Part One of the 21 Detroit Red Wings questions of 2023 focused more on the individuals making up the roster. Part Two will look at what could be, and revisiting some of the pre-season predictions as the new year kicks off.
Part two kicks off with some of the questions surrounding the team performance.
Red Wings Team Questions
#1: Will the streaky play continue in 2023?
It feels more like the Red Wings are really sorting their identity out over the last month. Look no further than the New Year’s Eve victory over Ottawa. Following two games where they were in significant holes (4-0, 5-0 respectively), Detroit trailed 2-0 after one period. But a rapid three-goal barrage in the third saw the Red Wings not only overcome another deficit, but lock down the victory as well.
It’s not the first time they’ve done that this season. But it’s been the tradeoffs of winning and losing streaks since early November that’s been the norm.
Streaky Red Wings
Nov 3 – Nov 6 – Three-game winning streak
Nov 8 – Nov 15 – Four-game losing streak
Nov 17 – Nov 25 – Four-game winning streak
Nov 28 – Dec 3 – Three-game losing streak
Dec 4 – Dec 5 – Two-game winning streak
Dec 8 – Dec 19 – Six-game losing streak
Dec 21 – Dec 28 – Two-game winning streak
It wasn’t until the past two games that Detroit had a lose one/win one result. The sample size over the two-month period is likely to continue. But with more skill be infused into the lineup, there’s likely a better chance some of those close games that resulted in losses will flip into a win.
#2: With a health(ier) roster, are the Red Wings a playoff threat?
Even with some of the injuries, the Red Wings have held their own. Of this writing, they’re five points out of the final playoff spot with a pair of games in hand. Though it cuts it to just one point assuming a couple victories, they’re still more in the hunt at the beginning of a new year than they have been in some time.
The good news for Detroit is that the club’s depth is better than it has been at any other point in GM Steve Yzerman’s tenure. Looking at the stretch above, they’re under .500 by a couple games. The tough part now comes in determining who stays and who goes. But for the first time in several seasons, Red Wings fans will be standings watching in hopes of playoff positioning.
#3: Of the 20-Goal predictions, which ones are most on track to hit?
Nothing like a little hindsight, especially 35 games in. At just about the halfway marker of the season, how are those predictions looking? Of those labeled”strongest case”, Dylan Larkin and David Perron seem to still be on track. Of the other six listed, Jakub Vrana and Tyler Bertuzzi haven’t played enough to likely hit 20, though still possible. Lucas Raymond has nine goals, and could still get there, but it might be close. Andrew Copp has just three, and it surely doesn’t look like he’ll hit.
Of the others listed, only Dominik Kubalik and Michael Ramussen look to have a chance. Kubalik seems the safer bet, with 12 already. Rasmussen has seven goals and is still in the conversation, but like Raymond, will need to score in bunches to get there.
Injury Halts Zadina
Of the other players listed as “knocking on the door,” Filip Zadina (zero), and Pius Suter (five) don’t seem likely to get there. Moritz Seider was said to “keep an eye on” and he’s at two, making it unlikely to hit.
Both Jonatan Berggren and Elmer Soderblom have five goals and were named as prospects to watch. But they’re unlikely to hit 20, especially if they head back to Grand Rapids.
It seems fair to say then that Larkin, Perron, and Kubalik are the odds-on favorites to hit 20 goals. Vrana likes to score in bunches and could potentially do it if he gets in all 37 games. Raymond is also a good chance, especially with some big names like Bertuzzi and Vrana returning soon.
— Detroit Red Wings (@DetroitRedWings) January 2, 2023
#4: Does the Thanksgiving Playoff Indicator Hold Up?
Written about by both DHN’s Kevin Allen, myself, and many others, the Red Wings sat 9-5-1 at that juncture. and in a playoff spot. Since then? They are 7-7-6, almost dead even at a .500 clip. As mentioned above, they are five points out with two games in hand.
As of now, it doesn’t hold up. But that doesn’t mean a playoff run is out of the question. There are plenty of examples of teams catching fire. Judging by Detroit’s up and down play, and the fact they’ve earned six out of their last eight points, who’s to say they couldn’t hit on the Thanksgiving bet?
Boston and Toronto won’t be caught. Tampa Bay is likely to lock in the final spot of the Atlantic. But the wild card certainly seems like it could be fair game for Detroit.
Individual Red Wings Analysis Questions
#5: Who’s the biggest surprise so far for Detroit?
Filip Hronek. He didn’t have the best showing in the 2021-22 campaign, yet still ended with 38 points (5-33). This season, Hronek went ballistic in the month of November, registering 14 of his 26 points then. This included six goals, surpassing his entire total from last season—in a six-game span. It went from a question of if Hronek still fit into the lineup to how many points will he end up with this season?
Quite the shift in thinking.
#6: Who has been Detroit’s best player so far?
This is tough because there are a handful of players who have been outstanding for the Red Wings. The top two, however that come immediately to mind are Dylan Larkin and Ville Husso.
Husso, aside from a pair of games, has been one of the strongest reasons for Detroit’s improvement. Larkin has not only been consistent, but has led by example through performance and behavior on the ice. Leading the team in goals and points, Larkin’s contract extension seems a foregone conclusion. It’s just what number and term they settle on that remains the mystery.
#7: What about surprising struggles?
Alex Nedeljkovic. It’s certainly not been the season he nor the Red Wings envisioned. He has seen Magnus Hellberg supplant him as the backup goalie. The new year will be an opportunity for Nedeljkovic to reclaim the form that they both expected. There’s still plenty of time, too.