DETROIT — The Detroit Red Wings could wake up in the postseason position on Thanksgiving.
Nobody prints playoff tickets when more than three quarters of the season is left. But for years, NHL folks have used Turkey Day as a benchmark to determine if their team is fit for the postseason.
Red Wings coach Derek Lalonde isn’t among them, though his team takes the first wildcard spot in the Eastern Conference after returning from a 2-1-1 trip.
“I did it with a couple of my Tampa teams because I knew how talented they were, and that was probably real,” Lalonde said. “Not with this team. We have a long way to go. We are now in it with full will and commitment. It’s a huge credit to our boys, but there’s some truth to those underlying numbers. We make our way to where we are right now. How sustainable is that? We will find out from this group.”
It has often been said that the rankings don’t change much after Thanksgiving. Last season, seven of the eight Eastern Conference teams that earned a playoff berth that holiday made the postseason. There was a 16 point gap between the last playoff team and the club with the next best record.
But this season there is more parity, potentially leading to closer racing and more shifts in the standings. Division leaders Boston and New Jersey were two of the most surprising teams in the league. Florida, Pittsburgh and Washington, the 2022 playoff qualifiers are off to a slow start.
“We’re (10th) in points in the league – but we’re not from the underlying numbers,” said Lalonde. “I think we all know that. But it’s a bit skewed because we had three or four games where we gave up 18-20 goals and that will skew those (defensive) numbers.
“But we are. We had these (bad) moments. It’s not an accident. But for the most part, it’s not just our team defense that feels greatly improved, it’s our commitment to defense that has gotten us off to a good start so far.”
The Red Wings begin Wednesday against Nashville (7 p.m., Bally Sports Detroit) with five home games, their longest of the season.
“We want to continue to expand our game, especially after a successful road trip,” said Dominik Kubalik. “I feel like we played well, we finished strong. Hopefully we can get it into the first game on Wednesday.”
Soderblom needs more time
Elmer Soderblom missed five games with a lower body injury and was not training Monday. Gustav Lindstrom (lower body injury) returned to training after missing three games.
“We were hoping to see (Soderblom) today and the fact that he hasn’t been able to train anymore – we still keep that on a day-to-day basis – but now he hasn’t played for a couple of weeks so it will probably be some time last,” said Lalonde. “Lindy is a real everyday person, he might not be available on Wednesday but if not I’m sure he will be available shortly after.”
Lalonde picks up on Bill’s game
Lalonde, a big Buffalo Bills fan, was at Ford Field for Sunday’s game against the Browns, which was postponed because of the Buffalo snowstorm. The Thanksgiving game against the Lions will be the third Bills game he has watched this season (he attended the Packers game on Oct. 30, the night before the Red Wings played the Sabers).
When was the last time he was at three Bills games in a season?
“Maybe my junior year of college (Cortland State in upstate New York),” Lalonde said. “The father of one of my teammates was (former head coach) Marv Levy’s game day guard. We played Saturday night and on Sunday morning we all got in the car and drove to the game.
“But it was great (Sunday). I was able to bring the staff and we actually had some fun with it.”