Hockey

The Detroit Red Wings at the COVID-19 Pause

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The NHL has paused its season due to an increase in COVID-19 cases throughout the league. The NHL announced that cross-border games would be postponed through December 27th, a decision made due to “the fluid nature of federal travel restrictions.” This pause comes just two days before the league’s planned Christmas break. So, where do the Detroit Red Wings stand at the time of this pause?

Detroit Red Wings a Playoff Team?

The Red Wings are actually in a playoff spot at the time of this pause. This is an astounding reality as the team was expected to finish toward the bottom of the league as they continue to rebuild. The two main reasons that this has not been the case so far are the emergence of both Moritz Seider and Lucas Raymond. Raymond has scored 10 goals and added 18 assists in 31 games played so far during his rookie season. If it weren’t for a shoulder injury to Jakub Vrana just 10 minutes into his first practice for the team after being traded from the Washington Capitals along with Richard Panik in exchange for Anthony Mantha, Raymond would most likely not have made the team out of training camp.

The two newest Red Wings are leading all rookies in goals, assists, and points. I have written that the 19-year-old from Gothenburg, Sweden should be a lock for the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year in the NHL. Raymond was drafted by the Red Wings with the fourth overall draft pick in the 2020 NHL entry draft. The shining prospect on the hill during that season that every team was eying was Alexis Lafrenière. The NHL season was shortened due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the chances that the Red Wings would win the draft lottery were 18.5%. Lafrenière would wind up being drafted by the New York Rangers.

General manager of the Red Wings Steve Yzerman said at the time of the 2020 draft that there is “not much you can do about it. I’m not losing any sleep.” Nothing will ever be as shocking as when the Red Wings drafted Seider sixth overall in 2019. Seider’s reaction at Rogers Arena in Vancouver to being drafted by Yzerman went viral.

Seider was not projected to be drafted so early in the 2019 draft. Some mock drafts had the 20-year-old from Zelle, Germany being drafted 18th overall by the Dallas Stars. This was due to Seider’s impressive showing at the World Junior tournament in Vancouver, of all places. This was not to be as Yzerman had other ideas as he began to rebuild the Red Wings roster. As the new general manager, Yzerman’s first pick was Seider.

Red Wings Players Coming Together

The 2021-22 Red Wings season has not been without controversy though. The home opener against the Tampa Bay Lightning went off the rails when the newly honored captain of the Red Wings Dylan Larkin was first hit from behind by Mathieu Joseph of the Lightning. Larkin responded by punching Joseph. He reacted this way because he was playing in his first game since being injured on a similar hit by Jamie Benn of the Stars. What resulted from this hit by Benn was Larkin wearing a cervical hard collar for two months during the summer.

The offshoot of this game that the Red Wings ultimately lost was that the team began to play for each other. This was not the only time that a Red Wings player would be hit from behind by an opposing player. Each time the team would come to the defense of the player that was hit. These are the kinds of events that can galvanize a team when they are ready to win a Stanley Cup. This is certainly not the case for the Red Wings yet.

There is only one player in the NHL who is not vaccinated. Tyler Bertuzzi of the Red Wings has said that it is a “life choice.” Bertuzzi entered the league’s COVID protocols on December first as he had tested positive. The Red Wings playing games without Bertuzzi was not unexpected as the team knew of his stance on the matter. The increase in the number of cases league-wide has led the NHL to enhance its COVID protocols through at least January seventh to include daily testing, social distancing, and restrictions on where players could go when they are not at home, hotel, or at the rink.

The Red Wings’ next game is scheduled to be played on December 27th against the Rangers. The team has already had games postponed during this pause against the Minnesota Wild and Colorado Avalanche. It will be an interesting test to see how both Seider and Raymond stack up against Lafrenière. That is if the league ends the latest COVID-19 pause after Christmas.

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