The Red Wings overcome obstacles to get off to their best start in a dozen years
Derek Lalonde has said a couple of times that his team has a “winnable” roster despite its growing injury list.
The Detroit Red Wings prove him right. They are missing five forwards who would be in their everyday lineup and two defensemen who could be part of their third pairing, and they are off to their best start in 12 years.
The Red Wings have won three in a row, incl an impressive 3-2 overtime win over the New York Rangers on Sunday, when they overcame a two-goal deficit in the first period playing in back-to-back games.
The Red Wings (7-3-2) have 16 points, the most they have had in a dozen games since 2010-11 (8-3-1, 17 points). They are second in the tough Atlantic Division and seventh overall in points percentage (.667).
It’s early, and no one is getting carried away thinking that this pace is sustainable. Lalonde would be the first to say, “Put the brakes on.” as he did two weeks ago when the Red Wings were the only team without a regulation layoff.
They also got off to a good start last season, going 13-9-3 in their first 25 games and were at .500 on March 1 before the bottom fell out. So fortunes can change quickly.
But it was important for this team to get off to a good start to get the players to understand a new manager.
They have improved in every aspect. They are tied for 18th in goals per game (3.08) and 17th on the power play. More importantly, they are tied for 12th in goals against (2.92) and tied for eighth in penalty kicks, where they were second to last and last in the NHL, respectively, in 2021-22.
Aside from a couple of games that got out of hand, 6-2 against New Jersey and 8-3 at Buffalo, this is a much better defensive team. They are focused on details and the Lalonde system.
The Red Wings have allowed just three goals in their last three games heading into Tuesday’s game against Montreal at Little Caesars Arena (7 p.m., Bally Sports Detroit).
General manager Steve Yzerman is certainly pleased with the early returns from the players he acquired in July.
Goalkeeper Ville Husso, a cheap buy in St. Louis for a third-round pick, has had the biggest impact, going 5-1-1 with a 1.86 goals-against average (second in the NHL), 941 save percentage (ranks fourth) . ) and two whites.
A pair of top-four free agent defensemen have helped improve the blue line. Ben Chiarot has been a stable partner of Moritz Seider and offers a physical presence. Olli Maatta has meshed well with Filip Hronek and contributed more offensively than expected (two goals, six points).
Dominik Kubalik has made the biggest difference up front. His overtime Sunday tied him for the team lead in goals (six) and points (15) with Dylan Larkin.
David Perron, who at 34 is the oldest player on the Red Wings, has also helped offensively (five goals, eight points), especially running the power play from the left side, and adds an element of abrasiveness as well.
Second-line center Andrew Copp got off to a slow start as he underwent core muscle surgery, but appears to be coming along (goal, five assists).
The newcomers, along with many returning players, including Larkin, have helped offset the absences of forwards Tyler Bertuzzi (broken hand), Jakub Vrana (NHL/NHL Player Assistance Program), Robby Fabbri (ACL surgery ), Oskar Sundqvist (top). body injury) and Filip Zadina (leg injury), and defensemen Jake Walman (shoulder surgery) and Mark Pysyk (Achilles tendon surgery).
The realistic goal for a team that has missed the postseason the last six years was to at least play meaningful games throughout the season and be on the fringes of the playoff race.
His best start in a dozen years helps.
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