The Detroit Red Wings may have 99 problems but the New Jersey Devils aren’t one of them.
In Sunday’s 3-0 victory at the Prudential Center, the Wings held the Devils to a season-low 17 shots. Detroit goalie Alex Nedeljkovic hardly required working up a sweat to record his fourth shutout of the NHL season.
It was just the second time during the 2021-22 campaign that the Devils have been blanked. New Jersey (0-2), Vancouver (0-2), Philadelphia (0-3) and Buffalo (0-4) are the only NHL teams without a win over Detroit this season.
New Jersey will get one more shot on Friday when the Wings play their season finale in Newark.
Five takeaways from that rarest of occasions, a delectable defensive effort from Detroit.
Red Wings Shutting it Down
Just 24 hours after giving up seven to the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Wings gave up nothing. It was as good a defensive performance as they’ve turned in this season, albeit one with a caveat attached.
“Obviously, both teams are missing a number of key players and so it’s a different kind of game then it would be if both teams were full strength,” Detroit coach Jeff Blashill said. “So there’s going to be some limited offensive firepower I guess I would say with who’s missing out of both teams.
“At that point, you gotta continue to check well. You can’t give up anything easy and you gotta find a way to a goal. Ultimately we did.”
— Detroit Red Wings (@DetroitRedWings) April 24, 2022
From Nedeljkovic’s viewpoint, maintaining this goose egg with limited action presents an opposite challenge from the 46-save shutout he was posting last week at Carolina.
“You’re not getting as many shots and it’s tough to get into a rhythm, only facing a few shots every few minutes,” Nedeljkovic said. “But I’ll take it. It was great.
“We played great defensively. We didn’t give them that many looks.”
The two performances Detroit was turning in over the weekend were night and day in their stark differences. A player’s-only meeting following Saturday’s 7-2 loss in their home finale might have been playing a role in the 180-degree change in fortune.
— Bally Sports Detroit (@BallySportsDET) April 24, 2022
“Some things were said in the room after the game yesterday,” Nedeljkovic said. “We’ve had too many of those games where we ended up getting kind of blown out. Today was a big game for some guys to kind of rebound and right the ship in a way, myself included.”
Accountability was evidently a key topic of conversation.
“There’s been a lack of energy, lack of attention to detail,” Nedeljkovic said. “We allow it to kind of snowball and create more problems for us.”
Accepting The Challenge
LJ Scarpace’s father-in-law Tom Webster remains the only rookie in Red Wings history to lead the team in goals, assists and points (30-37-67) in 1970-71. Detroit’s video coach, part of Scarpace’s duties include making the calls for on-ice coach’s challenges that are issued during the heat of a game.
This season, the Wings are 6-3 on challenges and a perfect 3-0 on offside challenges.
“I think our guys do an excellent job,” Blashill said. “They’re on top of it, they care, they work hard at it and when we get one wrong, we find out why.”
They got another one right Sunday when a New Jersey goal was called back because Damon Severson was a hair offside at the blueline when entering the Detroit zone.
“The offside challenge now is pretty black and white and generally when you challenge it, you’re gonna win it,” Blashill said. “Guys don’t challenge them if not. You gotta make sure you’re on top of it and challenging the ones you should.”
The Wings opted not to challenge a third-period call of goalie interference on forward Adam Erne that wiped out a Detroit goal.
“The goalie interference is really difficult,” Blashill said. “I think they’ve worked very hard at educating themselves not on what they feel is goalie interference but what the league and our officials feel is goalie interference.”
30 For Bertie?
An empty-net goal by Tyler Bertuzzi brought the Detroit winger to 29 goals on the season. There’s a chance he join Dylan Larkin (31) and give the wings two 30-goal scorers for the first time since Larkin and Andreas Athanasiou did it in 2018-19.
However, Bertuzzi will only get one shot at, on Friday back again in New Jersey. He’s not eligible to play in Tuesday’s game at Toronto because Bertuzzi opted out of getting the COVID-19 vaccination.
The Hellberg Chronicles
Red Wings goalie Magnus Hellberg got on the ice Sunday. Okay, so it was only for the warmup but he’s one step away from actually playing in a game for Detroit.
“We’ve had him back up a couple of times,” Blashill said. “We’re just trying to get him in the mix.”
The Wings signed the Swedish netminder for the rest of the season earlier this month but Hellberg has yet to see game action. Blashill still wouldn’t commit to playing Hellberg in either of the remaining two games.
“Again, he spent a long time not doing anything other than maybe a little bit of work with a goalie coach in Sweden,” Blashill explained. “Just to be in that game environment is important and then we’ll take again as I said, day by day.”