The Red Wings’ 24-year playoff streak is one that professional sports teams in every league and game can look at with admiration. It’s a testament to the level of consistent success that the team has had since acquiring top end talent, and the foresight that various executive groups have had to plan ahead for transitions. Detroit is in position to extend it to 25 with a bit over a month left in the season, but the road ahead isn’t easy. Will they survive? Our writers give their says in today’s roundtable:
The Red Wings have maintained the status quo this season by bouncing between being a team that could be a serious contender and a team that is struggling seriously on one front or another. Atlantic opponents such as Tampa Bay and Boston have taken advantage to somewhat slow starts to the season and turned themselves into well-oiled machines, sitting in Divisional seeds above Detroit.
Due to Detroit’s streaky nature, I cannot confidently say that they will oust either Tampa Bay or Boston from their position in the standings, and (barring drastic change in play) it is almost certain that they will not finish at the top of the Atlantic. An optimist can predict a 3rd place finish in the division, however, the most realistic outcome, in my mind, is for the Red Wings to enter the playoffs in one of the two Wild Card seeds.
The fight will most likely come down to the wire – it’s a matter of making the most of points against Atlantic rivals and Wild Card challengers (such as Philadelphia and New Jersey). Despite how tight it is, I believe the Red Wings will keep it together and finish firmly in the first Wild Card position.
I think the team definitely won’t be a legitimate threat moving forward, sitting instead at the very least in the fight for the Wild Card to the very end (whether defending a preexisting spot or fighting for one). My reasoning? The Red Wings look good, but not great. Petr Mrazek is an excellent goaltender and his future is bright, but he’s young and getting tired and his numbers are falling back to earth. Outside of him, the team’s composition has been mediocre at best this year- I think the team is still good and I don’t think Mrazek will legitimately crash, but I don’t think it will be an easy end to the season at all.
The Wings are in the midst of one of their toughest stretches of the season. So far they are handling it exactly as they’ve handled the rest of the season, inconsistently. At their best, they’ve looked fantastic, like world beaters. At their worst, they come off as weak in both zones, weak on special teams, weak comparatively to the other top 3 in the Atlantic.
The recent 8 game stretch has been a great indication of what we should expect for the rest of the season. They lost four in a row to NYI, Pitt, Ott and NYR which was immediately followed by a three-game winning streak against CBJ, COL & Dal. Once the optimism got high, they got throttled by Chicago in a performance where they looked downright pedestrian.
The good news is that the Wings have faced a ton of adversity this season and handled it surprisingly well, all things considered. They’ve got a very impressive record in one-goal games. I guess you could say they’re battled tested. Which is good because they’re about to be in the middle of a dogfight for Eastern Conference playoff spots.
I think there are currently three teams that I can comfortably say will make the playoffs in the East. Washington, The Rangers and Tampa. Even Florida has come down to earth a bit. With the bulk of the conference being separated by so few points, few teams are safe. Detroit is one small losing streak away from being out of a playoff spot. Which as we’ve seen this year, there will be at least a couple more streaks. As long as the winning streaks are of similar length they should hold on.
The Wings are consistently inconsistent but they have been here many times before in recent years. They’ve shown that they can still play when the pressure is on and they definitely have the goaltending to give them a chance any given night. In the end I think they make it 25 straight years albeit kicking and screaming.
One thing that plays into Detroit’s favour for the next few weeks is the relative yo-yo they have in their opponents. Particularly in the next few weeks, the Wings get to face bottom 1-7 teams more frequently than they face those seriously competing against them. This is a gift and a curse; those opponents may seem the easiest, but many players are auditioning to stay in the NHL. With that said, the positives outweigh he negatives, and while I don’t think the wings will flat out feast, the odds are in favour of them sustaining a solid record with their help
The Wings will likely have teams breathing down their back until the final few days of the season, but any fall out of a playoff spot has to be placed on them if they somehow mess it up.