By The Numbers: The Red Wings Point Streak
Diving deeper into the Red Wings' point streak like the nerds we are
It's been a few days since the Red Wings' point streak was snapped by the Buffalo Sabres, and the anger that accompanies a regulation loss has taken longer to go away. The reason those feelings lingered is that it had been nearly a full calendar month between games in which the Red Wings failed to gain a point.
The Wings put together a remarkable stretch where they went 13 games in which they earned a point, finishing with an 8-0-5 record during that span. For those who keep track of such things, that's 21 of a possible 26 points earned. To put things into perspective, playing at that points pace over an entire season would result in 132 points, which would tie for the most ever in a single season.
The streak saw good and bad things happen, and now that it's over and we've had some time to digest it, the question becomes whether this was an indication of how good the Red Wings can be, or whether this was just a fluke and the Red Wings are actually quite bad. The best way to do this is to examine how the Wings fared statistically over this stretch, and see if the process led to good results, or if they got good results in spite of the process.
12 - The number of games decided by 1 goal during the streak. The Wings' 5-1 victory over Arizona on December 3rd represented the only mutli-goal victory. Whether a team is good or lucky by winning a lot of 1-goal games is largely a matter of opinion; some think it's an example of a team having a killer instinct, while others believe that eventually luck runs out and bounces start to work against a team. However, in the 3 years prior to this season, the Wings only had a .477 winning percentage in one-goal games. Maybe the young players have matured and have made this team stronger mentally to win close games. Although, speaking of mentally tough....
8 - The number of games where the Wings surrendered a third period lead. The main reason why the Wings were able to get points in 13 straight games is that they consistently had a lead at some point in the third period. However, in 4 of their 5 OT/SO losses, they gave up the tying goal after the midway point of the third period. While the Wings were able to win 4 of the games where they gave up the lead, it's not the type of behavior that typically results in wins. To date, the Wings have a .625 winning percentage when leading after 2 periods, good for 29th in the NHL.
54.9 - The Wings 5v5 score-adjusted CF%. After the first month of the season, the Wings were 29th in the NHL in possession, leading some to wonder how big the Mike Babcock effect was and whether Jeff Blashill wasn't cut out for the job. However, due to many different reasons, the Wings have been able to turn things around possession-wise, and now sit 11th in score-adjusted CF% at 51.4%. During the point streak, the Wings consistently out-shot and out-possessed their opponents. While their CF% was strong, they also had a 56.8% SCF% (scoring chances) and 58.1% HSCF% (high-danger scoring chances) over those 13 games. The Wings outscored their opponents 28-18 at 5v5, and despite a rocky start to the season, the streak saw the Wings play a type of game that should result in long-term success.
19.5/77.8 - The Wings' PP and PK%, respectively. As good as the Wings were at 5v5, better play from their special teams could have gone a long way into turning some of those losses into wins. The Wings PP was successful in almost 20% of their opportunities, which is actually a higher result than their overall rate this season (18.2%). The PK was another story. The loss of penalty-killer extraordinaire Drew Miller didn't help, but the Wings' performance over the 13 game streak was actually worse than their season average (81.7%). In fairness, they did play 7 of the top 10 PP teams in the NHL during those 13 games (BOS, WSH, BUF, NJ, STL, NSH and MTL), but killing less than 80% of your penalties is less than ideal for a team that has problems defending leads. Overall the Wings were a negative 3 in goal differential on special teams.
4 - Number of players with at least 10 points during the streak. Dylan Larkin and Tomas Tatar led the Wings with 11 points each (sporting identical 7 goal/4 assist stats), while Gustav Nyquist and Justin Abdelkader were a point behind with 10 each (both scoring 5 goals to go with 5 assists). While the latter 3 made some noise on the power play (combining for 7 of the Wings' 8 PPG), Larkin did all of his damage at even strength despite starting to get power play time. He led the team in shots, plus/minus, and PIM. Henrik Zetterberg and Mike Green weren't far behind with 9 and 8 points, respectively.
.920 - Jimmy Howard's save percentage. We've all been waiting for Petr Mrazek to rise up and claim the starting job once and for all, but Howard has refused to yield to the youngster. Howard's stats during the streak were strong: 4-0-2 record, 2.40 GAA and .920 SV%. His 6 games saw predictable SV% splits: .932 at even strength, .826 while shorthanded, and 1.000 while on the power play. Conversely, Mrazek's stats were not bad, but not as good as Jimmy's: 4-0-3 record, 2.67 GAA and .908 SV% (.924 at even strength, .857 while shorthanded, .875 on the power play). Howard's 2 losses came in games where he made over 30 saves through the first 60+ minutes, but his struggles in the shootout and a bad decision in OT against the Devils were blemishes in an otherwise strong month of play.
6 - The number of points the Wings gained on the Atlantic-leading Canadiens. At the end of the day, it's all about the standings, and the Wings' streak (helped by a regulation victory over Montreal) helped the Wings close the gap on the Habs, who looked like they might run away with the division before the All-Star Game.
Ultimately the play of the Red Wings during the point streak should be cause for more optimism than concern. While they played far from perfect, the type of hockey exhibited should see Detroit win more games than they lose. The goaltenders carried the Wings through the first month of the season, but during the streak it was the skaters who were responsible for winning games. Nearing the halfway point of the season, it will be interesting to see whether they continue this upward trend or if they revert back to the team we saw in the first month.