The Detroit Red Wings had a pretty ugly outing against the Montreal Canadiens Tuesday night, losing 3-0 and seeing an ugly 9-1 goal differential in just two head-to-head games. The Red Wings were without Dylan Larkin and Tyler Bertuzzi, who account for 17 points combined. It was going to be a challenge missing that offense, and it proved to be just that.
The benefactor with the aforementioned missing forwards was Michael Rasmussen, who found himself centering the top line with Robby Fabbri and Lucas Raymond. By the end of the game, he’d skate 19 shifts and 16 minutes but the results weren’t exactly what one would hope for from a first line center. Though he had some decent plays offensively, he didn’t record a single shot on goal, and when presented with high danger opportunities, he struggled to generate a scoring chance.
On a more ironic note, Nick Suzuki (selected four spots after Rasmussen in the 2017 draft) scored his first goal of the season just seconds into Rasmussen’s first shift, and would add an assist later.
Here’s a closer look at how Rasmussen did through his nineteen shifts:
Rasmussen’s First Period Shifts Summary and Analysis
Number of Shifts: 7
Total Minutes: (4 minutes 36 seconds)
The only eleven seconds of his first shift were tough after the starters were out for nearly two straight minutes, penned in the Wings end. Robby Fabbri tried to bank one off the boards and out, but it was held at the blue line, where Rasmussen overskated it, giving Montreal just enough room for a quick scoring chance, to which Suzuki capitalized off on.
The second and third shifts saw Rasmussen go 2/3 in the faceoff circle, but struggle offensively during the third shift. This would be something that would come up constantly through shifts–Rasmussen’s inability to make the moves that say a Raymond, or Larkin can make to generate offense.
The last four shifts of the period were uneventful, with his fifth shift just seeing him struggle to take any passes in the neutral zone and turn them up ice. Again, as the first line center, he’s expected to push and generate offense some, but this wouldn’t be the case. To be fair, his experience as a first line center for an entire NHL game is extremely limited and has also not been asked of him to this point.
Rasmussen’s Second Period Shifts Summary and Analysis
Number of Shifts: 6
Total Minutes: 5 minutes 1 second
The second period saw Rasmussen’s chance on the power play, which was uneventful as a whole. During his 41 second shift, the first of many board battles were lost and it eventually slowed any chance at a scoring chance.
But his first two shifts were his best offensively, and while his second shift of the period nearly resulted in a goal. Rasmussen corralled the puck on the boards, a battle he did win, and backhanded it to Filip Hronek who was gliding to center ice. Hronek was able to pitch the puck into the Montreal zone. Hronek retrieved the puck on the forecheck, shuffled it to Robby Fabbri, who then dropped it to Rasmussen. He then tried to tee one up for Lucas Raymond, who fanned on the pass, ending what was one of the Red Wings’ best chances of the game.
On his fourth and fifth shifts though, Rasmussen showed the struggles that cropped up throughout the game. It’s obvious he’s still growing into his frame and trying to use that at the NHL level. But on several attempts close to the net, Rasmussen was unable to control the puck or put quality chances on net. Worse, on the final shift of the period, he flung a puck around the boards and out of the zone, killing another offensive opportunity for Detroit.
It is important to note that Rasmussen was not playing bottom nine players but playing on the top line–something to be considered through this analysis. The Red Wings put him on the top line and he performed as well as you could have hoped defensively.
Rasmussen’s Third Period Shifts Summary and Analysis
Number of Shifts: 6
Total Minutes: 6 minutes 13 seconds
The first three shifts of the third didn’t see much from Rasmussen. On his third shift, Rasmussen was outmuscled low, unable to generate a scoring chance or keep the puck in the zone. Rasmussen was on the penalty kill on his fourth shift, which was successful in keeping Montreal from scoring.
Rasmussen found himself with Vladislav Namestnikov and Joe Veleno on his line during his next shift, and then was out for nearly two minutes when the Red Wings went with an extra skater late in the third. Rasmussen lost the puck behind the net with 2:55 remaining, again victimized on the boards, unable to hold his ground.
What are the takeaways?
Before digging into a shift by shift analysis, it felt like Rasmussen was invisible most of the night and was a liability with any kind of play on the boards–coughing up the puck, or being unable to use his frame to maintain possession or positioning.
Upon further review, Rasmussen did have some excellent shifts, namely the first two of the second period, where he not only pushed play along, but made a couple plays that led to scoring chances.
The summation of his nineteen shifts is this: Rasmussen is a very responsible forward in his own end. He is the prototypical, hard working, 200 foot player that Blashill and Steve Yzerman look for. Outside of his first shift where he overskated the puck, which was more a byproduct of how it ricocheted off the boards, Rasmussen rarely if ever blew a defensive assignment.
His positioning was excellent, and when he was on the power play, he was quick to set up net front when the puck was being moved around. The issue there was there was little shot generation as Montreal did a great job of keeping Detroit to the outside.
What will forever dog Rasmussen is the fact he was taken ninth overall, a selection in the top ten that is believed to be where goal scorers are found. That hasn’t shown up yet, and last night’s sample size reveals Rasmussen to be a very responsible, competent defensive forward who is still figuring it out on the opponent’s side of the ice. He doesn’t have the speed to do damage, and there’s some work to be done in terms of his strength–he shouldn’t be pushed around as much as he was. But he’s 22, and starting his second full year in Detroit.
As Alex wrote earlier, his continued development is absolutely crucial to him being a piece of the puzzle in Detroit. Though he didn’t have the greatest of performances, there was still enough to see that if work is put in, Rasmussen could be a solid depth piece for Detroit.