“Guelph” Line Big Change for Struggling Red Wings

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When Pius Suter was signed by the Detroit Red Wings back in July, plenty of fans took notice of his relationship with two other current Red Wings: Tyler Bertuzzi and Robby Fabbri. The trio of forwards played together in juniors as members of the Guelph Storm during the team’s 2013-14 OHL championship run and were three of the four leading scorers for the team in 2014-15.

One look at their positions (Bertuzzi a left-wing, Suter a center, Fabbri a right-wing), and you would assume that head coach Jeff Blashill would put them on a line together due to prior chemistry. However, for the first 38 games of the season, he kept the trio apart with Suter and Fabbri generally playing on a line together with either Vladislav Namestnikov or Filip Zadina and Bertuzzi playing with Dylan Larkin and Lucas Raymond.

What this led to was the Red Wings lacking any kind of scoring depth beyond their top line. Bertuzzi had 28 points in his first 30 games while Raymond had 30 points through 38 games and Larkin had 32 points in 33 games. In the same time frame, Fabbri and Suter had combined for just 33 points on the second line. This lack of depth scoring had the Red Wings, who looked promising early on in the season, to be among the bottom ten teams in the NHL in scoring.

The Storm Arrived

After a seven-game stretch that saw the Red Wings go 1-4-2 with only 13 goals scored (six of which came from a 6-2 win over the San Jose Sharks), Blashill finally made a much-needed line change. He swapped Namestnikov for Bertuzzi in an attempt to shake things up and it has worked…offensively at least. Over the last 5 games, Detroit has scored 18 goals (3.6 per game) with Bertuzzi being the biggest beneficiary. He has ten points over the last five games while Fabbri also has added five points himself to bring his season point total from 15 to 20.

This was on full display Wednesday night against the Chicago Blackhawks as the first three goals of the game were all scored by a member of the Guelph line. Fabbri scored his 12th of the season unassisted at the 5:45 mark of the second period, and less than a minute later, Bertuzzi added his 20th. Suter then ended the second period with an absolute snipe for his tenth of the season which also featured an assist from Fabbri. Just like that, the Guelph boys had cut a 4-0 Blackhawks lead down to 4-3.

More Changes Needed?

Despite this increase in scoring, the Red Wings are just 2-2-1 over those five games with both wins coming over the lowly Buffalo Sabres. The defense hasn’t been able to hold up their end of the bargain. In the last three games, the Red Wings have allowed a whopping 17 goals (5.67 per game) including an eight-spot in the 8-5 loss to Chicago on Wednesday night. The game against Chicago was especially bad with the Blackhawks being 31st in the NHL in goals per game (2.23) going into the night.

The question then becomes “What needs changing?” The defense has not been good enough with too many easy goals being handed out due to bad coverage and bad turnovers. The penalty kill has been especially bad with them allowing four power-play goals on just 11 opportunities in their past three games. Whether it’s a player change or a coaching change, something needs to happen as this team has been in the bottom half of the league in goals against per game every year since 2015-16.

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Riley McPherson is a 27-year-old writer from Southwest Michigan. She won 3 Student MAB awards while attending Grand Valley State University as both a radio broadcaster and sports anchor. She is a fan of Detroit sports, the University of Michigan and is a big Premier League and Aussie Rules football fanatic. She also hosts her own Michigan sports podcast called Great Lakes Sports Takes.