Detroit Red Wings coach Derek Lalonde likes a lot about Lucas Raymond’s game.
“You can see the confidence building,” Lalonde said of Raymond’s play of late.
In this scenario, Lalonde is kind of stuck between a rock and a hard place. He knows he needs to play that line as a unit in order to generate offense. At the same time, he’s aware that by putting that unit together, he’s also going to generate more scoring opportunities for the opposition.
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“We’re gonna play that Larkin line a ton,” Lalonde said, “and they end up having their fingerprints on . . . goals against.”
Doing the research, the numbers are bearing out Lalonde’s hypothesis. In five-on-five play, Larkin has been on the ice for 40 Detroit goals and 37 scored by the other team. At +3, his five-on-five goal differential rates 227th in the NHL. And he’s the responsible one on the line.
Both Raymond (10 for, 16 against) and Bertuzzi (eight for, 14 against) are showing -6 ratings in five-on-five goal differential. Raymond is 680th among NHL players in this category, while Bertuzzi comes in at No. 694.
Analytics Showing Lucas An Anchor
Taking the research a step further and breaking it down analytically, the overall picture grows even more gloomier. Accoring to Naturalstattrick.com, the Larkin-Raymond-Bertuzzi trio has been on the ice for 46 scoring chances for and 49 scoring chances against. When it comes to high danger scoring chances, the numbers are 20 for and 22 against.
Take Bertuzzi off the line, as a series of injuries to Bertuzzi have done this season, and the underlying numbers grow much worse. Playing together with a linemate other than Bertuzzi, scoring chances for Larkin/Raymond are 110 for and 161 against. High danger chances are 46 for and 69 against.
On the other hand, Bertuzzi and Larkin together are like night and day without Raymond on their line. They’ve created eight scoring chances while allowing three. They’ve manufactured five high danger chances while allowing only one, an 83.3% success rate.
The problem with thinking that Bertuzzi and Larkin are better off without Raymond is that Raymond’s stats playing with any other linemates are abysmal.
Raymond skating alongside anybody other than Larkin and Bertuzzi is especially dismal defensively. In that situation, his line has created 75 scoring chances while allowing 109. In terms of high danger chances, the numbers are 29 for and 48 against.
Lalonde is finding himself in a damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t predicament. He knows Raymond is a more dangerous player skating alongside Bertuzzi and Larkin. He’s also aware that the line is more dangerous in their own end of the rink when that trio is combined. And his team isn’t one that can afford to be giving away goals.
“Obviously, the margin between winning and losing is very thin, razor thin, especially for us,” Lalonde said. “We’re never gonna play a perfect game but we gotta play complete and pretty darn close to perfect.”
Raymond Still Has Work To Do
With 15 goals in 48 games, Raymond is on pace to beat last season’s rookie total of 23 goals. Raymond frankly admits that one of his main objectives entering his sophomore NHL season was to bid to become a more complete player.
“For sure,” Raymond said. “I think that’s one of the biggest things that I wanted to improve. The biggest thing for me is just trusting what I do and sticking with it. Doing the right things and when the opportunity comes, to be sharp.
“I feel like this season compared to last season I had a slower start to this season. It’s a different feeling. I feel a lot more like I can control it and know that if I did the right things out there it’s gonna result in good things.
“I think that’s a big thing and it puts yourself in position to help the team.”
Clearly, Raymond desires to be a 200-foot player. Just as clearly, it’s evident that he’s still got work to do to achieve that level on a consistent basis.