detroit — Oskar Sundqvist has had a positive impact with the Red Wings since arriving from St. Louis in the trade for Nick Leddy at the trade deadline.
Sundqvist has been an impressive net-front presence, a 6-foot-3, 208-pound forward who can shut down opponents and annoy them with his grit and physical play.
But there’s also the Stanley Cup pedigree; the fact Sundqvist, 28, was a key part of the St. Louis Blues Stanley Cup-winning team in 2019, as well as in Pittsburgh in 2016.
There was a sequence last weekend that typified the mindset of a champion, which coach Jeff Blashill hopes the Wings’ young players gleaned from Sundqvist.
as the Wings were playing Pittsburgh, Sundqvist took a direct one-timer off the skate from Penguins star Evgeni Malkin. The pain was obvious, but Sundqvist, despite the Wings trailing 6-2 and only about six minutes left in the game, stood back up and got into position to block another shot.
As Sundqvist ended is shift, I have headed directly into the locker room. He was back on the ice shortly after. The example Sundqvist provided was immense and powerful.
And Sunday, Sundqivst scored the Wings’ first goal in the victory over New Jersey.
“What’s impressive is a guy like Sundqvist blocks shots, is clearly hurt and limps to the bench, and he’s won Cups, and he didn’t feel great (Sunday), he was still in pain,” Blashill said. “(But) he puts his gear on and makes sure he goes out and plays really good, hard hockey. That’s the type of example that a number of our young guys need, of what it takes to be a good pro.
“Ultimately what we’d like to do here is go on playoff runs, and if you’re going to do that, you’re going to have to learn how to play when you don’t feel your best.”
Sundqvist has made a seamless transition into the Wings’ lineup, blending his strengths perfectly into what the Wings were missing.
“He’s a huge physical presence,” goalie Alex Nedeljkovic said. “You notice him every time on the ice. He does a good job going to the net, and in our own end, he’s had a few big blocks. It’s great having him.”
But Blashill adds the value of showing what it takes to be successful, both from an individual and team standpoint. Sundqvist has shown, in a variety of plays already, the little extra that is needed to become a successful team.
“A guy like that, that can lead by example, that can show young guys: ‘I don’t care if you feel your best or you don’t feel your best, you’ve got to find ways to be successful,’ Blashill said. “Because if you ever want to win in the end, that’s what you’ve got to do, and it’s imperative to have and he’s been great.”
Footnote to history
The Wings happened to be Tuesday’s opponent in Toronto, when Maple Leafs forward Austin Matthews made a slice of history.
The two goals Matthews scored gave him a league-leading 60 for the season, as the Leafs went on to a 3-0 victory. Matthews became the first player since Tampa Bay’s Steven Stammos reached 60 goals in 2011-12.
Possibly even more impressively, Matthews became the first Maple Leaf in the storied 104-year history of the organization to score 60 goals in a season.
“When you become the first Toronto Maple Leaf to score 60 goals, given the level of players they’ve had, the history of great, great players, it’s amazing,” Blashill said. “It’s a great, great achievement. Auston’s taken his game to another level. He’s been a really good player since the day he stepped into the league, but he’s really taken it to another level on both sides of the puck.”
Offense has increased around the NHL this season, and there’s been quite a few career-highs being posted around the league. But getting to the mythical number of 60 remains hard to do, and unique.
“There’s a lot of guys that have produced some pretty high numbers, but 60 is one of those numbers that you never know when you’re going to see it done again,” Blashill said. “It’s unfortunate for us that we had to be part of 59 and 60, but it’s a hell of an achievement for him.”
Up to the challenge
rookie defenseman Moritz Seider was often used against Matthews, and more than held his own.
Seider played a game-high 25 minutes 29 seconds, most of it against the Matthews line, and ended the game even, with three hits and six shots on net.
“We tried to get him out there against Matthews as much as we could,” Blashill said. “He’s really continued to grow as a young player. He did a good job today of managing his game.”
forward Sam Gagner saw it as a typical Seider game from the beginning of the season.
“He’s an unbelievable player, he does it on both sides of the puck,” Gagner said. “He’s running our power play, playing big minutes defensively, penalty kill, you name it, he does it all.
“And, already at his age, he’s a leader for us. You see he has that ability to read a room and understand what’s needed from an off-ice perspective as well. He’s going to continue to build.”
Blashill confirmed after Tuesday’s game forward adam erne (undisclosed injury) and defenseman Marc Staal (COVID protocol), who both didn’t play in Toronto, will not be available for Friday’s season finale in New Jersey (there is a slight chance Erne could play).
Erne and Staal join forwards Dylan Larkin (core surgery), Robby Fabbri (knee), and Philip Zadina (appendix).
…There will be a Red Wings’ prospect winning the Swedish Hockey League title this season whichever team wins. Defenseman Albert Johanson (2019 second round) has been one of Farjestad’s best players, while forward Pontus Andreasson (an undrafted free agent expected to sign after the playoffs) has been an offensive leader for Lulea.
Andreasson will be in training camp in September, while a decision on Johansson will be made soon.