Detroit — The goose egg was finally removed from Gustav Lindstrom’s official statistics last week in Minnesota.
Lindstrom shot from the point, and this time, in Game 69 of his career, the puck found a free space and slipped past the opposing goaltender. Lindstrom finally scored his first NHL goal.
It was a long time coming.
“I’ve had a few shots this year, so it was a good feeling to see that first pitch,” Lindstrom said after practice Tuesday. “I was so happy.”
Lindstrom’s goal was another highlight of what has been a promising season for the 23-year-old defenseman playing his first full season in the NHL. Lindstrom, as he did towards the end of last season, shows that he belongs in the NHL and could become an extremely reliable defenseman.
“The last three years, I was in Grand Rapids for most of the year, then I got called up at the end of the year, and it was easier this year,” Lindstrom said. “When you play more (in the NHL), you feel more comfortable here, you know your teammates and your coaches better, and that helps.”
Lindstrom has 10 points (one goal, nine assists) in 40 games with a plus-2 differential, but he’s not or will continue to make his mark on offense.
It’s on the defensive side of the ice, with the will to play and physical style, that the 6-foot-2, 185-pound Lindstrom thrives.
“If you have a good chance, you take it, but I’m not here to look for the big shots,” Lindstrom said, noting that it’s more important to stop plays, make sure your shortcomings and to make quick plays in neutral. zoned. “I just try to play a simple, fast game. I’ve been the same player my whole career, trying to move the puck fast and play well defensively.”
The Wings coaching staff consistently told Lindstrom to keep working on his skating, believing his increased mobility would be a huge benefit.
Lindstrom’s skating continues to be a work in progress, but there have been improvements. Only the consistency of his overall game was impressive and got Lindstrom into the starting lineup on opening night.
“His height helps him and he adds an element for us with his height,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “He has that on some guys in our roster and that helps. He has that and he has a physique that allows him to be a tough player.
“He’s a good defender but he’s a very good passer, he can pass well, and the area he needs to keep improving is his footwork to become a very good defender. If he can do that, he can solidify even more.”
For a young player, and certainly a defender, gaining the trust of the coaching staff is paramount. Lindstrom seems to be doing that as the season progresses.
“That’s how you play quarterback to quarterback, and he did a good job a year ago,” Blashill said. “He’s not a high-risk player. He’s a guy who can make a good first pass and get you out of your zone. He needs to improve his strength and his feet and (if he makes that improvement), he will continue to build that kind of trust.”
Cheeky Dylan Larkins was unable to complete Tuesday’s practice due to some sort of injury, but Blashill wasn’t sure that would affect his availability for Wednesday’s game against Colorado.
“He’s gone off the ice, so he’s being assessed,” Blashill said afterwards. “I’ll know more (Wednesday). I don’t have more than that, except he couldn’t complete the last (part) of PP (power play drills).”
Attackers Vladislav Namestnikov (undisclosed) and Carter Rowney (lower body) practiced and tended to play against the Avalanche, Blashill said.
Goalkeeper Alex Nedeljkovic hasn’t been as sharp as at the start of the season, but the defense in front of him hasn’t been as good either.
All of that has allowed Nedeljkovic to win just two of his last seven starts (2-4-1) with a 4.14 goals-against average.
Blashill believes that Nedeljkovic, like the rest of the Wings, is trying to take his game to another level and consistently from game to game.
For a goalkeeper, it’s complicated.
“We’re a team that when you’re a goaltender on our team right now, you’re not going to have a bunch of easy nights where you’re protected by a great hockey team,” Blashill said. “We are a team that is preparing to want to be that, and we need our goalkeeper to be an important factor.
“Ned has played well during that streak. We would all like to be better and make sure we play at the highest level possible, and obviously that’s a critical position and it’s hard to win in this league without a great goalkeeper.
“We push our goalkeepers to give us as much as possible, but also recognize that the more we play in defense, the better the chances you get (to be an elite goalkeeper). It’s kind of a back and forth between those two. You have to make sure you play great defensively and we didn’t play well enough. We have to improve in our own defensive game, and with that the goalkeeper will continue to grow.
Avalanche at the Red Wings
► Faceoff : 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Little Caesars Arena, Detroit
► TV/Radio: BSD/97.1 FM
► Outlook: The Avalanche (36-10-4) have the most points (76) and the best winning percentage (.760) in the NHL going into Tuesday’s games, but are coming off a nasty 5-1 loss at Boston. … The Avalanche won the only other game against the Wings this season, 7-3, December 10. …VS Nazem Kadri is having a breakthrough season (42 assists, 63 points) for Colorado.