Throughout this season, we’ve written frequently about Detroit’s desire to land a right-handed shooting defenseman that could move the puck and man the power play.
It took a while, but the Wings finally found their guy.
Marek Zidlicky, who came over from New Jersey at the deadline for a conditional third-round pick, has seven points in his first seven games as a Red Wing, a streak punctuated by Sunday’s one-goal, two-assist effort in a 5-1 win over the Penguins.
It’s that right-handed shot that caught head coach Mike Babcock’s eye.
“He has a bomb — he can flat out shoot the puck,” Babcock said, per the Detroit News. “To the point where he has to shoot it more on the power play, and he doesn’t mind crosschecking the odd guy.
“He can move the puck, too.”
Through seven games, Babcock has foreshadowed how Zidlicky will likely be utilized for the remainder of the regular season and playoffs. The 38-year-old is hovering around 18 minutes per night, often on a pairing with Brendan Smith, but has already emerged as a fixture on the Red Wings’ power play, averaging 2:46 TOI per game (the only other blueliner to get more is Niklas Kronwall.)
Not coincidentally, Detroit’s power play has scored at least once in every game with Zidlicky in the lineup, going 7-for-25 (28 percent).
“He’s a really good defenseman,” Detroit captain Henrik Zetterberg explained, per the Free Press. “He always makes the right play, and he’s so calm. It’s fun to play with him.”
What will be interesting to monitor moving forward, though, is if Zidlicky can maintain a solid clip after a good start — something last year’s trade deadline pickup, David Legwand, struggled to do. Legwand scored nine points in his first 14 games as a Red Wing after coming over from Nashville in early March, but struggled down the stretch: just two points in his final seven games, and none in Detroit’s five-game opening-round playoff loss to Boston.