Don’t expect the Detroit Red Wings to be pushed around in Ottawa

(Photo by Chris Tanouye/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images)
(Photo by Chris Tanouye/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images) /

If there is one thing that’s become apparent over the last game or two, it’s that the Detroit Red Wings won’t be pushed around in 2023-24. That sediment will be tested come Saturday afternoon, though, as Detroit travels to Ottawa.

I need not remind you of what happened last February when the Detroit Red Wings played back-to-back games in Ottawa amid the playoff hunt. It was two games to forget, but one thing I can’t seem to get past wasn’t the losses. Or being outscored 12-3 in two games. It was how Detroit lost them. It’s how Ottawa manhandled the Red Wings in those games, oh and Senators captain Brady Tkachuk challenged the entire Detroit bench. Although I am confident that Yzerman had already made up his mind to sell ahead of the trade deadline, those two games only heightened that notion.

Detroit didn’t have an answer for Tkachuk and the Senators physically, but things may be different this year. As general manager Steve Yzerman noted this past off-season, the organization isn’t looking to add ‘fighters’ per se, but players that add toughness. I will note the Detroit Red Wings didn’t have Michael Rasmussen for those two games, and he’s a player who brought not only size but a bit of physicality to a team last season that really lacked it.

What does that mean exactly?

It means size, grit, and players that are difficult to play against. It also suggests adding a player or two that will drop the mitts but can do all of the above as well. This isn’t 1990. The league has changed. Detroit won’t carry a player like Rob Ray or Tony Twist. The 2023 enforcer needs to bring more to the table than just fighting—the good news is Detroit added a few players I’ve described, and their effectiveness will be tested early this season.

Over the summer, Yzerman added some size and grit with Justin Holl, Christian Fischer, and Klim Kostin, in particular. A player like J.T. Compher won’t exactly strike you as someone who will scare you physically, but he falls under the category of tough to play against. Like Andrew Copp, Compher will draw some of the more demanding defensive assignments in a shutdown-type role. These players and the tougher returning players such as Moritz Seider, Ben Chiarot, and Rasmussen suggest that the Senators won’t be able to manhandle the Red Wings as they did last winter.

In addition to being able to hold up physically, the Detroit Red Wings got a lot better offensively.

Oh, and defensively. The off-season additions of Alex DeBrincat, Shayne Gostisbehere, Daniel Sprong, and Compher have proved their worth. DeBrincat was traded from the Senators to the Red Wings this off-season and currently leads the league with eight points in four games. Sprong, Compher, and Gostisbehere have combined for ten points through the first four games.

The Detroit Red Wings ranked second as of Thursday in goals scored with 19 and 16th in goals against with 11. More impressively, the teams’ power play is operating at nearly a 50% clip (46.15%), married with a penalty kill rate of 86.6%. Both are far better than the league’s average.

Next. Can the Detroit Red Wings take the next step in ’23-24?. dark

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I don’t mean to be captain obvious here, but the Red Wings will lose games. If they lose on Saturday in Ottawa, it’s not the end of the world, but how they win or lose will be something I will be monitoring. I’ll admit, even that in October doesn’t really matter, but with how gnarly Tkachuk can be, I am just curious how the Red Wings will hold up.