Dylan Larkin's impact on the Red Wings; Alex Lyon set to defend the cage

The Detroit Red Wings will need Dylan Larkin to shine if they hope to survive the rigorous upcoming five-game road trip.

Nic Antaya/GettyImages

Oh, how things can change in the NHL. It seems like just yesterday that the Detroit Red Wings had the second-best record in 2024, only to the Florida Panthers, until the ship began to take on water in March, leading to a disastrous seven-game losing streak. During that stretch, the Red Wings couldn't get out of their own way and looked dead to rights, with Dylan Larkin sidelined and with a lower-body injury for the majority of the skid. Night after night, we saw a plethora of defensive zone breakdowns and full-blow collapses. At times, Detroit's lack of awareness mixed with lazy in-zone coverage often left Alex Lyon or James Reimer out to dry. That type of play was enough to give the common fan an ulcer just watching.

The Red Wings barely survived the Columbus at home, beating the Blue Jackets in overtime thanks to Lucas Raymond's late-game heroics tying the game with a mere 12 seconds left in regulation. That set the stage for Patrick Kane to bury the OT winner less than a minute into the frame. Next, Detroit squared off with the New York Islanders at home and saw a significant boost with Larkin returning to the lineup. The Detroit Red Wings played significantly better, with their captain slotted in as the first-line center, which not only balances Derek Lalonde's depth chart but allows players such as J.T. Compher and Andrew Copp to excel in a role better suited to their abilities rather than trying to perform like an NHL No. 1 or 2 center when quite frankly they're overmatched.

Larkin recorded two goals in his return, one of which was an empty-net marker. Although he's not an 'elite' center or a top-ten center in the league, he's clearly Detroit's top player, and he means as much to the Red Wings team as Auston Matthews means to the Maple Leafs. Without Larkin, the Red Wings are lost and a far below-average team. With Larkin, Detroit is an average-to-above-average team that looks every bit the part of a wild-card contender. Do the Red Wings need to find a Robin to Larkin's Batman? Yes, indeed, but don't mix words; the captain drives the engine in Detroit. Perhaps 'Robin' comes within in the form of Lucas Raymond, who has emerged as a top-scoring threat off the wing.

Simon Edvinsson should be here to stay.

Also, it needs to be mentioned that the Red Wings have been a lot more sound defensively since they recalled top prospect Simon Edvinsson. Oddly enough, he's been in the lineup for Jake Walman, who is nursing an injury but is expected to return to the lineup early next week. Edvinsson has been paired with Jeff Petry, as Ben Chiarot was elevated to play with Moritz Seider. Both pairings have been efficient. Edvinsson looked quite impressive with his long reach. He's calm, cool, and collected on the backend and should be in Detroit to stay moving forward.

On Saturday afternoon, the Detroit Red Wings roll into Nashville to square off with the red-hot Predators. Nashville hasn't lost a game in regulation since mid-February and is 14-0-2 over their past 16 contests. Back to how swiftly things can change in the NHL, starting goaltender Jusse Saros had been at the center of trade talks before the trade deadline, but the Preds elected to stand pat and look at them now.

The Detroit Red Wings will turn to Alex Lyon in Nashville.

Saturday will begin a crucial five-game road trip for Detroit, and after Reimer's back-to-back victories, the Red Wings will turn back to Lyon to start the trip. If the Red Wings hope to stay afloat in the wild card race, they need to return home with five points on this difficult trip. It doesn't feel like a tough ask, but not only will the Red Wings begin in Nashville, they will need to travel to Florida, Tampa Bay, Carolina, and Washington. Things won't be easy.

Lyon, 31, has fought the puck lately, going 0-7-0 over his past seven starts with a save percentage of .857 and a goals-against average of 4.14. In comparison, Reimer has gone 4-1-0 in his last seven appearances (twice in relief of Lyon) with a .913 save percentage, allowing 18 goals over that span. If the Detroit Red Wings hope to qualify for the postseason, they need Lyon to return to the same form he displayed this past January and February.