Sitting in 2nd place in the West with 2 games at hand on the conference leading Minnesota Wild, things are looking pretty good right now for the Detroit Red Wings. Currently on their longest winning portion of what has been an incredibly streaky season, a lot of things have been going right for the ‘Wings, and those things will need to continue to go right for Detroit if they are to continue their winning ways.
1. Pavel Datsyuk’s Scoring Touch Returned
Noticeably absent through the first part of the season, Pavel Datsyuk’s point production returned. and directly coincided with the success Detroit began to have. Datsyuk, who had 11 points through the first 17 games this season, has 10 in the last 6, split evenly between goals and assists. While the rest of the league worships at the Crosby altar, Pavel Datsyuk is quietly putting up just as impressive of point totals, and easily more impressive play.
2. The Red Wings Powerplay Began To Click
After a dismal start to the season with powerplay success at just 16.4%, things turned around rapidly and the Red Wings now find themselves ranked 7th in the league in powerplay effectiveness after going 7/25 (28.%) through the last 6 games. The Leading powerplay point producer through those 6 games? Tomas Holmstrom, with 5, closely followed by the aforementioned Pavel Datsyuk and the distinguishable captain Nicklas Lidstrom, both with 4.
3. Better Shorthanded Play
This 6 game upward trend has seen the Red Wings average nearly 1 less penalty per game than the 17 prior, and while this may not sound like much, when your season’s penalty killing success rate is ranked 24th in the league, it can mean a lot. Spending less time a man down means more rested penalty killers, which helped the Red Wings allow only 3 powerplay goals against in the last 25 times shorthanded. That 88% kill rate is significantly higher than their 80.2% on the season, and by itself would be enough to place them 5th.
4. Valtteri Filppula‘s Surprise Play
Valtteri Filppula is 3rd on the team in scoring. If you predicted that one, you’re beyond psychic. While the Finnish forward has been an incredibly asset to the Red Wings over the years, we’ve been waiting for his promised point production to kick in since he joined the team in 2006. That time has come. Filppula has 4 goals and 2 assists during the last 6 games, and has seemingly been everywhere on the ice. He’s played well for the entire season, and hopefully it continues. Career best numbers are in Fil’s future.
5. Improved Road Play
Home ice has been a thing of utmost importance to the Red Wings this season, and luckily they find themselves with the best home winning percentage in the league. What they’d struggled with up to this point is winning on the road, winning just 2 of their first 7 games away from home. They righted this ship to begin the streak with back-to-back wins in Southern California against the Kings and Ducks, and continued their improvement with an impressive win in Boston, becoming only team to win against the Bruins in the month of November.
6. All-Star Performance From Jimmy Howard
While the rest of the NHL may not feel Jimmy is an elite goaltender (as evidenced by his being left off of the ASG ballot), Red Wings fans have witnessed his brilliance at work all season. Howard, who has started in 16 consecutive contests, was stellar in net during all 6 of Detroits wins, with only one small hiccup in the game against Boston (which poor communication from defensemen was equally to blame for). Posting a .933 save percentage and a 1.83 goals against average, Jimmy Howard has been an unstoppable force of consistency in the crease for the Red Wings.
There you have it, those are the top 6 reasons Detroit has excelled during their last 6 starts, and I didn’t even mention the stellar play from team point leader Johan Franzen, or the fact that Nicklas Lidstrom and the rest of Detroit’s defensive group have been the most productive of any in the league so far. So many things are going right for the Red Wings right now, and while they still have a few things to work on, the season is shaping up to be another good one for Hockeytown’s finest.