Dear Red Wings: Larkin suspended in ‘weird’ first game, Bertuzzi looks healthy

Red Wings open season with intense, exciting, but sloppy, game against Lightning

DETROIT, MICHIGAN - OCTOBER 14: Dylan Larkin #71 of the Detroit Red Wings celebrates his first period goal with teammates while playing the Tampa Bay Lightning at Little Caesars Arena on October 14, 2021 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) (Gregory Shamus, 2021 Getty Images)

Dylan Larkin will not play in Saturday night’s game against the Vancouver Canucks.

Larkin suspended for punch

Larkin was racing Tampa’s Mathieu Joseph for the puck about midway through the second period Thursday night. He cut in front of Joseph to establish position along the boards, and turned his back to Joseph who gave him a shove from behind.

Joseph began to skate away when Larkin got up, wound up, and punched him in the face. Joseph clearly was an unsuspecting recipient of the punch. Larkin was assessed a match penalty for intent to injure.

You can watch the review by the NHL Department of Player Safety here in which they describe their reasoning for the suspension. It’s pretty textbook.

This was a sucker punch, no other way to put it. You can’t do that. It’s so dangerous. If Larkin took such offense to the shove from behind during the foot race, he should have engaged Joseph for a fight. There are better ways to handle this than punching an unsuspecting player.

“Obviously, he’s mad about you know the borderline hit there, but there’s different ways to go about it,” Tampa captain Steven Stamkos said. “You can grab a guy and then punch him in the face. But it’s just an unsuspecting guy, it’s a sucker punch.”

You can’t argue with that.

What Joseph did could have been called boarding. He served two minutes for roughing. Larkin was given a match penalty. It’s marked down as a 10-minute misconduct, and Givani Smith was sent to serve the 5 minutes in the box.

And that’s what happened. Those are the facts. Larkin was tossed from the game and the Red Wings were unable to hold on to two more three-goal leads before finally losing in overtime, 7-6.

Larkin injured?

The Red Wings said Friday that their captain was shook up from the play and would need to be evaluated. Remember, he’s returning from his neck injury that forced him out this past season. We all hope he’s OK -- he at least looked good enough to punch Joseph as hard as he could.

He won’t be playing Saturday night regardless. In addition to the one-game suspension, Larkin will give up $30,500 in pay that will go toward the Players’ Emergency Assistance Fund.

I hope Larkin is not severely injured, clearly. And I hope next time he is roughed up that he doesn’t feel the need to immediately punch someone or fight his own battles. His teammates should jump to his defense. Maybe they would have on Thursday night, but his retaliation was so immediate that no one else even had time to engage Joseph. The whole thing was kind of stupid, honestly.

The Red Wings showed grit in ‘weird’ first game

Meanwhile, the game was extremely entertaining, and so, so sloppy. Coaches hate October hockey for a reason. I am not sure what Tampa was doing as they let the Red Wings play some kind of weird scrimmage against them. Stamkos called the whole thing “weird.” He was right again.

The young Wings showed some very intense grit at times -- I wish they would have let Pat Maroon and Givani Smith fight as they definitely wanted to. And Moritz Seider was giving Victor Hedman a hard time. That was awesome to see. Seider is everything we hoped he would be. He could be something very special for this franchise.

It’s going to be a fun season if the Wings can bring this kind of edge every night. Let’s see how they perform Saturday against a Canucks team with much less fire power than the Lightning. Play some defense.

➡️ Here’s the schedule with the updated local TV listings.

Bertuzzi’s 4 goals

Tyler Bertuzzi, meanwhile, looks healthy and ready. The offseason back surgery served him well. He dazzled the crowd Thursday night with his determination to generate offense. He was awarded with 4 goals, almost 5.

It’s going to be very annoying when the Red Wings go to Montreal and Toronto without him due to his unvaccinated status. They visit the Canadiens on Saturday, Oct. 23 and the Leafs on Saturday, Oct. 30. Then they’re back in Montreal on Nov. 2. That’s three games right away against division rivals -- Original Six rivals -- without the team’s top goal scorer.

Bertuzzi brings so much identity to this roster with his style of play. I like the guy so much as a hockey player. I just wish we didn’t have to keep bringing up this other thing. 🤷‍♂️


About the Author:

Dave Bartkowiak Jr. is the digital managing editor for ClickOnDetroit.