven to be made from a different stock. Although it dropped a fourth straight game against the Boston Bruins to open last week, Detroit rallied back to kick off a three-game winning streak of its own. In the past, fans might have expected them to drop their game against the Buffalo Sabres, due to coming off a long and difficult road trip. Not this year, however, as Detroit rallied back from a two-goal deficit and completed the comeback in overtime.
This keeps prompting the question: Are the Wings actually good this year? Detroit currently sits in second place in the Atlantic Divison with a record of 7-5-2, one point ahead of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Toronto Maple Leafs, as the league heads into the fifth week of the 2021-22 season. With four games on the schedule, including the start of a Western Conference swing, expect this week to answer that question with a little more clarity.
Red Wings Blown Out by Bruins
11/4 at Boston, 5-1 loss
The special team woes continued for the Red Wings, as they gave up three power-play goals and one shorthanded tally en route to a 5-1 loss at the hands of the Bruins. In fact, the only even-strength goal scored in the game was the final goal of the night, Patrice Bergeron‘s fourth of the evening, as Detroit’s goal came on the man-advantage as well.
In the only bright spot for the Wings in this game, Moritz Seider and Lucas Raymond hooked up for a power-play goal with a two-man advantage midway through the third period to cut the Bruins’ lead to two. It wouldn’t last long, as they gave up a shorthanded goal less than a minute later, but it is refreshing to see the kids continue to compete, no matter the score.
While it’s hard to fault Thomas Greiss for this loss after making 32 saves on 37 shots, and having no opportunity on Boston’s fourth goal, he definitely should have made the save on at least one or two of the Bergeron goals. On the flip side of that, his forwards didn’t give him much support, even if he had come up with a few more saves. The Wings finished the game with only 15 shots, with Bergeron completing his hat trick before Detroit registered its 10th shot on the night.
Overall Grade vs. Boston: D
Seider Seals the Deal Against Buffalo
11/6 at Buffalo, 4-3 win (OT)
Two nights later, they were back at it against the Buffalo Sabres and came out flying. Pius Suter scored 16 seconds into the opening period and Alex Nedeljkovic turned away 12 shots to keep Detroit in front heading into the first intermission.
Although the Wings would give up two goals in the second period, and a third prior to the midway point of the third period, they never gave up the fight and worked their way back to even the game late off a pair of goals by Tyler Bertuzzi. All that was to set up Moritz Seider’s first NHL goal, as he made a great play off the half wall and beat Dustin Tokarski far side to win the game in overtime.
Overall Grade vs. Buffalo: B+
Suter Leads Wings Past Golden Knights
11/7 vs Vegas, 5-2 win
In a rare back-to-back, in which the Red Wings returned home from the road to face the Vegas Golden Knights the following night, Detroit had another strong first-period showing. After giving up the first goal early in the game to Nicholas Roy, they stormed back and scored three goals of their own in the opening frame—led by Lucas Raymond, Robby Fabbri, and Suter.
Raymond and Bertuzzi each had a goal and an assist, but it was Suter’s first-period tally that would hold on as the game-winner, earning the 25-year-old First Star honors of the game. What was most impressive about that opening frame was the resilience of the Wings, being outshot 13-7 yet coming away with a 3-1 lead. While Detroit would outshoot Vegas 10-7 in the second period, the Golden Knights would end the game with a 10 shot advantage, earning Greiss the Third Star honor after making 38 saves on the game.
Overall Grade vs. Vegas: A
Nedeljkovic Shuts Down Oilers
11/9 vs Edmonton, 4-2 win
Tuesday night was the Vlad and Ned show, as Vladislav Namestnikov and Nedeljkovic led the team to a decisive 4-2 win over the Edmonton Oilers. Detroit actually outshot the Oilers two to one in the first two periods, but a late surge by Edmonton almost led to a three-goal comeback. Namestnikov had one of his best games of the season, scoring on a power move off the rush to open the game and then making it 2-0 after cleaning up a rebound. In fact, the Adam Erne pass that led to Namestnikov’s second goal was one of the prettiest passes I’ve ever seen.
While Connor McDavid did score a goal to extend his season-opening point streak to 11 games, Nedeljkovic closed the door on the Oilers all night long. In the process of making 31 saves for the Wings, Nedeljkovic made pad save after highlight-reel pad save to keep Edmonton at bay throughout the game. All in all, this was a great team game against an Oilers team that is prone to coming back late in games. Against an offense as potent as Edmonton has, Detroit played one of its most complete games of the season.
Overall Grade vs. Edmonton: A
3 Takeaways From Last Week’s Games
1. Raymond is the Real Deal
I know, I know. The Lucas Raymond hype train left the station a long time ago, but that didn’t mean there wasn’t the chance he could come falling back to Earth. Raymond entered the week sitting at nine points in 10 games played, a little under a point per game (PPG) pace, and went on to score five points in the first three games played this past week.
Even though Raymond was kept off the scoresheet against the Oilers, the 19-year-old rookie has done enough to stay at a PPG pace during his Calder Trophy campaign. With confidence against top competition unseen in Detroit since Pavel Datsyuk, Raymond has announced himself as the engine that will drive this rebuild into the next phase.
2. Detroit Can Respond to Losing
For the past two seasons, fans have had to endure multiple losing streaks—some lasting as long as nine games. Although these streaks are part of the nature of the game, it can still be frustrating to watch your favorite team seem to roll over and die midway through a long road trip. After the game against the Bruins, the script was ripe for them to fall apart and continue the skid against the Sabres.
