Taking Stock of the Red Wings at the Christmas Break

It's Christmas Eve and the entire NHL is off work for the next three days. It's a holiday miracle! (and also a feature of the CBA that no doubt was thrown in as a concession to the players despite complaints from Jeremy Jacobs about it being a poor excuse to pick a man's pocket every December the 25th before he released a guttural "bah humbug" and probably threw an intern into a furnace).

With last night's win against Buffalo, the Red Wings currently sit at 18-8-9, good for third place in the Atlantic Division just one point back of both Tampa and Montreal (and with a game in hand on Tampa). Despite early season worries and the team's recent struggles, I have to say that I'm happy to be in a place where I can be simultaneously happy with the way the Wings have played to this point while also being disappointed at how many winnable games they've managed to piss up the chimney.

With nothing much better to do for the next few days other than spend time with our families soaking in the Christmas spirit and living in peace with goodwill towards all men*, let's take a look at how the Red Wings stack up to the rest of the league.

*Individual celebration plans may very. Consult your own broken, dysfunctional family traditions for more details


Even after a dismal stretch of scoring just six goals in six games (and just 12 goals in seven), the Wings' offense ranks 12th in the league at goals per game with 2.83. They're tied with Pittsburgh for 10th in the league for shots per game at 30.9. However, if you cut out special teams, they drop to 13th overall for shot production. Combined with a 7.4% shooting success rate at even strength, the offense has been heavily reliant upon getting power play opportunities so far. Just like with the team, the offense is a case where I'm happy with where they are, but want to see improvement.


Defensively, the Wings are 5th overall in the league for goals against per game with just 2.29. They allow just 27.1 shots against per game, which is second only to Minnesota. Cutting it down to just even strength play, they drop to third overall at 26.4 shots against per 60 minutes. Much has been said about them recently in regards to how well they suppress shots, and this is a big reason they're such a defensively sound team.

Overall Possession

Ok, so you figure that having the puck a lot and your opponent not having the puck a lot is a good thing. Turns out it is! Taken as a measure of 5-on-5 Corsi (a comparative count of how many attempts are directed at each team's net while teams are at even and full strength), the Red Wings put up 53.2% of those types of attempts. That ties them with Minnesota for fourth, behind only Chicago, Tampa Bay, and Los Angeles. 53.2 isn't a massively dominant number, but it's a good mark of a good team. Even better, if you only use events which happen when the score is either tied or within one goal, the Wings jump up to second behind only Chicago thanks to owning 54.1% of all Corsi events.

Special Teams

Special teams has been the real difference maker for the Wings so far this season. Currently, Detroit has the 4th-best power play percentage at 24.1. Their 87.9% penalty kill is good for second in the league behind only Chicago. Detroit is currently one of the most-heavily penalized teams in the league so far with 124 times shorthanded (just three teams have had more PKs), but they're also tops in the league for power play opportunities. This makes special teams play all the more important. More of the time in Wings games is spent at special teams, so having highly-ranked PP and PK units becomes more important.

My favorite special teams stat, total special teams goal differential, has the Wings atop the league with a +14.


The Wings started fairly strong in this category and are still in the top half of the league. Total team save percentage is .916, which is 13th overall. Part of their successful penalty kill is driven by their 4th-overall shorthanded save percentage of .907 (shots get harder to stop with fewer defenders). The struggle has come at even strength where the save percentage is .921, just 20th in the league and below the average .923. It's weird to think of goaltending as a weakness (anywhere outside of the shootout) while Jimmy Howard is having a really good year. I think this is because the eye test doesn't match up very well.

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The Players


Henrik Zetterberg: It's funny thinking about how much we've been worried about Zetterberg lately thanks to his long goal-scoring drought. With only seven on the season, we want to see more of that, but he's the team's leading points-getter with 30 in 35 games.

Pavel Datsyuk: Pavs has played just 24 of the team's 35 games so far and is second on the team with 25 points, 13 of which are goals. His transition from a pass-happy setup guy to goal-scorer is several years old by now, but it's always fun watching him shoot. He's got a heavy, accurate wrister and scares the hell out of defenses because it's not like the guy forgot how to thread the needle with passes too.

Tomas Tatar: Third in points and tied for first in goals with 14, Tatar potted two last night to get off of a mini-schneid he (and the whole team) had been on. He's still trying to do too much with the puck sometimes, but he's dogged on the puck and is always looking to gain control of it in the dirty areas.

Gustav Nyquist: Mr. Regression has seen his shooting percentage drop all the way to 16.7% so far this season. He's tied for the team lead in goals with 14 and just one back for the league lead in power play goals. Nyquist is a speedy, agile sniper with pretty good defensive instincts as well.

Niklas Kronwall: The defensive leader for the team, Kronwall has been the rock at the top of the depth chart, taking on tough responsibilities and putting up good points. 5 goals and 13 assist has him 6th overall on the team for scoring.

Jimmy Howard: With his .921 save percentage and his good numbers on helping the team's PK, Howard has kept the Wings in plenty of games while they got their shit together. His abysmal shootout record would be tougher to swallow if the games that have gone to shootouts haven't been some of his best performances of the season.


Jakub Kindl: The guy we wanted traded to start the season has blossomed into the guy we want shot into the sun as a Christmas present. Kindl has shown brief flashes of good play, but his overall campaign so far has been one where he's been given every opportunity in the world to kill it via zone starts and ease of competition and has mostly squandered those gifts. He simply cannot get going consistently.

Jonathan Ericsson: Riggy is a different story, but he's still been disappointing this season. He's a big, physical defenseman who skates well and has a good pass, but it seems indecision has crept back into his game and the extra seconds he wastes looking for the outlet have let to some disastrous results. He's getting tough minutes and assignments, but he's not handling them well at all. I'm hoping that his team-worst PDO of 97.3 comes back up and with it, he jumps back up to acceptably invisible, but we wanted more from him.

Joakim Andersson: A defensive stalwart on the penalty kill, Joker has become the easiest player to sit when they need somebody else in the lineup due to his complete lack of offense. While nobody on the fourth line is going to be much of a scorer, Andersson's zero goals and three assists lags behind two other stonehanded players who have looked much more dangerous.

Jonas Gustavsson: Hey did you remember he's on the team?

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With 47 games left in the season, the Wings are fairly well-positioned and have played both better than many expected and still not as well as we know they can. Their schedule has been easier so far, as their home/road split has been 22-13 so far. Things will get tougher from here on out. We're sure to learn a bunch more about this team in the coming months.

Have a Merry Christmas from all of us at WIIM and LGRW.