Who are the Detroit Red Wings going to be this season? The team that had no energy or motivation for most of the game against the Phoenix Coyotes, or the team that skated circles around the Philadelphia Flyers? Honestly, I think last week proved we will be seeing both sides of the spectrum for most of the season.
Can’t say I’m surprised considering I have correctly picked the winner in the first five games the Wings have played so far. But, I’m not feeling too confident that my prediction streak will make it past this week with four tough opponents on the schedule.
Before we can get to the preview and prediction section, we have to review the week that was. Like most Detroit fans, I was channel flipping between the Red Wings and Tigers so I have a rather limited plus/minus report for this week.
+ Mike Babcock isn’t afraid to mix lines
Having depth is great when the head coach knows how to use it. Babcock pulled all the right strings after being frustrated with the performance against Phoenix. Mikael Samuelsson, Brendan Smith, and Corey Emmerton are taken out. Luke Glendening, Brian Lashoff, and Jordin Tootoo are rotated in. Not only that, Babcock went a step further and changed the lines. Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg welcomed Todd Bertuzzi to the first line; while Justin Abdelkader was moved down to spark the second line with Stephen Weiss and Johan Franzen. Meaning Daniel Alfredsson got dropped to the third line with Joakim Andersson and Daniel Cleary.
Sometimes changes mess up the chemistry other times it can ignite a team. My opinion on this is the same as Abdelkader’s as he talked with the media before the Flyers game. “Hopefully we can get playing here, get everyone going. Sometimes it’s good to change things up.”
+ Power play finally scores
Not much to say here except the special teams unit finally put the puck in the back net on a man advantage thanks to Todd Bertuzzi. The Wings are the last team in the NHL to score on the power play this season. This should probably be in the minus section, but I’m feeling a bit sarcastic today. And they were putting a clinic on against Philadelphia with three of them so that’s why it’s here instead.
As mentioned in the opening, which team do the Red Wings want to be? After five games and a 3-2-0 record, nobody knows yet. Will they be the team everyone predicted to easily qualify for the playoffs in their new Eastern Conference home, or will it be the team that had to win the last game of the season to grab a 7th seed in the Western Conference? I hope they show us promising signs soon because I can’t handle any more roller coaster teams in Detroit anymore. The Lions and Pistons already have that covered for the winter months.
– Losing faceoffs cleanly
Faceoffs won: Coyotes 46 – Red Wings 24. That tells the whole story right there. This needs to get fixed. A goal and a goalpost early into the Phoenix game were created by faceoffs lost poorly in the Wings’ zone. The outcome of the game would have looked a lot different if they had won a few of those faceoffs.
+/- Rating = Even
For back-to-back weeks I will give the Wings an even rating. It’s been that kind of season so far; nothing great but nothing terrible. Honorable mention for a plus goes to Pavel Datsyuk on an outstanding week: 1 goal, 2 assists, and a handful of datsyukian dekes. But it wasn’t enough to persuade me in giving the team a +1 rating for this week.
Usually for the preview and prediction section I will give a summary of the opponents and how they are doing. But for this week, to condense the weekly down a bit because there are four games, I will give my opinion about each match-up and what I think it will take for the Red Wings to come away with a victory.
October 14: @ Boston Bruins
1:00 PM EST on Fox Sports Detroit
Standings: (3-1-0) 2nd Atlantic Division, 3rd Eastern Conference
Last Meeting against the Red Wings: Oct. 5, 2013 at Boston/Bruins 4 – Red Wings 1
The Wings need to be thinking about revenge heading back to Boston for the second time already this season. The Bruins controlled every aspect of the game when they gave the Wings their first loss of the season over a week ago. The two power play goals lead the way as Zdeno Chara proved to be super effective in his new role of standing at the top of the crease.
The Red Wings can beat Boston… They just need a majority of the puck possession, more quality shot attempts, and fewer penalties. That isn’t too much to ask for, right?
Prediction: I’m going with my heart here; putting my prediction streak on the line. Red Wings 3 – Bruins 1
October 15: Vs. Columbus Blue Jackets
8:00 PM EST on Fox Sports Detroit
Standings: (2-2-0) 4th Metropolitan Division, 9th Eastern Conference
Last Meeting against the Red Wings: Mar. 10, 2013 at Detroit/Red Wings 2 – Blue Jackets 3 in a shootout
The former Central division foes had the Wings’ number last season. In the five games they played against each other, the Blue Jackets won the last four. The only victory the Wings took was in a shootout on January 21st, the second game of the season.
The key for victory here lies in the power play and penalty kill. Last year in this rivalry the Wings went 1 for 25 on the PP and 19 for 24 on the PK. Can’t win too many games with numbers like that. The current numbers for this season are: 3 for 17 PP and 17 for 20 PK.
Prediction: With those numbers above in consideration, I still like the Wings chances. After the outburst they had against the Flyers and my projected win against the Bruins, Blue Jackets will have a hard time stopping the momentum at Joe Louis Arena. Red Wings 4 – Blue Jackets 2
October 17: @ Colorado Avalanche
9:00 PM EST on Fox Sports Detroit
Standings: (5-0-0) 1st Central Division, 2nd Western Conference
Last Meeting against the Red Wings: Apr. 5, 2013 at Colorado/Avalanche 2 – Red Wings 3 in a shootout
The Wings are lucky they got out of the Western Conference just before the Avalanche started to become good again. It looked certain this rivalry would die down now that Detroit switched conferences but here we are in the third week of the season and the Red Wings have a chance to renew it once more by giving the Av’s their first loss of the season. That is if the Dallas Stars (2-2-0) don’t get to them first when they play October 15th.
NHL’s most surprising team so far this season can score with the best of them. Their question marks when they started the season were in defense, and so far they haven’t been the problem. For the Wings to get under Patrick Roy’s skin one more time they need rehash their problems in defense. Break them down and push pucks past Semyon Varlamov.
Prediction: Expect a high scoring game in Denver, and no I’m not talking about the Broncos. However, I think the Wings will run out of ammo at the end and the Av’s tack on an empty net goal late. Avalanche 6 – Red Wings 4
October 19: @ Phoenix Coyotes
9:00 PM EST on Fox Sports Detroit
Standings: (3-2-0) 4th Pacific Division, 7th Western Conference
Last Meeting against the Red Wings: Oct. 10, 2013 at Detroit/Red Wings 2 – Coyotes 4
From the ski slopes in Denver to the desert in Phoenix, quite a road trip for the Red Wings before they head back to Detroit for a three-game home stand. The players will certainly remember what happened the last time they faced the Coyotes; no energy means Babcock messes with the lines. The players surely don’t want that to become a common theme for the rest of season.
Revenge is best served on the road. That’s all the motivation they will need. But, they can’t let that mindset hinder their game plan. The Wings are built to beat teams by using skill, not physical play.
Prediction: They bounce back after a tough loss from the Av’s and head back home with a win. Red Wings 2 – Coyotes 0
My predictions bring the Detroit Red Wings’ record to 6-3-0 (12 Points). With this long week ahead of them, a record that is over the point per game mark would be a nice accomplishment. The season might have just gotten underway, but every point matters.