It has always been easy to overlook Luke Glendening.
A walk-on to the Michigan hockey team and an undrafted free agent after four outstanding seasons at U-M, Glendening has always been the other guy.
Even in his hometown of Grand Rapids.
“I go back to GR,” Glendening said Monday afternoon, “and I’m still Joe’s brother.”
That would be Joe (The Show) Glendening, the record-setting running back at East Grand Rapids, who is two years younger than Luke.
But perception on that may be changing, especially after what Glendening pulled off Sunday night in helping the Red Wings defeat Tampa Bay, 2-0, in Game 3 of the opening series in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
After Lightning center Tyler Johnson torched the Red Wings for two goals and four assists in Tampa Bay’s opening two victories, Glendening matched up with Johnson and held him without a shot.
In fact, Johnson and linemates Nikita Kucherov and Alex Killorn, who accounted for seven goals and eight assists in the first two games, did not manage a single shot against Glendening and his new linemates Justin Abdelkader and Riley Sheahan.
It wasn’t exactly like holding Golden State’s Steph Curry without a shot in an NBA game, but it was a significant achievement and one the Wings would be thrilled with if they can duplicate tonight in Game 4 at Joe Louis Arena.
“It’s hard,” Glendening said. “They’ve got fast guys on their team, but it’s just finishing checks when you have the opportunity. The more you can play in their zone the more they don’t have the puck, which is obviously good.”
Glendening, who also helped East Grand Rapids win the 2006 Division 3 football state championship, is much more than just a guy who can give and take hits.
He is always aware of much more than the guy he is trying to shut down.
“There are very few players that are extremely hard (tough) and extremely smart,” Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. “Usually as a coach you get hard, hard players and they’re not always the smartest hockey players. Or you get real smart, cerebral players that aren’t always the hardest guys. He’s got a rare combination of being hard and smart.
“It’s extremely rare so he can be physical, he can be hard on the forecheck, he can be in motion and on pucks, but always in good position and it’s a hard, hard thing to do.”
Glendening, who is 5-feet-11 and 194 pounds, was terrific in his matchup against Johnson (5-8, 165), who led the NHL with 13 goals in last season’s playoffs and tied for the lead with 23 points.
In fact, Johnson, who also was undrafted, and Glendening have more in common than you might think. Both appeared to be longshots to even make an NHL team, much less star in the playoffs.
“We’re cut from the same mold a little bit, I guess,” Glendening said. “I think he’s played with a chip on his shoulder. He’s been extremely successful. He’s got great speed, great vision. To be an undersized guy, be undrafted and to do the things that he’s done its special.”
While Glendening certainly doesn’t have the same type of speed as Johnson, he has some attributes that make him special in his way.
“He’s also got an inner drive and a competitiveness that are off the charts,” Blashill said. “That’s why he’s sitting here today.”
That inner drive was apparent when he played football at East Grand Rapids.
“The physicality, just the beating that you take in football gets you ready for hockey,” Glendening said. “Everything in life prepares you for something else, and I think that definitely helped.”
It has helped him make a life for himself as an integral member of the Red Wings.
“Just trying to make a way and grinding through,” he said, trying to downplay his contributions. “I’ve been fortunate, there’s little joys in the journey as you go through and I’ve been blessed with some unique opportunities to compete and I’m happy to be here.”
He’s even happy to be known as Joe The Show’s brother.
“It’s always been fun having a brother that’s just two years younger,” Glendening said. “He was a special athlete to say the least.”
Kind of like his big brother.