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Eleven And Seven Adding up to Perfection for Red Wings

Detroit is 4-0 when suiting up 11 forwards and seven defensemen



Robby Fabbri, Red Wings
Robby Fabbri accounted for a goal and two assists in a 4-0 win over New Jersey.

When it comes to simple, traditional hockey math, Detroit Red Wings coach Derek Lalonde doesn’t mind thinking outside the box. It’s a lesson he learned as an assistant coach under Jon Cooper with the Tampa Bay Lightning, and it continues to add up to success.

Breaking the standard lineup mold of 12 forwards and six defensemen, Lalonde was again opting for an 11-7 format on Wednesday. the result was a 4-0 shutout of the New Jersey Devils in what was arguably Detroit’s best performance of the NHL season.

The Red Wings are now 4-0 when they suit up 11 forwards and seven defensemen. In those four victories, Detroit is showing a goal differential of 20-8.

“It’s worked so far,” Lalonde said. “I don’t think we can do it all the time but it’s been a good go to when we’ve went there.”

Just about everything worked for the Red Wings in this tilt. They pounded home three goals in a 72-second span of the first period. Over the previous 11 first periods, they’d been outscored 11-3.

The power play put one in the back of the net. In his second start of the season, Alex Lyon was blocking all 16 shots he faced, becoming the first goaltender to shut out the Devils in 101 games.

Eleven-7 Setup Keeps Everyone On Their Toes

It all seemed to be predicated on the 11-7 roster split. By suiting up one less forward, Lalonde ends up putting all four of his lines in a blender. In fact, each of those three first-period goals were provided by forward combinations not listed in Detroit’s starting lineup breakdown.

This scenario helps to keep the forwards even more in tune with the game. Not only don’t they know when they’ll be going over the boards next, they have no idea who’ll be joining them on the ice.

“You gotta have short shifts,” Lalonde said. “You ask them to have short shifts, because we might need you back.

“It’s just different looks. A lot of times there’s a plan to it. A lot of times it’s just who’s ready.”

More Ice Time For Red Wings Veleno, Rasmussen

It’s no coincidence that three of the four times Lalonde was opting to go 11-7 have been for home games. You might think being short a forward is creating mayhem on the Detroit bench. Lalonde delights in the mayem he was creating for coach Lindy Ruff behind the Devils bench.

“It gets everyone going,” Lalonde said. “It’s really hard to matchup on the road. I think they started chasing (Dylan) Larkin a little bit. You could tell they stopped trying to do that.”

Another by-product of the 11-7 effect is that it enables Lalonde to get his better players, and even those who are just playing better of late, out on the ice with more frequency. In this instance, the two forwards he was delighting in giving more looks to were Joe Veleno and Michael Rasmussen. They are perhaps Detroit’s two best forechecking forwards.

“I just think Ras and Veleno have been good for us,” Lalonde said. “They give us some heavy, they give us some skating,hey have an impact on the forecheck.

“They just get more looks and sprinkled in among our top six if you will.”

As Lalonde points out, a team can’t win consistently playing with 11-7. Eventually, you’ll just wear down your forward group. But for a team like the Wings, coming home off a pair of tough losses in Sweden, and in need of a shot in the arm, it was again a recipe for success.