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4 Reasons Detroit Red Wings Are Off to Strong Start in 2022

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The Detroit Red Wings are off to a flying start despite the blip in the lopsided loss to New Jersey. The team has earned a point in five of the six games that they have played thus far–points in the first five games hadn’t happened since the 2011-12 season. So, why are the Red Wings having unexpected success? Here are four things that are working as well as one big area that needs improvement.

Derek Lalonde and Fast-Paced Hockey

New head coach Derek Lalonde has certainly injected a more fast-paced style of play in his early tenure as the Red Wings bench boss. Former head coach Jeff Blashill employed a slower less eventful style of game as the Red Wings roster was less talented. That is no slight against the current-day Red Wings. The duo of Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg dazzled the crowds at Joe Louis Arena with their playmaking.

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Dominik Kubalik is Flying High

Dominik Kubalik is off to a hot start for the Red Wings. Kubalik has scored two goals and added six assists in his first six games with the team, which is the most since defenseman Paul Coffey had two goals and eight assists to start the 1992-93 season. The 27-year-old may be the hidden gem in a long list of free agent acquisitions made by general manager Steve Yzerman on the first day of NHL free agency over the summer. This is no small part due to his incredible shot.

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Bob Boughner Works the Special Teams

Special teams is also a key to why the Red Wings have started the season well. The team killed off the first 17 power plays it faced before giving up a power play goal to the New Jersey Devils. As a point of comparison, the 2021-22 Red Wings would finish last in the league when it came to the penalty kill. Former assistant coach for the San Jose Sharks Bob Boughner was brought in to fix the power play. Lalonde has lauded the work of Alex Tanguay and Jay Varady, who run the power play.

Veteran Leadership

Veteran left-winger David Perron has also been impressive for the Red Wings through five games. He was brought in to bring leadership to a young team. What was not expected is that Perron has four goals and one assist through the first five games. Lalonde was quoted recently as saying “he self-admitted he’s had to evolve within his career on approach, work ethic, habits.” It’s an unbelievable example of where he is now that he expects practice to be at a high pace. He wants guys to work throughout the entire practice. He’s going to bring some energy to practice.”

Dylan Larkin is also playing well, having scored his fourth of the season against New Jersey. The captain is leading by example and the younger players are following.

Room For Improvement

Question Marks On Defense

Even with his slow start to the 2022-23 season, defenseman Moritz Seider is the most talented defenseman on the Red Wings’ current roster. With that being said, Seider is nowhere near the stalwart defenseman that Nicklas Lidström was in his final season. Lidström scored 11 goals and added 23 assists in 70 games played during the 2011-12 season, which would be his last.

Seider and fellow rookie Lucas Raymond will have to learn to adjust to the growing focus they are under from their opponent night in and night out. Simon Edvinsson is a defensive prospect in the Red Wings’ organization that is currently playing for the Grand Rapids Griffins, and could eventually join the big club.

For every Red Wing that has gotten off to a good start, there are players that have struggled so far. Filip Zadina continues to play well despite not putting up the statistics that the NHL world thought he would before he was drafted sixth overall in 2018. The only thing he has not done yet is “fill their nets with pucks.” Perhaps it will take time for Zadina to adjust to Lalonde’s offensive system. Time is something that Zadina has as he signed a three-year contract extension with the team.

Raymond is also struggling as he adjusts to how teams are defending him after his first season in the NHL. That is something that all young players go through in the NHL. He has less time and space to utilize his rare offensive gifts. In 2021 Raymond scored 23 goals and added 34 assists while playing all 82 games for the Red Wings. Lalonde warned of Raymond leaning too much on his offense which has led to him “putting up holes in the other end of his game.”

2022-23 Outlook

The Red Wings finished the 2011-12 regular season third in the Central Division of the Eastern Conference. The team would lose in the Western Conference Quarter-finals in five games to the Nashville Predators. It is unlikely that the 2022-23 Red Wings will make the Stanley Cup playoffs as they are starting to come out of their rebuild. Kubalik will need to continue to perform the way that he has through the first five games of the season for this to be the case.

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