As good as they were performing as a unit, reading between the lines, it was clear that Detroit Red Wings captain Dylan Larkin didn’t feel like he was being utilized to his best abilities while skating between Alex DeBrincat and Patrick Kane.
“I’m standing at the net a lot and I’m trying to clear space, which is different for me but it’s kind of necessary with those two guys,” Larkin explained.
That trio was proving successful during their two games together. Kane counted goals in both games. DeBrincat was good for a goal and two assists. Larkin, though, was pointless.
That's our cap. pic.twitter.com/lVEOOkH2gt
— Detroit Red Wings (@DetroitRedWings) December 30, 2023
What was also proving to be the case was that the Red Wings had all their offensive eggs in one basket.
“Obviously that line, Larks with Kane and DeBrincat, was playing at a really high level but we weren’t getting much throughout the lineup,” Detroit coach Derek Lalonde said. “And we were getting some bad matchups. We had a line the other day that we’d probably consider our second line vs Minnesota and they were a minus-four.”
Red Wings Lalonde Seeking Out Balance
Prior to Friday’s 5-4 overtime win over the Nashville Predators, Lalonde was making adjustments to his forward order. Larkin shifted to a unit between Lucas Raymond and David Perron. J.T. Compher would work at center between Kane and DeBrincat.
“I think it was just to balance out our lines a little bit,” Lalonde said.
For one game at least, it was working. Against the Predators, Larkin scored. Raymond would net the OT winner. The trio of Compher, Kane and DeBrincat combined for two goals and four assists.
Certainly, getting both Larkin and Compher back and shifting into gear following injury layoffs earlier in the month is a major factor in firing up Detroit’s top-six forwards.
“Our 1 and 2 centers are playing like elite 1 and 2 centers,” Lalonde said. “I think both are getting their game back in order. I think J.T. had an excellent game (Friday) night.”
“Larkin, his last 2-3 games it feels like the Larks of old, when he can drive lines.”
Separating Kane And Larkin Is Common Sense
Playing Kane and Larkin on the same line never really made sense. Kane is a unique player in that even though he’s a left-winger, he can transport and distribute the puck with the speed and efficiency of a center.
Larkin’s blinding speed is his main asset and he utilizes it to get the puck from Point A to the places where offensive skill players pile up the points.
Even he saw the folly of the idea of skating with Kane and DeBrincat.
“There’s only one puck out there and all three guys want it,” Larkin said of playing on that line.
Putting Compher between Kane and DeBrincat gives them both a center who likes living at the net front and who will also provide the unit a defensive conscience.
— Bally Sports Detroit (@BallySportsDET) December 30, 2023
“Larks has so much speed,” DeBrincat said. “He’s gotta be the fastest on our team. He creates so much up and down the ice and obviously he’s a skilled and smart player as well.
“J.T. is maybe a little bit slower, but definitely not slow. He sees the game so well. He’s always in the right spot. He plays well in the D zone.”
For one night, the switch was working well for the Red Wings. Maintaining these forward units going forward is not only going to give Detroit more balance, it will present serious matchup issues for opposing coaches.