The Red Wings started the season right with a 2-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres which wasn't pretty, forcing them to kill off seven penalties on their way to what could be considered the closest to lopsided you can get in a one-goal game. They followed that up two days later with an overtime win in Carolina that they stole from the home team with some late heroics. The next day, the Wings suffered their first setback as they were thoroughly outplayed by the better-rested Bruins in Boston. Unfortunately, with four full days of rest after that game, the Wings fell flat against the Phoenix Coyotes on Thursday night, which sparked some roster moves prior to Saturday's special teams victory over the Flyers.
With six out of a possible ten points in hand, the Wings currently pace for a 98-point season, which would almost certainly get them into the postseason. Of course, one more loss changes that pace to 66 points and one more win makes it a 132-point pace, so we should be a little careful about what paces tell us this early. Let's look at the offense, defense, and special teams so far.
|Per Game||League Rank|
- The Shots For rank is just middle-third so far, but that 31.6 would have been sixth-best in the league last season, so the rankings are skewed leaguewide for some teams which have taken advantage of bad competition. You want to see more, but they're doing well there.
- Thanks to Saturday's performance, Detroit's three most-important players are all point-per-game guys right now. Zetterberg leads the way with six points, but Datsyuk and Kronwall aren't far behind at 5 apiece.
- The Wings' secondary scoring hasn't started yet, especially Alfredsson, Franzen, and Cleary. One goal in five games is a 16-goal pace and all three of those players are behind that so far with two of them being the kind of players where 16 goals should be considered a bad season.
- Overall scoring hasn't been good enough. 2.60 is a middling goal output and, even worse is how badly the goals are spread out. about 40% of their scoring came against Philadelphia (20% of their season so far). Other than that, they've only hit three goals in one other game. You're not going to win a lot of games if you put up two goals or fewer in 60% of your games.
Five games is still a ridiculously small sample to look at, but there are reasons to worry. Secondary scoring will come along, but the team needs it to be consistent. Datsyuk and Zetterberg are going to face teams which can shut them down and when they do, other clubs need to pick up the slack. The even-strength goals for should improve and with it, so should the team.
|Per Game||League Rank|
- The top pairing of Niklas Kronwall and Jonathan Ericsson has been very good in their own end so far. They're doing well to handle other teams' top players and to move the puck up ice quickly.
- Danny DeKesyer and Jakub Kindl are coming along nicely and playing more good than bad so far as well. Even Kyle Quincey has played well in his own zone (although not particularly overall)
- Compared to full-season stats, allowing 30.8 shots against per game will put a team solidly in the bottom third of the league. That number has got to come down. Performances like this lead to more penalties (Detroit is in the top half for most penalties taken so far) and more penalties also leads to more shots against. It's a vicious cycle.
- Not to call out the one guy specifically, but if you look at all the guys I listed in the good category, there's one standout. Brendan Smith was benched for the game against Philadelphia and his replacement Brian Lashoff played well in his place. The kid needs to be more consistent on the ice, even if that means being a little less flashy.
Just like I think the offense is better than the small sample, I think the same on defense, just probably not to the same degree. I do expect improvements, but I'm not sure how much. They need to play more consistently and I think they will. Truthfully, I think what will drive that will be the Wings' secondary scoring waking up. It's much easier to not give up goals when your team has the puck more often and so far Detroit is losing the possession battle.
- The PK has played well this season, although that's far too many times to go shorthanded per game. They haven't added much shorthanded scoring threat, but they continue to employ guys who are very good at clogging up the good lanes and minimizing out-manned situations in dangerous areas of the ice.
- They haven't given up a shorthanded goal yet!
- I'm not sure how many different ways I can say stop taking so many penalties.
- The 2nd power play unit has been mostly atrocious so far and there's far too much talent on this squad to have a power play effectiveness under 20% this season.
Even with the low percentage on the PP, I think the man advantage unit has played decently well and have been stoned by some very good goaltending (especially against Buffalo). I would hope that the PK stays the same or gets better, but they haven't been that good for a full season in a while. I think they can pull off decent and in doing that should win the overall special teams battle on the season, but the power play has to consistently perform.
|2013 - Jimmy Howard||5||301||3||2||12||2.39||153||141||.922||0|
- A .922 save percentage is right where we'll hope Jimmy is on the season. This should give us a chance to win quite a few games.
- Mostly solid efforts with positioning and rebound control. He's also been much quicker to go post-to-post than he was last year.
- Jimmy Howard can't play every game.
- There have been a few screwups in goal so far this year. The lone Buffalo goal was a Jimmy Howard mistake, as was the first Carolina goal (although that mistake wasn't his alone). Rebound control in Philadelphia wasn't great either.
As long as Jimmy Howard can hack it, the Wings should be fine, but they'll need to make sure they have the backup situation all figured out soon.
The Week Ahead
Detroit has five games in the next seven days (hello, backup goaltending situation concern)
Monday the 14th @ Boston (1pm)
Tuesday the 15th v. Columbus (8pm)
Thursday the 18th @ Colorado (9pm)
Saturday the 20th @ Phoenix (9pm)
Monday the 21st v. San Jose (7:30pm)
The Boston rematch should be interesting, especially as it's a day game thanks to some stupid tradition. I expect Gustavsson to get his first start on Tuesday in the game that got moved back to accommodate the Wings' travel and the Tigers playoff schedule. Colorado is playing well this season and should be a good test of their poise, experience, and of the plexiglass in the Pepsi Center. We'll finish the season series against Phoenix before Halloween and then get to forget about them forever. San Jose scares me.
Man, did the Wings ever need that win against Philly or what? Just imagine what this post would have sounded like if they had lost that game.