Welcome back to Red Wings Weekly! In this weekly column, we like to 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.
This week was a rollercoaster, with an absolutely abysmal blowout loss on Halloween night sandwiched between two 2-1 wins that heavily relied on great goaltending. Wins are wins, and winning a game because your goaltender went Super Saiyan still counts as two points in the standings, no matter how bad the rest of your team plays.
Let’s get started because we’ve got lots to talk about, such as the possible end of a sophomore slump and the beginnings of a goalie controversy in Hockey Town. First up is the game against the Minnesota Wild.
Will the Real Lucas Raymond Please Stand Up
10/29 vs. Minnesota Wild, 2-1 Win
Much has been made of Lucas Raymond’s offensive struggles early this season. Coming into this game, he had only managed two assists in seven games. Some people were even bringing out the “S” words. Sophomore Slump. Reports of his slump have been greatly* exaggerated.
Those rumours have been put to bed, for the next week or so, at least, because Raymond scored his first two goals of the season, the only two the team scored in the game. He looked good playing alongside Dylan Larkin again (they’ve been split up a bit since Tyler Bertuzzi’s injury), and the captain was well-represented on the scoresheet, as well, with assists on each of Razer’s goals.
Aside from Raymond’s offensive burst, the next most impressive Red Wing was without a doubt Ville Husso. Husso was excellent, making 30 saves on 31 shots, saving 1.33 goals above expected (per. MoneyPuck). This was also the first time that the Red Wings’ coaching staff played a goaltender in two consecutive games, hinting at which goalie they have a bit more trust in early.
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I mean, can you blame them? In five games, this season, Husso holds an impressive .926 save percentage and a 3-1-1 record. He is also in just the first season of a three-year contract in Detroit, so I’m sure the team wants to get a good look at him early on. Despite being outplayed at five-on-five yet again, timely goals and excellent goaltending led to yet another win for the new-look Red Wings.
Final Grade: B+
10/31 at Buffalo Sabres, 8-3 Loss
The Red Wings’ third-period collapse in this game was, without a doubt, the spookiest thing I witnessed this Halloween. The game had not been going well, but goals from David Perron and Olli Määttä, as well as a solid first 40 minutes from Alex Nedeljkovic, kept Detroit within striking distance down just 4-2 at the second intermission.
Hope for a comeback only continued to grow as the third period began with Larkin scoring a short-handed goal on a two-on-one with Andrew Copp, defended by Owen Power, possibly the most thoroughly University of Michigan goal you’ll see anytime soon. Coming back from being down two goals is tough, but hey, they had already done half the work, and they just need one more to steal the life out of the Buffalo crowd. So, what did they do?
The Red Wings proceeded to leave Nedeljkovic out to dry to the tune of 17 shots and four goals against in the final seven minutes and seven seconds of the period. You could see the dominant puck movement of the Sabres slowly sucking away the Red Wings’ life force like Colin Robinson asking you about your favourite type of dress pants (that’s a little spooky reference for the “What We Do in The Shadows” fans out there). Also, Tage Thompson scored six points, but let’s not dwell on that, so we don’t fall into a well of self-pity.
Bottom line, the team fell apart in the third and lost 8-3. We hoped these kinds of blowouts were a thing of the past, but Halloween is a night where your greatest fears come to life, and someone had a very clear idea of what Red Wings fans are afraid of.
Final Grade: F (8 goals against is unacceptable)
Husso Wins the Goalie Battle (And the Starter’s Net?)
11/03 vs. Washington Capitals, 3-1 Win
If the first weeks of the regular season are any indication of how he’ll look for the next few years, trading a 3rd round pick for Husso could end up being one of Yzerman’s greatest trades. Without Husso, Detroit would not have had a chance in this game, his presence calmed the team and gave them the chance to push for the win.
On a different note, don’t you just love it when players break or tie records against the Red Wings? Alex Ovechkin was the only Washington Capital who managed to beat Husso, ripping a wrist shot over his shoulder. With this goal, Ovi tied Gordie Howe for the most goals ever scored with one NHL team with 786, a record that Howe set with none other than the Red Wings. Just a fun little coincidence, I guess.
Raymond continues to move in the right direction, with solid play at even strength and on the power play where he scored his third goal of the season. The confidence appears to be coming back, so now it’s just a matter of time before he breaks out and plays his game again. Now it’s Moritz Seider’s turn.
