For anyone taking a cursory glance at the scores of the tilts you missed over the weekend, yes, that Original Six melee on Saturday was every bit as hectic as the final 10-7 result would suggest.
Much of the chatter this side of the border has been on the Toronto Maple Leafs’ part in that match-up — the good (piling up 10 goals in one game is probably a positive) and the bad (piling up 10 goals and only barely winning seems less positive). But how about those Red Wings?
Though Detroit’s epic comeback bid fell short in the end, it was no doubt a promising showing from the young group (maybe minus the netminders). They looked each other in the eye halfway through the night, staring down a 6-1 deficit against a team sitting 17 rungs higher than them in the standings, and rather than buckle, they took the fight to the opposition and made some noise.
What stands out most is who was leading that charge. As has been the case all year, it was the club’s young stars, the Red Wings’ youth movement continuing to show its potential.
Lucas Raymond was the first to get Detroit on the board, scoring early when Toronto had built up a 2-0 lead, keeping his club in it. He tallied again at the tail end of the comeback attempt, when the chaos had fully swelled, sniping the goal that got the red and white to dangerous territory at 8-7. He had another assist in between, too. Moritz Seider managed a pair of helpers on the night as well, and had plenty of time to do so as he led the team in ice with more than 25 minutes to his name.
The two rookies remain in the thick of the Calder Trophy race, with Raymond’s 42 points through 53 games leading all rookie scorers and Seider, perhaps more impressively, sitting fourth in rookie scoring with 39 points while averaging over 23 minutes a night. But it wasn’t just the two freshmen doing their thing — 22-year-old Michael Rasmussen chipped in a goal as well, 22-year-old Joe Veleno came up with a goal and a helper, and 24-year-old Filip Hronek amassed four points on the night, scoring Detroit’s third goal and then assisting on three others. And, just for good measure, captain Dylan Larkin (a veteran at 25 years old) chipped in with a helper, continuing what’s been a career year for him as he scores at the quickest pace of his career.
While Detroit’s navigating another season of lessons and steady growth rather than making the climb to anywhere near contender status, their potential has been on full display in 2021-22. They’re winning a higher percentage of their games than they have in five seasons. And while their chances at getting back to the post-season for the first time in that span are as slight as can be, there’s no question something is taking shape.
Watching Detroit nearly claw all the way back against Toronto, it was tough not see shades of their GM in the young Red Wings. There’s a quote about Steve Yzerman that comes to mind, from a Sportsnet interview with Darren Pang — who grew up with Yzerman in Nepean, and remains a close friend — a few years back. He was asked about Yzerman’s understanding of talent, his ability to put together quality pieces, as the GM did in helping to build what’s become a juggernaut in Tampa Bay.
“[Yzerman] always had that eye. He always knew a hard player to play against or a guy that was a little soft in the corners, would give up a puck rather easily,” Pang said at the time. “I’d ask him about this player or that player — he’d always say ‘No no, watch that player in the corner. He’ll give up the puck easy. Watch this player, his second and third effort is incredible. And you look at Tampa Bay’s players and who they’ve scouted — if they’re undersized, they’re undersized, but they’re competitive. Every one of them. They’re competitive hockey players — they want the puck, they’ll do whatever it takes to get the puck.
“I would have to think that’s been a determining factor in how he’s evaluated so many of these players that maybe other teams wouldn’t touch… He saw something inside them — their soul, their spirit, their competitiveness, their hunger. That’s the way Steve was, the whole time.”
His young Red Wings are showing they might just be, too.
• Toronto got a monster game from Mitch Marner, and got out of Detroit with 10 goals and a W, but letting a 6-1 lead turn into an 8-7 lead in the span of one period has to strike fear in the hearts of the Leafs faithful (and perhaps their front office), no? The offensive outpouring will paper over the issue to a certain degree, but there’s no doubt there are some questions in need of answers. Toronto can thank Ondrej Kase for stopping the bleeding with his shorthanded goal a few minutes after Raymond took the score to 8-7 — Kase’s shorthanded marker slowed what was becoming some overwhelming momentum from the red and white. A quiet, clutch play from No. 25.
• One last note from Leafs-Red Wings — forget the 17 goals in the game, this one from the intermission was the best of the night. Don’t sleep on the moonwalk celly:
• The Predators and Lightning took things outdoors for the Stadium Series at Nissan Stadium, putting on a show for 68,619 Tennesseans. Filip Forsberg continued his excellent 2021-22, netting a goal in the open air — his eighth snipe and 15th point in his past 11 games. And yet, per Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, he’s a potential trade chip. It’s been a thorn in the side of the Capitals (and then-GM George McPhee) that they let Forsberg get away after drafting him 11th overall back in 2012 — they flipped him for Martin Erat and Michael Latta before Forsberg had played a single NHL game, a deal that’s become decidedly lopsided over time. Will Nashville come to feel similar regret? Twenty-seven years old and great so far through his decade in the league, there’s a sense Forsberg could hit another level with some elite talent around him.
