Welcome to Red Wings Wednesday Weekly! In this weekly column, we will take a look at the Red Wings’ most-recent week of play, identify any players and/or trends that stood out, and then look ahead and find out what the next week may have in store for the team from Hockeytown. As always, feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section down below.
The Detroit Red Wings concluded a busy week of hockey yesterday, one that saw them compile a 1-3 record while playing four games in seven days. It was much of the same from a team that’s seen its power play completely disappear – certainly not a sign of good things for a team that has struggled to find the back of the net. Detroit was outscored 12-4 last week, easily preserving its last-place spot in the Central Division. With all of that in mind, let’s recap last week, discuss what was good and bad, and preview the week ahead.
Running Into A Blackhawks Buzzsaw
2/17 vs. Chicago: Loss, 2-0
The Chicago Blackhawks continued their dominance over the Red Wings this season, improving to 4-0 in the recently renewed rivalry. Rookie goalie Kevin Lankinen sparkled yet again, making 29 saves en route to his first career shutout. Philipp Kurashev scored a highlight-reel goal for Chicago on a power play in the second period, and Alex DeBrincat chipped in with an empty netter in the waning moments to preserve the win.
Kurashev’s goal in particular dazzled, all while the Red Wings’ defensive woes were on full display.
The game was the second in a two-game set with the Blackhawks, the first of which Chicago won 3-2 in overtime. In four games played this season, Chicago has outscored Detroit 15-5, though this latest series was more encouraging for the Red Wings, as they outshot the Blackhawks 58-49.
Overall Grade vs. Chicago: D+
Splitting With The Panthers
2/19 vs. Florida: Loss 7-2
2/20 vs. Florida: Win 2-1
Detroit’s first game against the Florida Panthers was an emotionally charged day for the team. The Red Wings were horribly outplayed in Friday’s 7-2 loss, a game that saw goalie Thomas Greiss get pulled in favor of Jonathan Bernier after allowing four goals on 13 shots in the first period. The Panthers took a 3-0 lead midway through that period and never looked back.
The embarrassing defeat was put into perspective after the game when the team learned the devastating news that team masseur Sergei Tchekmarev suddenly passed away at 65 years old. He had been with the team since 1998. Coach Jeff Blashill was visibly emotional after learning the news:
Detroit responded the very next day, notching its fifth win of the season, 2-1 over the Panthers. Mathias Brome scored his first career NHL goal (more on that later), Patrik Nemeth scored his first goal of the season, and Bernier was spectacular, stopping 38 of 39 shots. The Red Wings notched a much-needed win, split their series with one of the best teams in the division, and overcame some major adversity in the process.
Overall Grade vs. Florida: C
Predators Power Play On Full Display in Latest Loss
2/23 vs. Nashville: Loss 2-0
After a two-day break, the Red Wings hit the ice at home last night against a Predators team still seemingly searching for its own identity. Leading up to Tuesday’s game, Nashville had 14 points in 17 games, just one more than Detroit. In a game that seemed winnable on paper, though, a familiar story emerged: Detroit was unable to score a goal, getting shut out for the second time in four games.
Goalie Pekka Rinne made 24 saves as Detroit struggled with its special teams play, yielding two goals while on the penalty kill. Filip Forsberg and Eeli Tolvanen both notched power play goals for Nashville, who improved to 8-10-0 on the season.
The Red Wings were shorthanded four times in the game, and it was their lack of discipline in the third period that did them in. Penalties by Vladislav Namestnikov and Nemeth both resulted in Predator power play goals, and with Detroit unable to find the back of the net, the rest was history.
Overall Grade vs. Nashville: D (Game two of the series is Thursday)
3 Takeaways From Last Week’s Games
1. The Power Play Is Abysmal
Look, it’s easy to be down on the Red Wings this season. Most expected them to be at least slightly better this year and at least out of the basement of the division. So, after winning just five games in 21 attempts, fans are understandably down on the team. While there are plenty of issues to address, one stands high above the rest: the power play.
To this point, the Red Wings have scored just four power play goals on 63 opportunities this season and have not converted with the man advantage since January 28 against Dallas. That’s a span of 13 games, in which they have gone 0-for-37. Ouch.
2. Success in the Faceoff Circle
The Red Wings have had success in the faceoff dot all season, and last week was another example of one of its strengths, winning nearly 54 percent of all draws. Though that success has not yet translated into an onslaught of goals, the team has shown a certain prowess for winning faceoffs this season.
Luke Glendening leads the way, having won almost 68 percent of his draws this season – winning 188 of his 277 attempts. Captain Dylan Larkin has taken the most of anyone else on the team, winning 199 of 382 draws, good enough for a 52 percent clip.
As a team, the Red Wings have won 53 percent of their draws, which is an improvement over last season, in which they won less than half (49.5).