Final Grade: B (A goalie win is still a win)
3 Takeaways From the Week
Husso is the 1A (or maybe just a legit starter)
Obviously, all the usual early season caveats apply here because his sample size is still so small (only five games), but Husso has been every bit as good as he looked last year and has clearly begun to pull away from Nedeljkovoic in the goalie tandem. Tandem goalies are usually designated as either the 1A or the 1B, meaning neither is the clear starting goalie, but one has the coaching staff’s trust just a little bit more. Early on, deployment and success points to Husso being the 1A goalie in the tandem so far.
The Red Wings have given some of their worst team efforts in front of Nedeljkovic, so it’s not quite as simple as comparing stats one-to-one, though it’s still a valuable exercise. Ned has allowed an average of five goals against per game (GAA) and holds a save percentage (SV%) of .871% after four games. Husso currently carries a GAA of 2.40 and a SV% of .926%. Both players will likely regress a bit, Ned’s stats improving incrementally and Husso’s levelling out a bit, but if these trends last much longer there’s a real chance that Husso, the only NHL-caliber goalie on Detroit’s roster with a contract through next season, could become the true starting goalie for the Red Wings.
Raymond’s Back (Alright!)
Okay, admittedly it might be a bit early to say he’s all the way back to his rookie season form but Raymond has looked solid in his last (2 or 3) games since being paired up with Larkin again on the top line. Against the Wild, Raymond had the fourth-best Corsi For percentage (48.4%) and the fifth-best expected goals for percentage (40.5%) of all Red Wings forwards at five-on-five (per. NaturalStatTrick). Nothing crazy but a good step considering how much difficulty he has faced early on this season with opposing defenses executing their plans to shut him down.
In the game against the Sabres, Raymond was a standout performer despite the Sabres absolutely blowing the Red Wings out of the water. He led all Red Wings players in Corsi For percentage (57.1%) and expected goals for percentage (59.7%) at five-on-five (all stats from Natural Stat Trick). Despite his team allowing eight goals in 60 minutes, Raymond was only on the ice for one goal against, as well as one goal for. This is made all the more remarkable when you realize that the Red Wings as a team only had a Corsi For percentage (CF%) of 30.7% and an expected goals for percentage (xGF%) of 33.1% at five-on-five.
5v5 Play Needs Work
Against the Sabres, Detroit had a CF% of just 30.7% and an xGF% of 33.1% at five-on-five. That’s bad, but how have they looked through their first nine games, as a whole? The answer? Not much better.
The Red Wings have a season-long CF% of just 42.9%, the fourth-lowest mark in the league, and an xGF% of 44.7%, the eighth worst in the league. Their five-on-five play has simply not been good enough, despite noticeable improvements to their special teams. This team is certainly much more talented than in previous years, but some good goaltending and lucky goals have them higher in the standings than their actual play deserves. I expect these numbers to improve (despite the team leveling off around the 20th in the league spot in the standings) as the players continue to learn and implement head coach Derek Lalonde’s systems. However, it doesn’t seem like Detroit has the legs to keep up with other rising teams in the Atlantic division, such as the Ottawa Senators or the Sabres.
3 Stars of the Week
3. Lucas Raymond (3g)
2. Dylan Larkin (2g, 3a)
1. Ville Husso (2 wins, .970 sv%)
Prospect to Watch
I just want to call some attention to Carter Mazur, who has been off to a very hot start in his sophomore year with the University of Denver. In his first eight games of the season, Mazur has scored 10 goals and 12 points. He looked excellent for team USA at the World Junior Championship in Edmonton last summer, and he appears to have kept that momentum rolling. Keep an eye on Mazur, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him in the AHL next year.
The Ups and Downs of NHL Hockey
This was a weird week where Detroit was outplayed in each game to varying degrees, yet they come out with a 2-1-0 record on the backs of some great performances by Husso. If this is what the Red Wings will be this year, a fun but messy team with great goaltending, I can deal with that.
I’m happy to see Raymond looking like his old (younger?) self again, and I hope that his confidence only continues to build. I’m going to make a prediction right now that this coming week will see a breakout game from Seider where he looks like the imperious, gifted, young defenseman that he showed himself to be in his Calder Trophy-winning rookie season. It’s only a matter of time. Until then, I guess I’ll just have to settle for watching Simon Edvinsson as he tears up the AHL.
How long does he need to look this good for you to accept Husso as the full-time starter? Do you think the slump is over for Raymond? How much longer will it take for Seider to look like he did in his rookie season? Sound off in the comment section below!