Detroit Red Wings Analysis: The Red Wings After (Almost) 30 Games

Rich Lam

We're doing this a day early because we have an actual break in the schedule

We're not quite at the 30-game mark, a critical junction as teams start to separate themselves from the pack before the final push for the playoffs.

The Red Wings continue their roller-coaster of a season, refusing to go on a winning streak so we can breathe but not lying down and dying so we can be put out of misery. A 14-10-5 record is good for 6th in the conference, although the 2 teams behind them both have one game in hand. Despite giving up 9 of 10 points to the Blue Jackets, the Wings sit 5 points clear of both them and the Predators while having played the same amount of games.

I feel like we could just copy the following statement for each of these posts: the Red Wings have proven that on any given night they can play with the best teams in the league, or they could stink it up. They're in the middle of a fight with literally the rest of the West for the final 6 playoff spots, and this race is going to come down to the final week of the season. I'd make a comment about the Wings getting healthier but, come on.....like that's going to happen.

So have the Wings fared since our last analysis? Here's the rundown:

  • March 3rd: Chicago 2 - Red Wings 1 (SO)
  • March 5th: Colorado 1 - Detroit 2
  • March 7th: Edmonton 0 - Detroit 3
  • March 9th: Detroit 0 - Columbus 3
  • March 10th: Columbus 3 - Detroit 2 (SO)
  • March 13th: Detroit 2 - Calgary 5
  • March 15th: Detroit 3 - Edmonton 2 (OT)
  • March 16th: Detroit 5 - Vancouver 2
Three strong performances followed by three crushing losses to terrible teams and then a comeback against the Oilers and another rout of the Canucks. Sounds like every stretch of games ever this season, eh?

Three phases time:

Offense:

The Wings are currently 17th in GF/G in the NHL, behind offensive juggernauts like the Flames and Islanders. Looking at it 5-on-5, where 80% of the game is played, that ranking jumps up to 8th at 1.16. Only scoring 3+ goals in a game three times in the last eight games will drop the overall average, but the Wings have been able to put up 8 in their last 2.

The return of Valtteri Filppula has been a boost to the offense as he has picked up points in each of the 3 games since his return. That has also benefited Henrik Zetterberg, who saw a lengthy goal-less streak snapped by potting two in Vancouver, but Damien Brunner continues to struggle to find the back of the net. Also breaking out of a slump was Pavel Datsyuk, who scored a gorgeous OT winner in Edmonton before using Justin Abdelkader as target practice in Vancouver.

Depth scoring continues to be an issue. Of forwards not playing regularly in the top-6, Tomas Tatar is the goal-leader with 4, and he's now down in Grand Rapids (stop crying). If there's a large issue facing this team 5-on-5, it's their inability to score.

Defense:

In a weird turn of events, the thing that was supposed to be the biggest issue for the Red Wings has not been too bad.

Their overall GA/G is 2.52, good for 11th in the league. A large part of that has been the play of Jimmy Howard, who has been nothing short of outstanding his last 9 starts, stopping 250 of the last 263 shots he's faced, good for a .951 SV%. He hasn't allowed 3 goals in a game since the first meeting with Vancouver, but when your team scores 8 your goaltending performance tends to get overlooked.

The issue hasn't been so much how many goals are scored against the Wings, but when. The Wings are not particularly strong in any one period defensively, but they did have a 5-game stretch of not giving up any goals in the first or second period and still managed to lose 2 of those games. The Wings currently have a losing record when leading after the first period, and we've talked at length about their inability to hold a 2-0 lead in games.

The Wings' defense hasn't been great and it hasn't been terrible, but it has been inconsistent, something we probably should have anticipated at the beginning of the season.

Special Teams:

The Red Wings' bugaboo continues to be their special teams at both ends of the ice. Despite finally scoring a road PP goal against Calgary, their overall PP is still in the bottom third of the NHL at 15.8%. At home it is stellar, converting on 22% of their opportunities while scoring the most home PP goals in the league. They have 3 road PPG now, but their success rate is still a woeful 6.5%.

The penalty kill is a slightly better success story, in that having the stomach flu is preferable to having malaria. Detroit was finally able to crack the 80% conversion rate thanks to only giving up 3 PPG against in their last 27 opportunities. Again, this is a case of home being better than road, where their splits are 84.8%/75.0%. They do have 2 SHG, but special teams has resulted in a net loss of minus-5 goals overall.

Conclusion:

If there's anything we have learned this year, it's that we can't expect one team to show up over the other this season. Inconsistency has been the hallmark of this year's squad, whether that be due to injuries, slumps, or just the regular ups-and-downs of a condensed season. There's more positives than negatives to be seen, and trending is up for the most part across the board, especially with regards to the special teams. Unfortunately, the hard part of the schedule is coming up with a couple more West Coast road trips and several games against the better teams in the conference on the horizon. After 35 games, we should know whether this team is a playoff team or not.

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