'Simple' is good: Red Wings rookie Gustav Lindstrom adjusting well to NHL game

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Detroit – Gustav Lindstrom sure looks like he belongs.

The NHL can be a tough, cruel place for a rookie defenseman. But Lindstrom, in his 14-games since being promoted from Grand Rapids, has looked like the steady, calm player he was advertised to be when he was drafted in the second round in 2017.

Gustav Lindstrom

To describe Lindstrom, coach Jeff Blashill has often used the word “simple,” though that’s hardly any sort of criticism.

“I don’t want to downplay the word ‘simple’ ... I would say he just tends to make the right play,” Blashill said. “The right play might be the simple play and the right play might be a cross-seam play. He just makes the right play that’s available and manages risk-reward real well.

“He knows when he has an opportunity to make a tape-to-tape pass and he knows when he’s got to live another day. That’s something in hockey that’s extremely important. He’s good defensively, he has a good brain on him.”

Lindstrom, 21, has one assist in his 14 games, with a minus-7 rating. Another aspect of his performance that has stood out in his physical play.

Lindstrom doesn’t mind hitting, which is becoming a rarer trait among some younger defensemen.

“He’s got a lot of completeness to his game,” Blashill said. “He’s got that physicality that comes from competitiveness.”

More: Red Wings beat Blackhawks, put on good show for lively home crowd

For his part, Lindstrom has found playing in the NHL somewhat easier to adapt to than some other levels of hockey.

That's actually a common theme among many young, talented players.

“The top players here are so good,” Lindstrom said. “They’re stronger to play in the corners against. It’s easier to hit someone in (the American League) and take the puck. You can’t really do that here. (Things) are more structured with the puck. That is better here than it is down in GR. It’s more like you know what is going to happen a little bit more here.

“With the puck, it’s like you almost know before you get the puck where you have your teammates. It’s almost easier with the puck here.”

But there is a down side to being a defensive defenseman in the NHL.

“It’s so much harder to play against the players here in the defensive zone,” Lindstrom said. “(But) I like it when it’s structured out there. Sometimes in the American League it feels like there are players everywhere.”

Lindstrom likely will return to Grand Rapids once the Wings’ season is over – if the Griffins reach the AHL playoffs.

The Griffins are sitting in a playoff spot currently, although the tightly-contested race changes daily.

Lindstrom is keeping daily tabs on his former teammates and hopes the Griffins reach the playoffs – but is getting increasingly comfortable with life in the NHL.

“I’m beginning to know the guys better," he said. "It helps being here a couple weeks now.”

Scoring depth

With the addition of Sam Gagner and Dmytro Timoshev at the trade deadline, and Filip Zadina returning to the lineup soon – not to mention getting Anthony Mantha back several weeks ago – the Wings finally have some scoring depth.

Once Zadina returns, Blashill will have the chance to spread out three forward lines that have the capability to produce offense. That is something that's been rare for much of this season.

"You do start to add some depth of scoring in the lineup by having Gagner, by having Zadina," Blashill said. "We just haven't been able to get that. We can't be a one-line team. We're going to need that depth of scoring."

Ice chips 

The Red Wings opened their locker room to media after Sunday’s game, per usual, unlike some NHL teams over the weekend in response to the coronavirus.

As a precautionary measure, some teams are bringing players and the head coach to a central interviewing area.

The league could, at some point, ask all teams to restrict locker room exposure for the media, because of the threat of the virus.

... Dylan Larkin's assist Friday was his 50th point of the season. It was Larkin's third consecutive season with at least 50 points. "Since 1994-95, only eight Red Wings have put up three-consecutive seasons of at least 50 points. The seven to do it before Larkin were Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, Nicklas Lidstrom, Brendan Shanahan, Sergei Fedorov, Brett Hull and Steve Yzerman.

... Tampa was without star forward Steven Stamkos (mid-body) and defenseman Victor Hedman (lower body) Sunday.


Twitter: @tkulfan