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Detroit Red Wings Two Truths & A Lie: Opening Night Edition

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Derek Lalonde, Red Wings coach

There’s been a lot of change for the Detroit Red Wings since they beat New Jersey 5-3 to end their 2021-22 campaign.

A new coach in Derek Lalonde. New faces in the way of free agents and promoted prospects. Increased buzz about how the rebuild is nearly over.

The anticipation hits its crescendo tonight.

As the Red Wings begin their 2022-23 season journey, hope springs eternal for the fanbase and Detroit truly takes its next step forward to see if more progress is evident.

In the spirit of new beginnings, here’s the first 2 Truths and a Lie of the 2022-23 season.

Truth: Forwards Will be Rotating in and Out of the Bottom Six Often

With the news of Filip Zadina and Pius Suter being healthy scratches, the first of many decisions that Lalonde makes will be scrutinized and debated. Going back as far as when Scotty Bowman was manning the bench, even his decisions were second guessed by the Red Wings faithful.

But the rotating of forwards will likely be a season-long endeavor. It remains to be seen if Elmer Soderblom can provide Detroit what they expect all season long. It’s not to cast doubt on his abilities. It’s just that both Lucas Raymond and Moritz Seider set incredibly high expectations in the Yzerman era of management. Even Raymond had off nights. So, too, will other forwards–especially the younger ones.

What’s interesting is that in baseball, lineups can be influenced by everything from opposing pitchers to stadium dimensions. What if Lalonde is simply applying this tactic to the rink?

“I just think it came through a decision on where our lineup is going to be,” Lalonde said.  “And the luxury we had, which is probably different than they’ve experienced in the past in that we could have went many different directions.”

In other words, expect different looks often.

Truth: The Atlantic Division will be a Gauntlet

Where to even start? The Toronto Maple Leafs, Tampa Bay Lightning, Florida Panthers and Boston Bruins all stand to be shuffling through the top four spots of the division. But unlike years past, improvements are all around the division. The Ottawa Senators have vastly improved and stand to make a run at a playoff spot. The Buffalo Sabres are on the rise. Opening night foe Montreal stunned Toronto and escaped with a victory in the waning seconds.

The Atlantic certainly looks like one of the toughest–if not the toughest–division in hockey. The Red Wings will have their hands full with whatever division opponent they face. The rest of the East isn’t a picnic either.

Talk of playoff hopes will happen and Detroit should be improved from last season. But it’s not going to come any easier in a very competitive division.

Lie: A Fast Start to the Season Is A Sign To Exhale

Not exactly. Though the context is different, and certainly there’s other factors in play, a hot start to the season doesn’t mean Detroit is playoff bound or completely out of the rebuild. The 2016-17 season looked great but ended Detroit’s consecutive playoff streak at 25. Here’s a look at Blashill’s tenure:

2015-16: 3-1

2016-17: 6-2

2017-18: 4-1

2018-19: 0-5

2019-20: 3-1

2020-21: 2-2

2021-22: 4-2-2

The team would only get progressively worse after the 2016-17 edition, and expectations following the 2017-18 season certainly tempered.

From a historical basis, Detroit’s best ever start to a season was the 1972-73 season when they rushed out to a 6-0-0 start. Mickey Redmond had 52 goals and led all Red Wings in points.

And yet they missed the playoffs.

Going back even further, the 1962-63 Red Wings started out 8-0-2 and barely snagged the fourth and final playoff spot when still battling against the other Original Six franchises. A guy by the name of Gordie Howe led the team in goals and points (38 and 86 respectively) while falling in five games to the Toronto Maple Leafs in the Stanley Cup Final.

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For every rebuilding squad like Chicago, there’s a Boston, Washington, or Minnesota to face Detroit in its first 10 games. There will be some early tests and the Red Wings have certainly improved.

Perhaps captain Dylan Larkin puts it best.

“Just because you look at our roster on paper, (it) doesn’t mean anything,” Larkin said. “We gotta prove it and finally that day has come to prove that.”

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