3. Mathias Brome Was Finally Rewarded
Brome has earned a lot of chatter this season with his high-energy play but had nothing to show for it until Saturday’s 2-1 win over the Panthers. He was able to bury a rebound home past Panthers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, earning his first career goal (a game-winner, at that), finally getting on the board in his 18th game as a Red Wing.
Brome followed up his performance much like the rest of the team on Tuesday, going scoreless. He failed to record a single shot in 15 shifts, totaling almost 11 minutes of ice time.
vs. Nashville Predators (2/25, 7:30 PM ET)
Statistical Leaders (18 games):
Goals – Forsberg (nine)
Points – Forsberg (17)
Wins – Rinne (five)
SV% – Rinne (.916)
The second game in the Red Wings’ current set will essentially boil down to two elements: Can they find the back of the net, and can they shut down Forsberg? Nashville’s star forward has led the way for the team accounting for almost a quarter of all goals scored. Seriously – of the 41 goals scored this season, Forsberg has scored nine of them.
Forsberg also leads the team with eight assists (tied with Roman Josi), but the team overall isn’t on pace to break any scoring records any time soon. If the Red Wings can focus on efforts to shut down Forsberg, they will put themselves in a position to win.
at Chicago Blackhawks (2/27, 8 PM ET; 2/28, 7 PM ET)
Statistical Leaders (20 games):
Goals – Patrick Kane (nine)
Points – Kane (30)
Wins – Lankinen (eight)
SV% – Lankinen (.921)
Chicago, in the middle of a rebuild? As time has gone on this season, it’s become clear what most thought was the beginnings of a rebuild may be more like the Red Wings’ Original Six rival reloading for another cup run. Even without captain Jonathan Toews in the mix, the Blackhawks have not missed much of a beat.
Ironically the first series between Detroit and Chicago seemed to set the Blackhawks onto the right trajectory. With 24 points in 20 games, Chicago is currently third in the Central Division and very much in the playoff hunt.
The Blackhawks started 0-4 before taking two straight against the Red Wings in late January and have since been playing fundamentally sound hockey. They have won seven of their last 10 games and play the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday before returning home to host Detroit in a two-game set.
at Columbus Blue Jackets (3/2, 7 PM ET)
Statistical Leaders (20 games):
Goals – Cam Atkinson (eight)
Points – Atkinson (16)
Wins – Joonas Korpisalo (five)
SV% – Elvis Merzlikins (.906)
The Red Wings have not played the Blue Jackets since games three and four of the season when they split the series. The Blue Jackets are 8-7-5 in 20 games this season, currently sitting in fifth place in the Central Division, and still very much in the playoff discussion. Tuesday’s game is the only time the two teams will play each other until a two-game series begins on March 27.
It’s been up and down this season for the Blue Jackets, who have lost four of their last five games. The lone win came last Thursday against Nashville.
Players to Watch
Forsberg has been on fire lately, having recorded six points in his last five games, including two yesterday. Take into account that he had a goal disallowed as well, and the damage could have been even worse. The Red Wings need to focus on shutting him down – in the eight games this season that he has not recorded a point, Nashville has lost six.
There are a few players to watch on the Hawks, but Kane is the Chicago player that the Red Wings need to focus on. He has singlehandedly put the team on his back, recording nine goals and 21 assists, the latter of which is third-best in the league. He has only been held without a point in five games this season and needs just two more goals to notch the 400th of his career.
I’m going to take the low-hanging fruit and list newcomer Patrik Laine as Columbus’ player to watch. In 10 games with the Blue Jackets to this point, Laine has 10 points, including six goals, which includes two two-goal games. The Blue Jackets definitely need help in net, as their tandem of Korpisalo and Merzlikins are posting a collective save percentage of .898 and Goals Allowed Average of 3.28, so the team needs all of the offense it can muster.
For the Red Wings, Bobby Ryan has been relatively quiet since getting off to a hot start this season and has just one point in his last five games. Even so, it’s clear when watching him that he’s having a large impact on the team, consistently creating chances for himself and his teammates. The team possesses the puck more when he is on the ice, and his five takeaways are sixth-best on the team. If he can get back on the score sheet, it’s likely the team will follow suit, just as it did the first few games of the season.
There’s no doubt it’s been tough going through the doldrums of the season, and as the trade deadline gets closer, the Red Wings are clear sellers and have some options to help boost their upcoming draft stock. Player development continues to be the highlight of this rebuild, and as lines continue to shuffle, it will be interesting to see if Blashill can find any combination that can produce consistent offense. For now, though, it’s much of the same, as Detroit continues to struggle to score.
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A die-hard hockey fan in the desert, and proud Iowa State alum. Covers the Detroit Red Wings for The Hockey Writers.