The Detroit Red Wings play their 20th game tonight. Their next game, Wednesday against the St. Louis Blues, puts them past the quarter pole of this NHL season. Time to evaluate what is working and what isn’t with the season almost 25% over.
Plus: The Rookies
Lucas Raymond and Moritz Seider are exceeding expectations. They haven’t even played 20 NHL games, and they are already among the best players on the team. Raymond’s game is goal scoring, but he is solid defensively. Seider is exceptionally poised for a young player. They will continue to make mistakes, but just imagine how much impact they will have when they have 150 games under their belt.
Minus: Team’s Defensive Play
The Detroit Red Wings have given up five or more goals seven times this season. They are 28th in the NHL with a 3.42 goals-against average. The teams below them are Canadiens, Ottawa Senators, Arizona Coyotes and Seattle Kraken. They are hanging out with the wrong crowd. They are not hard to play against. If you want to understand how easy they are to play against, watch how other teams play in the neutral zone. Then, watch how the Red Wings defend in the neutral zone. Opponents are gaining the Detroit zone too easy.
Plus: Dylan Larkin
Larkin is playing at a much higher level than he did last season before he was injured. He seems more determined. His neck injury seemed to motivate him to push his game to a higher level. He has eight goals and 15 points in 15 games. Considering how well he is playing, Larkin could possibly replace Jack Eichel as the No. 2 center on the U.S. Olympic team. He definitely will be on the U.S. team in some capacity.
Minus: Jakub Vrana’s Injury
The frustration of this injury comes from the fact Vrana was injured last season and chose rehab over surgery. He aggravated it in the opening minutes of his first training camp practice. It will be February before he’s ready.
It hasn’t been spectacular, but it has been solid to good in the vast majority of the games. Alex Nedeljkovic, technically still a rookie, has played better as the season has progressed. Despite a disastrous seven-goals-against start, he owns a respectable .912 save percentage. Greiss is dependable. The Red Wings’ defensive problems aren’t in the net.
Minus: Givani Smith
This is being written after one of his best performances of the season. He scored his first goal and showed some bite against Vegas. But the Red Wings want more from him. He has the array of talents necessary to be an effective, gritty, intimidating third line performer. They want him to demand playing time with his play.
Plus: Simon Edvinsson
He was their first-round pick earlier this summer and he’s been an impact defenseman in the Swedish League. He’s 6-foot-4, skates extremely well, carries the puck confidently and enjoys playing a physical game. A Swedish official told us the Red Wings have “another gem.” It’s still early, but it certainly looks as if he can have an impact similar to Raymond and Seider.
Minus: Detroit Red Wings Special Teams
The penalty kill has been on a roll lately, but right now the penalty killing ranks 24th and the power play is 21st. They are still in the bottom third of the league. You don’t get points in this league for showing improvement. They’ve made some progress, but special teams still hurt them on a game-to-game basis.
Plus: Vladislav Namestnikov’s seven goals
He scored just eight goals last season and has seven goals and 10 points in 19 games this season. The Red Wings also appreciate that he’s always responsible defensively. He’s playing with Michael Rasmussen who is developing into an effective checking center.
Minus: Veteran inconsistency
Danny DeKeyser has had too many poor games. Filip Hronek was scratched for a couple of games. Even Nick Leddy has lost his man on occasion. Robby Fabbri play exceptionally well in the preseason, but his production hasn’t been there in the regular season. He has one goal in his past 12 games. They need more output from him.