Hockey fans in Detroit have become accustomed to the Detroit Red Wings reaching the postseason. The Red Wings have not missed the playoffs since the 1989-90 season, a streak lasting 22 seasons. Not only is this the longest active stretch in the NHL, but it is currently the longest streak in all of professional sports.
After sustaining such an abominable end to last season, the Red Wings had high hopes this season. The transition to the Eastern Conference looked to be in the Wings’ favor, but those high hopes have quickly vanished 25 games into the season.
The new postseason formula is simple; the top three teams in each division clinch a playoff berth, then the two remaining teams with the most points receive the final, “wild card”, slots.
As of now, Detroit is 4th in the Atlantic Division with 29 points, which places them first in the wild card standings. There are many reasons to explain this season’s struggles, but it could be trouble if these problems don’t come to an end soon.
After missing most of last season due to injuries, Darren Helm has only played in 11 games this season. The Wings’ offense doesn’t necessarily run through Helm, but he sure provides a spark with his blazing speed.
Danny DeKeyser has been placed on injured reserve after sustaining a separated left shoulder earlier this week.
Detroit’s biggest free agent acquisitions this past summer, Stephen Weiss, suffered a groin injury which landed him on the injured reserve list.
The Wings are currently without Pavel Datsyuk and Todd Bertuzzi. Both players are listed as day-to-day and should not miss significant time, hopefully.
In order to win, in any sport, a team must score more than their opponent. This is simple, but the Red Wings are struggling to find a way to do this. Detroit’s 2.52 goals per game, which ranks 21st in the NHL, is significantly lower than their 2.64 average goals allowed per game.
With Datsyuk, the team’s leading goal scorer, out of the lineup, the majority of the offense is going to have to run through Henrik Zetterberg.
The Red Wings do not have a shortage of guys that can put the puck in the net, they just need to find a way to do it more consistently in times of need. They lead the league with seven overtime losses this year.
It would be nearly impossible to reach the playoffs if one-third of a team’s games are lost in overtime.
Lack of defensive experience
The 8 defensemen who have played for the Wings this year not named Niklas Kronwall, combine for a career total of 935 games played. 610 of those games are credited to Jonathan Ericsson and Kyle Quincey.
Since the retirement of Nick Lidstrom, the leader on the blue line has been Kronwall. Thanks to the guidance of Lidstrom, Kronwall grew into a great defenseman and now needs to do the same with his teammates.
The Red Wings have not been a bad defensive team this year, but they have made some crucial mistakes. There will be growing pains with this group of guys, there’s no doubt about that, but I believe they can become a solid defensive unit.
Is this the year?
There is no way I see the Red Wings missing the playoffs this year, despite their struggles. The Wings found a way to get it together at the end of last year and I would be surprised if it takes them that long to do so this year.
Considering the way that last year ended, veteran players understand that their championship dreams are beginning to come to an end. Count on the Red Wings making the postseason, possibly as a wild card team.
No matter how the regular season ends championships are won in the playoffs, I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to see the Wings parade around Joe Louis Arena with the Stanley Cup.
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