The month of March was not kind to the Detroit Red Wings. In their quest to clinch their 25th consecutive playoff berth, the team finished the month with a 6-8-0 record through 14 games. While they continued to struggle with offense, keeping the puck out of the net was Detroit’s biggest issue. The Red Wings allowed 49 goals during March – only the Calgary Flames allowed more, with 52 goals against.
It wasn’t all bad, though. Despite struggling on the power play for most of the season, the Red Wings improved drastically with the man advantage last month. Detroit had the fourth most-potent power play in March, converting on 25.5% of their chances. While they ranked 25th overall with the man advantage prior to last month, their surge last month allowed the Wings to leap to 14th in the league.
Without further ado, here are the THW, Red Wings writers’ selections for Player of the Month in March.
Brandon Peleshok: Mike Green
Though he has lacked consistency, Mike Green has displayed some inspired play during several periods throughout the 2015-16 season. I selected Green as my player of the month back in January, where he registered six points through 11 games. His production at that time pales in comparison to the roll he has been on for a little over a month now.
March, by far, has been his most offensively productive month all season long. Through 14 games, Green registered 10 points (2G, 8A), which was second only to Pavel Datsyuk’s 11 points. He played most of his hockey alongside Brendan Smith, who was a healthy scratch for the past four games. Though I was skeptical when Jonathan Ericsson replaced Smith as Green’s defensive partner, the pairing has worked out thus far. They have a combined five points through those four games, and have been Detroit’s only pairing with a positive plus-minus rating in that time.
While the Red Wings likely anticipated more offense out of Green, the team’s power play has struggled throughout the season. That has not been a problem of late, with the Red Wings scoring a power play marker in each of their last seven games. Certainly, Green has benefited from Detroit’s improvement on the power play, as six of his 10 points have come with a man advantage.
With the Red Wings in the midst of an uphill battle to clinch their 25th consecutive playoff berth, Green is heating up at an ideal time. If Detroit’s power play can continue to click the way it has recently, I expect that Green’s offensive production will continue to trend in a positive direction.
Jacob Messing: Riley Sheahan
The Red Wings had a difficult March, going 6-8-0 in the thick of a playoff race. Even with a losing record on the month, individual statistics look like a team that’s turning a corner.
Tomas Tatar had a good month, as well as Justin Abdelkader, Henrik Zetterberg has picked up the slack and rookie Dylan Larkin is back to making plays, while rookie Anthony Mantha is just beginning to do the same.
Riley Sheahan didn’t lead the team in points for March, but he did lead the team in plus/minus and seems to be finding his game again. Sheahan tallied seven points (4 G, 3 A) through 14 March games to go along with a plus-5 rating. It’s been a long ride for the two-way center after registering career-high offensive numbers in 2014-15—13 G, 23 A and 36 pts.
Thanks to a recent uptick in production that has seen him tally four goals and four assists over Detroit’s last ten games, Sheahan has matched his career-high 13 goals again with three remaining in the regular season.
Sheahan’s surge in production is helping the Wings down the stretch and is a big part of why the team suddenly finds itself back in the playoffs and even ahead of a Wild Card spot. Sheahan’s production is even more important because it’s coming at even-strength.
Detroit’s season-long weak power play is finally discovering what made it click so well last season, when they finished second in the league. He’s been a big part of why the penalty kill is simultaneously coming around, as well.
Sheahan is by no means the flashiest player on the team, but when he’s hot it means a lot to the team and playing with confidence can go a long way for a player that has his size, strength and two-way determination.
Tony Wolak: Pavel Datsyuk
In the month of March, no other Red Wings player was more important to the team’s success than Pavel Datsyuk. No matter who he centered on the second line, you could see the determination in Datsyuk’s eyes to lead the Red Wings to an otherworldly 25th straight playoff appearance.
This past month, the Magician led the Red Wings with 11 points, despite missing a game. Already counted on to play more minutes than most 37-year olds, Datsyuk has been leaned upon even more in March given the amount of close games the Red Wings have had. Additionally, Datsyuk has reasserted himself as a danger on the power play—leading all Red Wings’ forwards in power play points with five. And with the Red Wings’ finishing the final six games of March with at least a power play goal in each game, Datsyuk’s presence has been especially valuable.
Finally, the ability of Datsyuk to perform at a high level, despite constant line shuffling shows his value to the team. It’s no surprise that Brad Richards, Anthony Mantha, Darren Helm, Tomas Tatar, and Riley Sheahan all had improved months. That’s what happens when a player is graced by the presence of the Premier of Danglestan.
I am a writer from Windsor, Ontario who has covered the Detroit Red Wings for The Hockey Writers. I have had the pleasure of doing so since February of 2015. Previously, I have written about Red Wings prospects for Hockey’s Future. I am always up for chatting about the Red Wings and hockey in general, so leave me your comment and/or tweets. Follow me on Twitter at @BrandonPeleshok.