The Detroit Red Wings sit in a playoff wildcard position through the first 21 games of the 2022-23 NHL season. The United States Thanksgiving holiday is traditionally used to demarcate whether or not a team will make the Stanley Cup playoffs. At around the quarter mark of his first season as head coach, Derek Lalonde has put the team in a position for this to become a reality. The Red Wings have not made the Stanley Cup Playoffs since the 2015-16 season.
Lalonde said during his introductory press conference that winning would come as the result of a process. Through the first 21 games of the season, the Red Wings team is finding success through their willingness to play for each other. This was made clear during the team’s first West coast trip where they were able to spend time together off of the ice. Left-winger Tyler Bertuzzi and defenseman Jake Walman rejoined the team during this west coast trip and will take time to reacclimate themselves into the lineup.
Dylan Larkin is Key to Red Wings Success
One of the main reasons for the team’s success is the continued stellar of captain Dylan Larkin. Larkin has scored nine goals and added 15 assists for a total of 24 points, which is one more point than new addition Dominik Kubalik. The timing of this hot start is no accident as Larkin will be a free agent after the end of the 2022-23 season. None of the nine goals were more impressive than the first goal against the Nashville Predators. Larkin placed a shot above the shoulder of Kevin Lankinen.
Prior to the start of the season, Larkin changed agents that indicated to the hockey world that he was looking to maximize the amount of money he is looking to sign a contract for. The Red Wings captain has said that he wants to remain in Detroit. ‘Ultimately, in my heart, it’s where I want to be.’ Larkin’s recent play has only increased the leverage that he has with regard to a new contract. He has cemented himself as the cornerstone of the "Yzerplan."
Red Wings Need to Improve at Five on Five
The Red Wings have struggled at 5v5 throughout the first quarter of the season. So, how has the team made up for this lack of offensive output when at even strength? The introduction of Lalonde as head coach has seemingly brought out the best in the team’s powerplay. This is a welcome sight for the Red Wings. One of the downfalls of Jeff Blashill as the previous head coach of the Red Wings was special teams. The 2022-23 Red Wings have a powerplay percentage of 22.4%, which is good for 14th place in the league. Under Blashill the Red Wings scored on 16.3% of their power plays during the 2021-22 season. This aspect of the team"s game could be key to the Red Wings" making the 2022-23 playoffs.
Under Lalonde, the Red Wings have run a 1-3-1 power play setup. In this system, the powerplay quarterback sets up at the top of the offensive zone. While this is the same system that Blashill ran, the talent that Lalonde has in his employ is superior. What is different under Lalonde is the movement by the bumper position player which lines up in the middle of the diamond in the offensive zone. David Perron and Lucas Raymond are able to set up for one-time shots on their offhand.
Defenseman Moritz Seider scored the first goal of his season as the Red Wings defeated the San Jose Sharks 7-4. Seider has been playing well despite not putting up counting stats. Seider has scored one goal and added eight assists through the first 20 games of the 2022-23 season. The defensive corps has played better as a result of an increase in talent on the blueline and Seider has benefited from this. Both Seider and Raymond recently played in their 100th game as members of the Red Wings. Early on in the 2021-22 season, these two were candidates for the Calder Trophy, a trophy that Seider would wind up winning.
Filip Hronek has also been on a hot streak as of late. The 25-year-old has scored five goals in his last five games and added two assists. I have previously written that Hronek had not panned out for the Red Wings after being drafted 53rd overall in the 2016 NHL entry draft. Perhaps the fresh start Lalonde talked about during his introductory press conference has done the best for Hronek. Towards the end of the 2021-22 season, I wrote that the Hronek had not worked out after being drafted 53rd overall in the 2016 NHL entry draft.
With 61 games remaining in the 2022-23 season, the Red Wings have a long season left to go. Injuries and a drop in the play of players on the team are possible. It is unlikely that he will finish the season with 1.14 points per game. This will make general manager Steve Yzerman’s decision as to what type of contract to offer the soon-to-be free agent all the more difficult. The fact that the team is playing for one another is an encouraging sign.
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