Perhaps it’s only fitting that the Detroit Red Wings record-breaking home win streak came to an end on February 23 at 23 games. Even more fitting is the fact that it was at the hands of the league’s best road team, the Vancouver Canucks. While the team that trails them by 1 point in the standings may be having all the fun for now, the Red Wings and their fans should not hang their heads in sorrow at the streaks conclusion.
That being said, in the wake of their defeat the Wings must address several glaring holes in their game if they are to challenge for a Stanley Cup. While it’s hard to say that Detroit is not a frontrunner for the holy grail of hockey at the moment, they’re far from a flawless team. The loss Thursday evening was a direct result of 2 of the team’s struggles this season.
Poor On The Powerplay
Detroit was 0/5 on the powerplay against the Canucks as they again struggled to put the puck in the net on the man advantage. The team holds a 17.3% rate of effectiveness on the season (ranked 15th in the league) despite being loaded with talented players who can put the puck in the net. The problem becomes even more perplexing when you consider that Detroit is ranked 5th in goals per game, and 1st in 5-on-5 play. For some reason, the scoring troubles only emerge when scoring should be easiest.
Failure To Start On Time
After 1 period of play it was apparent that Detroit did not show up on time for the affair. Out shot by a margin of 17-5 in the first frame, the streak looked over from the start. This has been a reoccurring problem for the Wings this season. Repeatedly Detroit has come out flat in games, only to slowly build up to their full potential by the 3rd period, when it is often too late. The failure to play 60 or even 40 minute games has cost the Red Wings time and time again, and while the overwhelming talent on the squad has bailed them out (see: Jimmy Howard) and allowed the team to win on many occasions, the fact remains; You aren’t going to win many games if you don’t start on time. This behavior was one of the main culprits of Detroit’s 6 game losing streak early in the year, and continues to plague the team on the road.
That brings us to Detroit’s biggest struggle this season, and the only of these 3 difficulties that doesn’t apply to Thursday night’s loss.
The Red Wings’ away record is average at best. At 15-16-1, it’s something that desperately needs to improve before the playoffs. While some the struggles can be attributed to the peculiar home dominance of their division (St. Louis, Nashville, and Chicago join Detroit to make up the top 4 home teams), it’s no excuse for the sub par play. If Detroit wants to travel deep into the playoffs, they’ll need to find a way to win outside of their own building.
When it’s all said and done, it’s hard to criticize a team that’s first in league with 85 points, but to grow complacent with the way things are would be a mistake. There is always room for improvement, and with 20 games left in the season Detroit has time to address their problems before heading into the playoffs.
23 straight wins at home is an amazing feat, but it must be used as both motivation and a learning tool as the season progresses. For a team that already has difficulty starting on time, to grow too sure of itself at home could be damning. The team has 2 options; Either bask in the glory of a record and allow it to be the high point of their season, or use it as a springboard to drive deep into the playoffs in hopes of capping off the year with a championship.
Hopefully Justin Abdelkader’s mindset is an indication of which course they’ll take; Of the streak he said,
“As the season ends we can reflect on it a little more, but for now we’ve just got to get ready for Colorado on Saturday.”