Analysis: Detroit Red Wings After 15 Games

Gregory Shamus

After 15 games, the only thing consistent about the Red Wings is their inconsistency

We are officially over a quarter into this condensed NHL schedule, and our perceptions of the Red Wings are about the same as they were at the 5 and 10-game marks. The Wings' 5-4-1 record after 10 games has turned into a 7-6-2 mark after 15, Their position within the division hasn't changed either, as the Wings are looking up at three teams in the Central. Their -4 goal differential hasn't helped as they find themselves currently outside the top-8 in the Western Conference.

J.J. noted in his 10-game analysis that 20 games is really where you start to form concrete judgments about the team, and decisions regarding the roster should be made at that time. However, the last 5 games has seen the emergence of Tomas Tatar as an offensive threat, Jakub Kindl's slow development into a solid defenseman, and Jonathan Ericsson's continued improvement.

Unfortunately, injuries are still an issue as Johan Franzen and Todd Bertuzzi joined Darren Helm on the injured list, and it doesn't look like any of them are coming back soon.

Looking back at the last 5 games, we see a similar set of results that we saw after 5 and 10 games:

  • Feb 9th - Detroit 2 - Edmonton 1
  • Feb 10th - Detroit 3 - Los Angeles 2
  • Feb 13th - St. Louis 4 - Detroit 3 (OT)
  • Feb 15th - Anaheim 5 - Detroit 2
  • Feb 17th - Minnesota 3 - Detroit 2
So that's a set of back-to-back wins followed by 3 straight losses, all of which involved the Wings having leads as late as the second period. Looking at the 5 games as a whole, only the Edmonton game could really be called a "complete" effort as the Wings were out-played by the Kings but Jimmy Howard stole 2 points.

Let's break this down a little further.

Offense

The Wings have fallen to 18th in GF/G, going down from 2.70 after 10 games to 2.60 after 15. Looking back at the last 5-game stretch, one thing that stands out is the fact the Wings did not score more than 3 goals in any of them. Despite what people may believe, this team is missing Franzen and Bertuzzi, whose size creates opportunities for linemates.

The Wings are still outscoring their opponents at ES by 3 goals, but their GF/GA ratio has dropped to 1.14, which is 13th in the league. Their shooting percentage continues to hover around the 9% mark, which is a shade under league average but not so low that we should expect a huge improvement.

The biggest single issue facing the Wings continues to be depth scoring. There are no players not named Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg or Damien Brunner who have more than three goals, and if those three are playing on the same line then it's on the rest of the team to step up and start contributing.

Defense

Overall, Detroit's team GAA hasn't changed that much (2.90 after 10 games vs 2.93 after 15), but giving up 12 goals in 3 games isn't going to help the numbers. While the Wings haven't looked as porous as the first game suggested, there is still a lot of room for improvement.

5-on-5, the Wings are 10th best in GA/G at 1.46, and this is an encouraging sign since most of the game is played at even strength. However, as we'll see in a bit, once special teams become involved things get pretty dicey.

One area where the Wings can get better is in allowing shots against. Currently Detroit sits 19th overall, allowing just over 29 shots a game. The Wings have dropped their opponents' SH% down to a shade under 10%, which again is right around league average.

Special Teams

Here comes the dumpster fire. The special teams as a whole has been the Wings' biggest weakness since game 1, and that trend shows no signs of reversing.

The PK continues to hover in the bottom third of the league, coming in at 75.4%. Playing the league's #1 power play in St. Louis 4 times has certainly not helped things (considering that's literally 25% of their games to date), but Detroit is tied with Washington for most goals allowed while shorthanded at 16, 14 of which are only down 1 man (tied with Anaheim and Carolina for league-worst).

The PP isn't any better. A current success rate of 13.9% puts them 25th in the league, and they are still searching for their first road PPG of the season. Couple that with the most SHG against allowed, and the power play is only outscoring the opponent by 7 on the season.

Overall the special teams have resulted in a minus-9 goal differential on the season. Unless these numbers improve, the Wings are going to continue to struggle to earn points.

Conclusion

The picture is becoming clearer with each 5-game segment that this team is exactly what many predicted: a middle-of-the-pack team that will dominate at times and struggle at others. That they've been unable to go on a prolonged winning streak suggests that we should just prepare ourselves for the fact that this team could either get beat up on a good team or blow a lead and lose to a bad one.

The team's leaders are setting the pace, but now it's up to the depth players to step up and contribute offensively. On the back-end, the defense needs to play a more consistent game, and now allow any of the back-breaking mistakes we've seen end up in the Wings' net. In goal, Jimmy Howard has been very good at times and just ok at others, but I chalk a lot of this up to the fact he's played 12 and 3/4 of the first 15 games, and he's going to need more time off.

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