The Detroit Red Wings are facing similar storylines night after night, and the result has been the same for three of the past four games.
The Red Wings dropped another shootout, this time a 1-0 decision to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday.
Three of the Red Wings’ past four games have gone to shootouts, and the result has been the same every time. They have scored just four goals in their past four games, and you can tell the lack of success in the shootouts is translating to lack of success in scoring during the game.
Lack of Confidence Means Less Shots
Despite having 30 shots on goal, I thought the Red Wings could have had even more. However, when the confidence starts to dip, this team shies away from shooting and will instead pass the puck one too many times, often resulting in a turnover.
Kukla Korner’s George Malik noticed it as well during the game last night.
NO DARREN SHOOT. PAVEL GIVE YOU PUCK, YOU SHOOT PUCK EVEN IF FROM WIDE ANGLE.
— George Malik (@georgemalik) December 17, 2014
This was just one of many instances in which one too many passes were made, which took away a quality scoring chance. The problem is they all lack confidence right now. None of them want to shoot the puck, because none of them think they can score.
However, when you’re on a slump like the Red Wings are, you have to throw as much as you can at the net and hope for a flukey goal or a nice rebound. Then, you’ll start to get that confidence back and start to see more goals.
This is the same team that went 9-2 just under a month ago. They have the ability to score, but with a lot of young players in the lineup, they still are learning how to overcome adversity when things aren’t going their way.
They’ll be fine. They just need to keep pushing, throw the puck at the net, and the goals will come.
Replacing Howard in Shootouts?
With Jimmy Howard struggling in the shootouts, many have wondered whether coach Mike Babcock would consider putting Petr Mrazek in. Those questions have been answered, thanks to 97.1 The Ticket’s Jeff Riger.
Asked Babcock if he would consider putting in backup for shootout “It wouldn’t be a priority”. Said Howard need to get a win
— Jeff Riger (@riger1984) December 17, 2014
I couldn’t see Babcock pulling Howard in favor of Mrazek. There are too many cons that come with putting in a cold goaltender in a one-on-one situation, not to mention the overall effect it would have on Howard’s confidence knowing he will be pulled anytime the game comes to a shootout.
Babcock did, however, change up the shooters slightly during last night’s shootout. He replaced Tomas Tatar with Henrik Zetterberg, but the captain was not able to keep the shootout going on his attempt.
It’s imperative to note these shootout losses do not fall solely on Howard. While Howard is struggling to keep the puck out of the net, the shooters aren’t giving him any kind of support.
The Red Wings’ shooters haven’t scored more than one shootout goal in a game this season. The one shootout they did win, Mrazek stopped every shot, and Gustav Nyquist was the lone goal scorer.
It’s hard to win shootouts when the most your team can score on any given night is one goal.
Penalty Kill Still Dominating
Despite all of the struggles the Red Wings are dealing with, there have been some pluses. They have allowed just one power-play goal in the last 28 opportunities and have improved their penalty-killing percentage to 88.1, good for second behind Chicago’s 91.2.
As Malik tweeted, the penalty kill was the most aggressive thing about the Red Wings last night.
The problem with the Wings is that their penalty-killing has been the best, most aggressive and poised part of the game. All of it.
— George Malik (@georgemalik) December 17, 2014
And the reason for this is simple: They know they have a solid PK team. The confidence is high, and they use that confidence to pressure opposing power plays and don’t give them a chance to set up.
Columbus had just four shots on three power play opportunities last night. Holding a team to an average of 1.33 shots per power-play opportunity is a recipe for success on the penalty kill.
Unfortunately for the Red Wings, it doesn’t get any easier, as their next game is against the New York Islanders. The Islanders had an impressive November, winning all but three games.
Jaroslav Halak has been impressive this season, with a 16-6 record, 2.36 GAA and .917 save percentage. Not to mention a healthy John Tavares and up-and-comer Kyle Okposo, who probably should have been on the United States Olympic team in Sochi.
The two are tied for the team league with 27 points.
After the Islanders, the Red Wings have winnable games against Colorado and Buffalo, which are both at home. They need to pick up at least four points and preferably five during this three-game home stand, as the next two months mostly will be spent on the road.
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Tom Mitsos is a Detroit Red Wings and Grand Rapids Griffins staff writer for The Hockey Writers. You can follow him on Twitter @tom_mitsos.