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.
Good news, everyone! The Detroit Red Wings have won a game in the past week. That’s a big deal to anyone who covers this team and it’s always good to start with a positive. Outside of that one win, it’s been a challenging one for the team as they lost two winnable games to the Nashville Predators and the Chicago Blackhawks. Let’s get down to the business and go over all things “Hockeytown.”
2/11 at Nashville: Loss, 3-2
2/13 at Nashville: Win, 4-2
This was arguably the closest two-game stretch against one team for the Red Wings this season. The only exception might be the two against the Columbus Blue Jackets in mid-January, but for the sake of this week’s article, we’ll say it was the Nashville Predators. Detroit played well in both games, staying competitive until the very end, which is something that you wouldn’t be able to say for most of their games this season.
The Red Wings fell short in their first game against the Predators thanks to a Dante Fabbro goal on a wrist shot from the point at the 19:00 mark of the third period. This was one Detroit let slipped away, mostly because it’s not often you get a Marc Staal goal, but also because they haven’t had many opportunities to get points/wins like that all season. In fact, they’re 0-8-1 when trailing after two periods. That’s what made this loss so tough to swallow, especially after leading in shots.
In the second meeting between these teams, Luke Glendening put up three points against the Predators, just like we all predicted. He would score the eventual game-winning goal in the middle period as the East Grand Rapids, Michigan-native just coasted down the ice, took a quick backhand shot on Pekka Rinne, and the puck found its way into the net. The Red Wings would lead in shots once again while winning nearly 60% of the faceoffs, giving them a much-needed confidence boost away from home.
Overall Grade vs. Nashville: B-
Blackhawks Beats the Wings AGAIN
2/15 vs. Chicago: Loss, 3-2 (OT)
Speaking of letting games slip away, the Red Wings had a golden opportunity to redeem themselves on Monday against the Chicago Blackhawks, but it didn’t happen. Detroit was awful in their last games against the Blackhawks but maybe things would change here. This was a great chance for the worst-place team in the Central Division to carry momentum over, go on a bit of a streak, and beat a division rival in the process.
While none of that happened, the Red Wings did put up their best effort against the Blackhawks all season on Monday night. In fact, Detroit had more shots, faceoff wins, and hits than Chicago did, so it wasn’t for a lack of effort that they fell short. They overcame an early 2-0 deficit, including getting goals from new acquisitions Vladislav Namestnikov and Christian Djoos, giving the home team at least one point. However, thanks to some awful turnovers and bad passes (including a horrible Namestnikov neutral-zone turnover that led to the second Hawks goal of the game), the Wings were on the wrong end of the stick again. I’m sorry if I sound like a broken record at this point, but it is what it is, I guess.
Monday’s Grade vs. Blackhawks: C+
3 Takeaways From Last Week’s Games
1. The Red Wings Have Found Their Identity(?)
I put a question mark at the end because I’m not sure this is totally true, but it’s the most impactful takeaway if it is. The Red Wings have faced 25 shots or less in their last three games, while also putting 28 shots at most in five of their last six games. They seem to be playing a more defensive, low-event style of hockey while getting goals whenever they can.
It makes sense considering they’ve had average or better goaltending this season. In fact, between Thomas Greiss and Jonathan Bernier, Detroit has only had three really bad starts or RBS (which is starts below .850 SV%) from their netminders. If the Red Wings want to become a “trap” style or defense-first team, then so be it. It isn’t pretty to watch, but it’s quite smart considering you’re relying on your best players to win games.
The Anaheim Ducks are a great example of this, as they rely heavily on John Gibson to keep them in games (his three shutouts this season are tied for the league high) while getting scoring from whoever, whenever (they have scored the fifth-least number of goals). I have no issue if the Red Wings want to be this kind of team because this team’s biggest strength is the goaltending position. Hopefully, this adjustment can lead to more wins.
2. Fabbri Focusing on the (Left and Right) Wings
Robby Fabbri playing center is something that isn’t illegal but should be. Anyone who watched the experiment could tell that it wasn’t working and should’ve stopped as soon as it started. The worst part about the whole situation was that the Red Wings had a more than competent center in Namestnikov playing on the wings, not getting any time down the middle.
