Once a postseason fixture, the Detroit Red Wings have become a perennial spectator during the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Detroit has gone six seasons without qualifying for the postseason. The Red Wings will be looking to end that drought when they begin their season with a home game against the Montreal Canadiens on Friday.
They’ll have a new coach to help them change their fortunes. Former Tampa Bay assistant Derek Lalonde has replaced Jeff Blashill, who was fired after the Red Wings finished 32-40-10 last season.
Not surprisingly, Detroit general manager Steve Yzerman has tried to rebuild the franchise he led to Stanley Cup glory multiple times around young players. Defenseman Moritz Seider won the Calder Trophy for the league’s Rookie of the Year. Seider provided a large physical presence in the defensive zone and contributed 50 points at the offensive end.
Forward Lucas Raymond spent most of his rookie season on the first line while accumulating 57 points.
Lalonde anticipates seeing continual improvement from the duo.
“They’re still growing,” Lalonde said. “You see it all the time. These players have immediate success in this league, which is very hard to do. Then, they go through wanting more out of their game and do things that they weren’t doing the previous years. It’s a tough balance, but there’s still growth and development.”
Yzerman signed Andrew Copp, David Perron and Dominik Kubalik in free agency to improve the offense and Ben Chiarot and Olli Maatta to fortify the defense. Ville Husso was acquired in a trade with St. Louis to compete with Alex Nedeljkovic for goaltending duties.
One of the holdovers, forward Tyler Bertuzzi, feels energized by all the changes.
“Just a different vibe,” Bertuzzi said. “It looks like everyone is more on the same page and we’re buying in as a group. I’m looking forward to contributing to that and getting the systems down. The systems are a little different, there’s new personnel, a lot of different faces, new systems you have to learn and get adjusted to, that will be big for me. I’m looking forward to it and playing with all the new faces.”
The Canadiens (1-0-0) are trying to bounce back from a 22-49-11 campaign. They got off to a good start by defeating Toronto in their season opener, 4-3. Josh Anderson scored the game-winner with 19 seconds remaining.
“It wasn’t a perfect game,” coach Martin St. Louis said. “There’s no perfect game, it’s just about finding ways in this league and I thought the guys fought (Wednesday) and found a way. I think it gives us some confidence and something to build off.”
Cole Caulfield led the offense with two goals. The 21-year-old had 23 goals in 67 games last season.
Sean Monahan, acquired in a trade with Calgary in August, scored in his Montreal debut. Nick Suzuki supplied a pair of assists while Jake Allen stopped 29 shots.
In part due to injuries, the Canadiens had to use four rookie defensemen in the opener.
“I know we’re exposing them to a lot but that’s the only way you learn, you learn in the trenches,” St. Louis said. “Was it perfect? No, they made mistakes but they made a lot of good things, too.”
–Field Level Media