The Wings may be 7-2-2, but their struggles on defense have some worried.
Before the season, Wings fans biggest concern was goaltending with the Chris Osgood and Ty Conklin duo. Even so, it was a matter of wondering if they could perform decent against 20-25 shots per game. Unfortunately, the Wings' defense has allowed more shots this season than we're used to seeing. Last season, Detroit average 23.5 in shots allowed. This season through 11 games? 29.5. Even more disturbing is that Detroit has given up 3.36 goals per game, which is good for 24th in the league. That stat is considerably higher than the 2.18 goals allowed per game last season.
Whether you want to attribute that to Ozzie/Conklin or to the defense is up to you. I will be the first to admit that our goaltending is not spectacular, but they could get the job done with such a low number of faced shots. As the number of shots allowed per game inches up, my confidence starts to fade.
As Dave Dye at The Detroit News noted, Detroit has given up their fair share of goals in the past two weeks.
They've allowed four or more goals in five of their last eight games. In 82 games last season, they gave up four-or-more only 16 times.
Detroit's defense also hasn't been helped by the number of penalties taken by the Wings during the last five games, all but one of which were on the road.
"You've got to be way better defensively than we've been," coach Mike Babcock said. "Most nights it's been because we got ourselves in penalty-kill trouble (38 minor penalties in a five-game stretch).You just can't survive with that."
The Wings are ranked 22nd in the NHL on the penalty kill with a 77.4% success rate, which means Detroit has allowed 12 goals in 53 attempts on their opponent's power play.
So why are we still winning with defense struggling like it is and that usually being the cornerstone of our team? You could look at the shots on goal. Last year, the Wings had 34.4 per game and this season the team has improved to 38.2 per game shot total. Their goals scored per game has also increased to 3.54, second best in the league. They team only scored 3.07 goals per game last year.
The player looking the worst on defense is Brett Lebda with a team-high -9 rating. Yes, he has looked awful but even Nicklas Lidstrom has looked less than his perfect self. Can the team's defense be attributed to new assistant head coach Brad McCrimmon? Who knows, but it will be interesting to see how the defense plays out over the first half of the season.