The Detroit Red Wings are two zero and one through their first three games of the 2021-22 NHL regular season. Yes, these three games are just a snapshot of where the Red Wings franchise is at the moment, but there have been encouraging signs through these three games.
The captain of the Red Wings Dylan Larkin scored the first goal of the season with six minutes left in the first period against the Tampa Bay Lightning. What happened next is something that Larkin regrets looking back on it. After being hit from behind by Tampa Bay forward Mathieu Joseph Larkin got up and swung at Joseph and hit him in the jaw. Larkin was suspended one game for roughing Joseph and would miss the game against the Vancouver Canucks. The Red Wings lost the game against the Lightning by a score of seven to six.
Tyler Bertuzzi scored four goals during this game. This type of performance had not been accomplished by a Red Wings player since Anthony Mantha scored four goals against the Dallas Stars in 2019. Mantha was traded to the Washington Capitals later that season for Jakub Vrana, Richard Panik, the first-round pick in 2021, and a second-round pick in 2022. Vrana scored eight goals and added three assists in 11 games played after the trade. Unfortunately, Vrana will miss four months after injuring his shoulder ten minutes into his first practice with the team at training camp.
The players on the Red Wings have stuck up for each other after the two controversial hits in their first three games. Head coach Jeff Blashill was quoted after the game against the Lightning saying “I guess if it goes on, we have to get people in here to make sure that we’re protecting him.” This quote was surely given ingest but there is also some kernel of truth to it. What has come out of the repeated hits from behind on Red Wings players is the fact that the team is coming together.
One of the most surprising aspects of the Red Wings’ play so far is the movement of the team’s powerplay. This has been one of the most glaring struggles for the team in the recent past. Assistant coach Dan Bylsma, who ran the powerplay for the team under Blashill, was let go and was hired by the Seattle Kraken to be an assistant coach for the Charlotte Checkers of the American Hockey League.
The Red Wings had an abysmal powerplay percentage during the 2020-21 season. The team was successful on only 11.4% of their powerplays during the season. Players were consistently seen standing around waiting for something to happen with the man advantage. That is when they were able to successfully enter the opposing team’s defensive zone. Former Colorado Avalanche player and assistant coach Alex Tanguay was hired to replace Bylsma during the offseason. One aspect of the team’s powerplay that has changed the most is the movement both with and without the puck. This is all to create more chances with the man advantage. The team has scored two goals in 11 attempts on the powerplay so far this season.
Lucas Raymond scored his first goal against the Columbus Blue Jackets. At 19-years-old Raymond has been impressive in the early parts of his career. The left-winger played well in the pre-season and showed that he deserved the chance to make the Red Wings roster after being drafted fourth overall in the 2020 NHL entry draft. After the game, Raymond called the game against the Blue Jackets a “special night.” As mentioned above Raymond’s night did not end the way he wanted it to after a hit from behind by Jake Roslovic of the Blue Jackets.
Along with Moritz Seider, the Red Wings have two rookies that could potentially win the Calder Trophy for rookie of the year. Seider made an impressive play in the second period against the Canucks in his second game in the NHL. For a player to have the confidence to even try such a move at a young age must be part of the reason why general manager Steve Yzerman drafted Seider and shocked the NHL world.
The Red Wings’ next game is Thursday night against the Montreal Canadiens. The team’s feisty attitude needs to continue until the time that they have a bona fide number one center in the franchise let alone on the roster. This will only happen when they have success in the draft lottery. The next two NHL drafts have prospects Shane Wright and Conner Bedard as potential number one picks. These two prospects are seen as players that can potentially change the fortunes of the franchise that drafts them.