• The Bolts spoiled Nashville’s moment on the outdoor stage, claiming a 3-2 win from the home team. It was a quality result in the Lightning’s first-ever outdoor experience. But their finest moment undoubtedly came pre-game:
• No player put more pucks on net over this past weekend than Chris Kreider (14). What a season he’s having, with a career-high 34 goals already, on pace for more than 50 by the season’s end. Great for him, but greater for the Rangers, who’ve just been on a wild run over these past few years since The Letter. Let’s recap: Kaapo Kakko and Alexis Lafreniere arrive via lottery picks, Artemi Panarin arrives and takes his game to MVP-calibre levels, Mika Zibanejad continues his growth into one of the game’s most dynamic scorers, Adam Fox arrives and bags a Norris Trophy in Year 2, Igor Shesterkin becomes otherworldly in the cage, putting himself in Hart Trophy conversations. Now, Kreider’s turning himself into a 50-goal scorer and battling guys like Auston Matthews, Leon Draisaitl and Alex Ovechkin for the Rocket Richard? Yeesh. Everything’s coming up Rangers.
Some well-deserved props to Edmonton Oilers veteran Derek Ryan, who put up his first career hat-trick Saturday. It was a massive performance from the depth pivot, in a massive win for Edmonton. Beating Florida (the third-best team in the league this season) was big enough — doing so in a game that saw the Panthers outshoot the Oilers 47-22? Wild. Ryan came up big time and time again, scoring the game opener to set the tone, scoring in the second to tie things up for his Oilers, and sealing the hat trick with what ended up as the game winner. Edmonton’s success was undone a bit one night later when they were beaten 2-1 by Carolina — but, of course, Ryan managed the Oilers’ only goal against his former team. A fine performance for the 35-year-old, who’s having a fine season in his return to Edmonton.
RED AND WHITE POWER RANKINGS
1. Calgary Flames (31-14-6): An impressive 7-3 win over a quality opponent in the Wild, putting the Flames back in the win column after seeing their 10-game win streak snapped unceremoniously a game prior. Two more goals from Tyler Toffoli in that Wild win — the recent addition now has four goals and five points in six games as a member of the Flames.
2. Toronto Maple Leafs (34-14-4): It was a strange one in Detroit. As we said above — there was some good, there was some bad, and now remain plenty of questions about what exactly Kyle Dubas and Co. have in this group.
3. Edmonton Oilers (29-21-3): They were 1-1 on the weekend but the Oilers went toe to toe against two of the league’s best sides and didn’t get outplayed. The win against the Panthers, particularly, is a big one, as Jay Woodcroft’s addition continues to seem a successful one.
4. Vancouver Canucks (26-22-6): After some recent stumbles, the Canucks built on a satisfying win against Calgary with a huge one over the star-studded Rangers. Demko has been fantastic. Though roster changes could be coming, with three straight wins the team is trying to move things in right direction.
5. Winnipeg Jets (23-21-9): The Jets halted their losing streak courtesy of a scheduling gift, getting a win over the Coyotes. Still, with four losses to their name coming into it, and games against New York and Tampa Bay coming up, it’s tense times in Winnipeg.
6. Montreal Canadiens (13-33-7): The Martin St. Louis era of the Canadiens continues to provide intrigue, as the club took down Ottawa to net Montreal its fifth straight win, this coming after what was a 10-game losing streak. A sign of progress, and a big win for Andrew Hammond against the team that made him an NHLer back in the day.
7. Ottawa Senators (19-27-5): A loss to the Canadiens undid the morale-boosting win over Minnesota one game prior, though an unlucky break contributed as the Sens were forced to play with five defenders unexpectedly. The kids haven’t brought success to Ottawa as quickly as the city had hoped, but each game is an opportunity to learn how to do it next year. Like we’re seeing in Detroit, progress can still come in the meantime.
THE WEEK AHEAD
• The Flames get a home-and-home rematch with the Wild after dominating them over the weekend, a hint of a post-season test for this promising Flames side — how do they respond to a good team looking to get back at them fresh off a drubbing?
• A milestone upcoming for veteran defender Mark Giordano, who will hit 1,000 games a couple tilts from now. It’s an important milestone for any NHLer, but all the more so for Gio, who went from undrafted to respected NHL captain. Also on track to hit the 1,000-game mark by next weekend: Maple Leafs winger Wayne Simmonds, who’ll get the honour with his hometown club after his runs in five other big-league cities.