However, instead of looking ahead to the plane ride home and sleeping in their own beds, the Red Wings never gave up the fight throughout the slide. There were multiple times in that game in which this team could have accepted their defeat and began to focus on the Golden Knights at home the next night. That never happened with this team, and they fought their way back to tie the game and earn the extra point in overtime. Seeing this team compete for a full 60-minute game, never letting a deficit get them down, is a breath of fresh air in the Jeff Blashill era.
3. This Team is Fun!
When was the last time you could say the Detroit Red Wings were a fun team to watch? Night in and night out this team has continued to provide entertaining and exciting games, win or lose. Of course, the Wings are still far from a perfect or even a playoff-contending team, but they are definitely on the right track. Nedeljkovic and Greiss are playing well and starting to find their respective groves—however, they could use more help up front. Although they are scoring goals and taking more shots per game than in years past, they are still getting outshot and outscored at higher rates as well. Once Detroit gets the numbers against down a bit, look for an even greater offensive explosion.
Vs. Washington Capitals (11/11, 7:30 PM ET)
Statistical Leaders (12 Games):
Goals – Alex Ovechkin (11)
Points – Ovechkin (21)
Wins – Vitek Vanecek (3)
SV% – Vanecek (.906)
Players to Watch
This is simple: Alexander Ovechkin. Ovechkin leads the NHL in goals with 11 and is third in the league in points with 21. At 36 years old, Ovechkin doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon and is off to his best start since the 2010-11 season. In the first game this season against the Washington Capitals, Ovechkin kicked off the scoring but couldn’t do enough to keep the Wings from coming back from a two-goal deficit to win in overtime. Look for Ovechkin to be in his office on the power play, even though he is finding more ways to score goals this season.
Vs. Montreal Canadiens (11/13, 7:00 PM ET)
Statistical Leaders (14 Games):
Goals – Mike Hoffman (4)
Points – Nick Suzuki (12)
Wins – Jake Allen (3)
SV% – Allen (.901)
Players to Watch
The last time the Wings faced the Montreal Canadiens they were without Bertuzzi, who is not allowed to travel with the team to Canada due to not being vaccinated. It was evident that Detroit was flat without its leading scorer, coming up short 3-0. Expect this to be a completely different game this time around, although Detroit still needs to keep an eye on Nick Suzuki.
Suzuki is the only Canadiens player to have hit the double-digit point mark on the season, and while he is tied for second in goals on the team with three, he has almost double the number of assists as any other Montreal player. If Detroit wants to keep the Habs off the scoreboard, it will need to focus on limiting Suzuki’s play driving ability and keeping him from dictating the play.
At Columbus Blue Jackets (11/15, 7:00 PM ET)
Statistical Leaders (10 Games):
Goals – Boone Jenner (6)
Points – Oliver Bjorkstrand (13)
Wins – Elvis Merzlikins (5)
SV% – Merzlikins (.940)
Players to Watch
Although Boone Jenner, Oliver Bjorkstrand, and Patrick Laine have been playing well as of late, the player to watch in this game is Cole Sillinger. Columbus’ 18-year-old rookie started off the season strong, notching a goal and an assist through his first four games with the Blue Jackets. Although he had a four-game dry spell, Sillinger has four points in his last two games scoring three goals and an assist in back-to-back contests against the Colorado Avalanche.
At Dallas Stars (11/16, 8:30 PM ET)
Statistical Leaders (14 Games):
Goals – Tyler Seguin (4)
Points – Miro Heiskanen (12)
Wins – Braden Holtby (2)
SV% – Holtby (.918)
Players to Watch
The two players Detroit should keep an eye on during this matchup are at opposite ends of their career spectrums. On the one end is Joe Pavelski, the 16-year veteran who has seven points on the season, including one point in each of the past five games. His four power-play points are tied for second on the team, as Pavelski has found his stride after a slow start to the season. Then, you have Jason Robertson, a second-year winger who has five points in six games played this year and has been held off the scoresheet in only two games thus far. Although it seems like the 22-year-old has gotten off to a hot start, Robertson is only converting on half of his shot attempts compared to last season. Dallas will look for Robertson to be the catalyst for its offense once he gets going again.
This year’s version of the Detroit Red Wings has proven that it is resilient, energetic, and fun to watch. Now, it’s time for the team to prove that it is actually good by emerging from this week with a winning record. Washington is one of the better teams in the league, but if they can shut down its top line once again, there is no reason they can’t hang with the Caps. Montreal has been struggling, and Detroit should want to exact revenge for getting shutout on the road earlier this season, while Columbus and Dallas will be the true test of this team’s mettle. As two teams that have had the Wings’ number the past few seasons, and the incident between Dylan Larkin and Jaime Been still hanging in the air, the next four games should set the tone for how the rest of the 2021-22 season will play out.
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Born and raised in Michigan, Kyle Knopp started playing hockey when he was 3 years old. Knopp has played, coached, or worked at every level of ice hockey — including three seasons in the Ontario Hockey League and two seasons with the Detroit Red Wings where he was part of the Stanley Cup Championship team in 2008. He covers the Detroit Red Wings, hosts The Grind Line and THW Podcasts, and is the editor of THW’s Morning Skate newsletter. You can follow him on Twitter @THW_Knopp.