The Red Wings’ Third Line Could be an X-Factor This Season

After being a surprise name of Detroit’s 23-man roster last week, 21-year-old Elmer Soderblom has made waves in his first week in the NHL. In the days leading up to the Red Wings’ home opener, Derek Lalonde assembled a line of Elmer Soderblom (6’8 ), Michael Rasmussen (6’6), and Oskar Sundqvist (6’3), with the goal in mind of having a strong puck possession line that can cause havoc in the offensive zone. The trio dubbed “The Redwood Line” has done just that through the Red Wings’ first two games.

In the team’s 3-0 win against Montreal last Friday, the Red Wings’ third line was arguably their most effective. From Natural Stat Trick, in the 7:04 of even-strength ice time together, Soderblom-Rasmussen-Sundqvist had a CF% of 75% and an xGF% of 97%, both of which ranked first on Detroit. In their first shift, the trio dominated the Canadiens’ defenders off the cycle, controlling the puck for over 40 seconds.

Just over two minutes into the third period, Elmer Soderblom would score his first NHL goal (and the game-winning goal) with his parents in the crowd.

Sundqvist went to work in the near-side corner of the Canadiens’ zone, recovering the puck and finding Michael Rasmussen, who powered his way to the front of Jake Allen, who made the initial save but failed to stop Soderblom’s follow-up.

While Soderblom’s story-book debut may have received a large portion of the fanfare, Michael Rasmussen may have had his best game in a Red Wings jersey. After assisting on Soderblom’s first career goal, Rasmussen added a goal and another assist while the Canadiens had their net empty. From JFresh, in ten minutes of even-strength ice time, Michael Rasmussen had an xGF% of 99% and held Montreal to only one shot on goal.

In game two of a back-to-back in New Jersey, the trio was rewarded and started the game for the Red Wings. In a similar fashion to their first shift in game one, with a little over five minutes left in the opening period, the Red Wings’ third line caused problems for the Devils in the corners, moving the puck up to the point and recovering rebounds for nearly a minute before play was whistled down for an interference penalty on Brendan Smith.

Aside from outscoring New Jersey, Detroit was outplayed for the most part and looked like the team that played the night before. The Red Wings’ third line was able to limit New Jersey’s opportunities while also creating their own, finishing with a CF% of 52%. As the game progressed, Soderblom’s skill was on display, even putting the puck through his legs around Devils’ defenseman Dougie Hamilton and driving to the net before being denied.

While the line of Soderblom-Rasmussen-Sundqvist may not always make the scoresheet at the end of the game, their mix of strength, tenacity, and skill can cause opponents to chase the puck for long stretches in their end, keeping the puck out of Detroit’s zone. Whether it leads to a Detroit powerplay or a tired five skaters for the opposition, the third line has been a vital part of the Red Wings’ early success. With an average size of 6’6 and 230 pounds, it is likely the largest forward line in NHL history. If the trio can continue this level of play, opposing teams will need to shift their focus, opening Detroit’s top six for potentially more offense.

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