After a 2-1-1 road trip, the Detroit Red Wings returned home. The road trip was notable for seeing defensemen score. The Detroit Red Wings had the fewest goals from defensemen in the entire NHL last season. This season, the defense was much improved, but scoring was still not elite. The modern game requires a five-man attack and a five-man defense.
Over the last two weeks, the low-scoring Detroit blue line is getting it done and started putting the puck in the net. Hronek is on fire, Walman is contributing, and Seider is beginning to assert himself. Blue-line scoring will be a major predictor of long-term success—and it was nice to see a flash over the last two weeks. Four consecutive wins against lower-tier teams are exactly what strong teams do.
A Look at the Detroit Red Wings Nineteenth Game of the Season: Nashville Predators
A rapid pace to the first period, but not a lot of chances. The Red Wings did not look sharp and were stuck in their own end a bit too often. The Red Wings got their legs back in the second period.
The team killed off a two-man disadvantage with Chiarot and Seider in the penalty box. Hronek led much of that penalty kill. Then Hronek scored again. The best thing about this game was the way the Wings closed out the third period. Confident, defense first, but not going into a shell. Husso was very sharp. But this was a team win. A shutout always means that the defense was excellent.
Detroit Red Wings: Game Nineteen Individual Reports
Ben Chiarot – Grade B. Chiarot missed the glass on a clearing attempt and took a delay of game penalty that led to the five-on-three shorthanded situation. It was the right play; he just missed. Chiarot shined in the third period. He crunched Nashville forwards, and they paid for any time loitering in the slot. A quality game for Chiarot.
Moritz Seider – Grade A-. Seider was excellent throughout most of the game. Squishing Granlund with a textbook shoulder to the chest is exactly what has been missing from Seider’s game. He was engaged, dangerous on the power play, and made quality breakout passes throughout. The team is improving. Seider and Hronek’s improvement is leading the way.
Olli Maatta – Grade B. Maatta is a complementary player. He is a very good complementary player. With Hronek on a heater, Maatta is playing responsible and intelligent defense. And he knows to keep feeding Hronek. Maatta knows his role and is playing it perfectly.
Filip Hronek – Grade A. Not only another goal but was the primary defender killing a five-on-three in the first. This is the best Filip Hronek has looked in his career. The shot is finally dialed in, and the confidence is creeping into all aspects of his game. We are watching Hronek unlock his potential in front of our eyes.
Jordan Oesterle – Grade B. A very good game from Oesterle. He can be overmatched physically, but he is an improvement on the last paring. His defensive zone coverage was technically sound, and rarely are players left open when he is on the ice.
Jake Walman—Grade B. A significant upgrade on the blue line. A physical presence and solid skater with a great shot. With Walman on the ice, the third and fourth lines of the opposing team cannot cycle and grind in the zone without being challenged. Walman is strong enough to break up a cycle.
A Look at the Detroit Red Wings Nineteenth Game of the Season: Phoenix Coyotes
Defensemen scoring? This was an enormous dead spot in the team. Two of the three goals were from the blue line. Suddenly, Hronek is getting it done. Walman and Oesterle are becoming scoring threats.
If the defense continues scoring at this pace, then the Red Wings are a legitimately dangerous team. They lost the lead with 25 seconds remaining in the third period after being trapped in their own end forever. The shootout win was well deserved.
Detroit Red Wings: Game Twenty Individual Reports
Moritz Seider – Grade B. His defensive awareness is amazing. Blocking shots, keeping an active stick, taking the and breaking up passes. The lasting image of this game is Seider on his hands and knees after a Phoenix shot deflected off his leg into the net to tie it up late. He was exhausted after giving everything he had to protect the lead and discouraged that the team could not get it done.
Ben Chiarot – Grade B. The blocked shot off the foot in the third period. Chiarot must be black and blue from the knees down, as he can be a shot-blocking machine.
Olli Maatta – Grade B+. Maatta is doing what he does best. He is responsible and sound and allows Hronek to take chances and carry the team (along with Husso).
Filip Hronek – Grade A. Hronek is the best defenseman on the team this year. And he continued his heater with a goal and assist. It is also clear that Hronek’s confidence is spreading into other parts of his game. He has always been a good skater and passer, but now his defensive coverage is picking up.
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Jordan Oesterle – Grade B+. A nice goal for Oesterle. He looks increasingly solid. His pairing with Walman is a major upgrade from Lindstrom and Hagg.
Jake Walman – Grade B. Jake Walman is strong. He pushes forwards outside and breaks up cycles. His defensive zone coverage has improved from last year. He is doing an excellent job after his return from injury.