An April without the Detroit Red Wings. That’s something that’s pretty hard for me to comprehend. The last time that happened was 1990 and I was four years old. For almost my entire life, the Red Wings have had a presence in the postseason of the NHL. 24 years in a row they have had a shot to win the Stanley Cup. Whether as President’s Cup winning favorites or the last team in, they’ve always been in the conversation come April.
The Wings currently sit one point ahead of the Philadelphia Flyers for the second wildcard spot. When the two teams met last Tuesday, the Red Wings defense got off to an abysmal start where they allowed 23 shots against their 3 in the opening period. The team wound up losing the game 4-3 because they were never able to recover from that first period and get a much needed win. The Flyers are one of the hottest teams in the league and briefly overtook the Wings for that 2nd wild spot before that win against the Blue Jackets yesterday. The Wings are going to need some very strong performances to close out the season if they hope to make the playoffs from the 25th straight year, and keep the longest current postseason streak in all of sports alive.
Now all of that is in jeopardy and I’m not sure what to do. So let’s explore why the Wings are in the predicament they’re in.
Defense and Goaltending
When you allow as many shots as the Red Wings did in the first period of that Flyers game, it becomes obvious that the defense is a big problem area for the team. It’s been that way for a while now. Actually, it’s been a problem ever since Nicklas Lidstrom left back in 2012. The team hasn’t had a stud defender since and the good players that they do have haven’t been able to get the job done. With the team’s most experienced defensemen, Niklas Kronwall, sidelined for 1-3 weeks with a knee sprain, they really need the other guys to step their game up or there is a very big chance that they will not be in the playoffs.
The defense also isn’t being propped up by the goaltending like it was in earlier parts of the season. There are times when the goaltending looks down right amazing, especially when you consider how many shots are getting thrown at the net. But Petr Mrazek has been looking pretty shaky as of late and Jimmy Howard, who the team is paying $5.3 million for each of the next three seasons, looks like a shadow of what he once was. From what I have seen this season, Jimmy Howard has no business being in the net and should only be looked at to give Mrazek rest. So that means Mrazek had better find some of that early season magic that he displayed if the Red Wings have any hope maintaining their shaky hold on a playoff spot.
Put the puck in the net
The defense shouldn’t get all of the blame for the state of the team because the offense has been anything but prolific. Despite having a stable of young stars and some aged but crafty veterans, they have not been able to get the puck in the net nearly as often as necessary to stay competitive. The Wings are 24th in the league in goals per game, with 2.5. That is not good enough. They need Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg to turn it up a notch and help the young guys out. But more than anything, they need to score some goals. Some way. Any way.
I’m not going to lie, from what I’ve seen recently, the Detroit Red Wings will not be making the playoffs. They just look too flat all around, despite the dazzling play of Dylan Larkin and other youngsters like Andreas Athanasiou, Tomas Tatar and Gustav Nyquist. The future is bright and I’m really hoping that they can hold it together long enough to make it 25 straight playoff appearances. Then who knows what’s possible. Anything can happen in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but first they’ve got to make it to the dance. And I’m not as sure about that happening as I was a month ago.