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Five Takeaways: Red Wings Give Up 7, Not 11 vs. Penguins: Is That Progress?

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Michael Rasmussen, Detroit Red Wings
Red Wings center Michael Rasmussen netted his 13th goal of the season in a 6-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins

The Detroit Red Wings’ effort was improved against the Pittsburgh Penguins. But improved does not equal good. They gave up seven goals instead of the 11 they surrendered to the Penguins in their March 27 meeting in Pittsburgh.

But the Red Wings still fell 7-2 in their last home game of the season. Their remaining games are all on the road starting with a 1 p.m. matinee Sunday in New Jersey.

“Obviously they’ve got firepower,” Detroit defenseman Danny DeKeyser said. “It’s kind of like that game in Florida. I thought we played a pretty good first period and then they scored two in the last minute and you’re down 3-1. Today, certainly, you give (the Penguins) chances and I thought we defended too much, played a little too much in the D zone and we didn’t have enough shifts in the offensive zone to kind of turn the tide and tilt the ice. They’ve got so many guys who can put the puck in the net. Eventually it’s gonna cost you.”

Five takeaways from the loss to the Penguins:

Defensive Rebuild

This was Fan Appreciation Day. Detroit fans are passionate, knowledgeable. The Red Wings have talked all season about how much energy LIttle Caesars Arena had this season.

But Detroit fans haven’t appreciated how poorly the Red Wings have played defensively. At the start of this season, the Red Wings’ defensive depth seemed to be one of their strengths. That depth never produced the consistency that the Red Wings needed. Down the stretch, the team’s defensive play has been shaky in most games. The Red Wings have given up five or more goals in nine of their past 16 games.

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“For the most part, when we’ve been good, we played with a lot of energy,” DeKeyser said. “We defended with five
guys, where everybody’s in the right spot. In the D zone we’re taking away the middle of the ice, blocking point shots, blocking the scoring zone. Sometimes when we’re not our best we just kind of get away from that. We get a little bit
loose. There’s too many seams in the D zone.”

The hard truth is Moritz Seider will probably be the only player on this defense that will be around in two seasons. The parade of young defensemen will start arriving next season with Simon Edvinsson. It’s not a guarantee he will make the team, but there are high expectations for the 2021 first-round pick.

Eemil Viro, Albert Johansson and William Wallinder are also in line to start their trek toward a place on the defense. By 2023-24, all three of them could also be on the defense.

DeKeyser’s  Finale

This was probably DeKeyser’s last home game in a Detroit jersey. The Michigan native has played 10 seasons in Detroit and will be an unrestricted free agent this summer. At 32, he is no longer a good fit for a team looking to get younger. His effectiveness has also been undermined by injury.

“Anytime you’re in a situation like this where your contract’s up, you never really know what’s gonna happen,” DeKeyser said. “Definitely you have thoughts that go through your head if it is your last home game or
not. That stuff will take care of itself in the summer. There’s not a whole lot to worry about right now.

DeKeyser is not talking retirement.

“I would love to keep playing if I can,” he said. “I don’t know exactly what’s going to happen. That stuff will play itself out in the summertime.”

Vrana Vroom Vroom

Jakub Vrana has been one of the few bright spots during the last two months of the Red Wings’ season. He scored his 13th goal in the loss to the Penguins.  He has looked dangerous in nearly every game he has played. It seems clear that one key to next season is keeping him healthy and making sure he has the right center.

The Red Wings are definitely in the market for a scoring center, preferably one with size, or a player who plays with an edge.

Vrana has three goals in his last three games, 18 points (13-5-18) in 23 games this season, and 29 points (21-8-29) in 34 contests since being acquired by the Red Wings on April 12, 2021.

Rasmussen vs. Jordan Staal

The Red Wings asked 6-foot-6 Michael Rasmussen to pattern his game after Carolina’s rugged center Jordan Staal.  You can argue that he is either doing that or coming closer to accomplishing that.

Rasmussen scored his 13th goal of the season and posted three hits to give him 116 for the season.  He also has 60 blocked shots. Staal has scored 20 or more goals five times in his career. However, for most of Staal’s career he has netted between 11 and 16 goals on a season and registered 101-139 hits

“I think Michael wants to be a great player,” Blashill said. “He wants to be a winner. He’s quietly highly competitive.”

Hellberg Watch

The Red Wings are now down to three games to play Swedish goalie Magnus Hellberg who is signed for the rest of this season. Sunday’s game against New Jersey now seems like the most logical game for Hellberg to play. The Red Wings are playing the second game of a back-to-back scenario. The Devils are a non-playoff team.

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Although the Red Wings haven’t stated their intentions with Hellberg, the presumption is they signed him for this short period for evaluation purposes.

“I’m going to make my (starting goalie) decision about tomorrow on the plane ride to New Jersey,” Blashill said. “Other than that I don’t have any comment. “

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