NHL : Adam Proteau takes a look at the Detroit Red Wings, who might potentially keep pace with Tampa Bay and Florida over the next several weeks.
We noted in mid-September that the Detroit Red Wings entered the 2018–19 NHL season with a stronger paper trail and the chance for a lower playoff seed in the Atlantic Division. Certainly, they had a stronger start to the year than most teams do, winning nine of their first twelve games or earning a point in all but one (7-3-2).
Since then, they have slowed down a little and are presently in the middle of a four-game losing skid. In terms of the standings, though, they are just one point out of a tie for third place in the division and have shown no signs of fatigue like the youthful teams in Buffalo and Ottawa.
Considering how much the Red Wings have improved this year, it’s not out of the question that they’ll be in the mix for the fourth (and potentially last) Atlantic playoff seed by the conclusion of the season. The optimism that started this year off is paying off, and the best is yet to come for this crew.
It might be said that the Red Wings’ best players have consistently performed at a high level. Center Dylan Larkin, who has been a mainstay of their attack, has maintained his production, averaging 21:01 of ice time per game and contributing 10 assists and 17 points in 16 games. Larkin is in a contract year and increasing his value with each victory.
Lucas Raymond, a sophomore winger, isn’t on the same points pace as he was last season, but with six goals after 16 games, he’s on track to improve on his 23 goals from the previous year.
Back on defense, 2021-22 Calder Trophy winner Moritz Seider has yet to score this season while playing in a team-high 23:01 minutes per game. And Filip Hronek, 25, has more points and assists than any other Detroit defenseman (11).
DETROIT RED WINGS
Meanwhile, the offseason moves made by Wings general manager Steve Yzerman have paid off well.
Dominik Kubalik, a winger at age 27, is making the Chicago Blackhawks look stupid for letting him walk away. With 11 assists and 18 points, Kubalik is one of the finest values in the game, while earning just $2.5 million per season.
veteran winger David Perron, who was also signed as a free agency by Detroit this summer, has contributed five goals and eleven points.
Most significantly, the Red Wings’ goaltender from the deal that brought them Ville Husso has performed up to expectations, with a 2.56 GAA and a.918 save percentage in 10 games played. As Detroit’s other goalkeeper, Alex Nedeljkovic, has struggled (4.33 GAA,.873 SP), Husso’s performance in net has been critical to the Wings’ overall record.
The Red Wings are trying to snap a four-game losing streak, but the schedule creator in the NHL has given them a real opportunity to start a lengthy winning streak right now. Two of Detroit’s next four games, against San Jose and Columbus on the road, and two more, against Nashville and Arizona at home, are winnable.
Since October 27th, Husso has played in two out of every three games; if he can continue to be at his best in the majority of those appearances, the Wings will have a chance to remain in the postseason hunt until the end of the month. Detroit has a much harder December, therefore it’s crucial that they win the next five games to give themselves some breathing room before the new year.
The Red Wings aren’t one of the few NHL clubs that can afford to go on a long losing run right now.
Still, Wings supporters have reason to be optimistic about their team’s potential. The regular season blowouts of last year have subsided (although an 8-2 loss to the New York Rangers this past Thursday, and an 8-3 defeat at the hands of Buffalo on Halloween night brought back some unwelcome memories).
But Derek Lalonde, Detroit’s first-year head coach, has lived up to his reputation as a winner, and the team’s defense has helped them win seven games. They have allowed more than one goal just twice in those seven victories.
While not everything has gone perfectly for this brand, the rest of the Atlantic should be on high alert. The Red Wings seem like the genuine deal, and although they may not make the playoffs this year, they are ready to take the next step in their development as a competitive team.