Again, as Devin Little mentioned on TGL this week, the offensive production is there. He has four goals and an assist in nine games this season even while missing some time being on the COVID-19 protocol list. I just believe he’s a better fit at right or left wing, not struggling at the center trying to win faceoffs or fulfill backup responsibilities on defense. Hopefully, head coach Jeff Blashill sees the same thing we do (he looks like most of us who cover the Red Wings for THW so it only makes sense) and sticks with Fabbri at the wing.
3. Fixing their Faceoff Woes?
The Red Wings have won at least 50% or more of their faceoffs in their last four games and nine of their last 10. The trio of Darren Helm, Frans Nielsen, and Glendening has a 72% faceoff winning percentage, which feels like an anomaly that will decrease at some point. But as of writing this, it felt like something I had to mention and acknowledge as those three players take quite a lot of criticism from the fanbase.
While as a team they’ve been performing well at the dot, there are some concerns among top-six forwards. Dylan Larkin is winning almost 53% of his draws, which isn’t awful (it is above 50% after all), but I’d like to see him win closer to 55% of his faceoffs. Namestnikov has a faceoff percentage of 46% and that figure should only increase so long he gets time at center. As long as the previously mentioned Fabbri and his 34% faceoff percentage don’t take draws anytime soon, I’ll be happy.
Florida Panthers (2/19, 7 PM ET, 2/20, 5 PM ET)
Statistical Leaders (13 games):
Goals – Carter Verhaeghe (seven)
Points – Jonathan Huberdeau (17)
Wins – Sergei Bobrovsky (five)
SV% – Chris Driedger (.926)
Sergei Bobrovsky might have the most wins among Florida netminders, but he’s not the answer. That’s according to THW Panthers writer Panagiotis Mavridis, who has argued for starting Chris Driedger regularly. The team seems to perform better when the latter goalie starts, so we’ll see who head coach Joel Quenneville decides to go with against the Red Wings.
The Panthers travel to Raleigh for a meeting with the Carolina Hurricanes on Wednesday before battling the Red Wings on Friday and Saturday. Florida is coming off an impressive 6-4 victory against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday, including scoring four goals in the second period. We’ll see if they stay hot when they make their second trip to Detroit this season.
Nashville Predators (2/23, 7:30 PM ET)
Statistical Leaders (15 games):
Goals – Filip Forsberg (seven)
Points – Forsberg (14)
Wins – Juuse Saros (eight)
SV% – Pekka Rinne (.907)
It’s Filip Forsberg and then everyone else when it comes to scoring on the Nashville Predators. He has six more points than the next closest player (Matt Duchene has eight points and three goals this season), which might speak more about the supporting cast in “Smashville.” If the Predators can’t figure out how to get their depth players to score goals, then they won’t be going far this season, never mind reaching the playoffs.
Nashville’s last two games against the Dallas Stars have been postponed due to inclement weather and power outages in Dallas and the state of Texas. They have an intriguing two-game set against the Columbus Blue Jackets this weekend in a battle of arguably two of the most underwhelming teams in the NHL this season. If the Predators lose their next two games, I would be extremely concerned if I was a fan of this team. Something for Red Wings fans to keep an eye out on this weekend.
Players to Watch
When I last did the Wednesday Weekly and mentioned a player to watch on the Panthers, I said Aaron Ekblad. While I could easily go with the Windsor, Ontario-native once again, my eyes will be on another Canadian in Owen Tippett. He’s had two points in this last three games, including his first goal of the season against the Lightning on Monday, so I’m excited to see how he plays against the weak bottom-four defensemen on the Red Wings.
For the game against the Predators next Tuesday, there’s no particular player I’m watching. However, I am keeping my eye on head coach John Hynes and the moves he makes during the game, and if he’ll have a job the day after (a bit of a cop-out, I know). Again, Nashville played like a team far below what they’re capable of in their first two meetings with the Red Wings. Should they lose again to a bottom-three team in the league, the alarm bells in the Music City will be ringing loudly.
With the Red Wings, I’m excited to see Mathias Brome on the first line again. He’s going to break his points drought at some point here and I have a hunch that it’ll be this upcoming week. I spoke last week on how he’s been earning every opportunity for Detroit this season and I’d love to see stick around after this season.
It feels like this team has improved quite a bit since the last time I wrote this article. While every season has its peaks and valleys, this team still feels like it has room to improve. This week presents another great opportunity for the Red Wings to get better and become a more competitive team. That starts with defeating their rivals at home in the rematch on Wednesday night.