The Wings have been really silly the last few weeks. From playoff faves to potentially missing, they’ve had a real up and down last little bit. Today, our staff tackles the question: If they make it into the playoffs, can the Wings actually do any damage?
First off, their defensive play suffers from missed assignments in their own zone, bad breakouts, untimely turnovers, and poor positioning and a lack of foot speed to make up for it. Even when the team’s offense is firing, very rarely does the defense hold up their end of the bargain. Over a seven game series, the holes in the defensive game are sure to shine through, barring some sort of unseen act where Ericsson and Kronwall play like it’s 2008/2009 all over again.
Goaltending has been a funny story all year. When it seemed that Mrazek had permanently won the crease and was even on his way to a Vezina nomination, he went down with the flu and a groin injury and lost his form. Jimmy Howard has been more than serviceable since, seemingly bringing back his old game and pulling out huge victories. Whether or not that he can maintain that consistency remains to be seen, especially with his expected start in Saturday’s game against the Rangers.
In order to do any damage in the postseason, you have to make it first. Despite a lacklustre performance in Boston on Thursday, I still feel confident that the Red Wings can make the playoffs. Of the three teams vying for the final two spots in the Eastern Conference, Detroit is in the best spot. Win and you’re in. We’ve seen the Red Wings get slapped around a few times in the last month and each time they came back with dominant performances in the next game. Hopefully that continues. Thankfully for the Red Wings, their opponent on Saturday is a Rangers team that could probably care less if they win or not. If they win they might get the red-hot Penguins in the first round, where if they lose they get a youthful Panthers squad. They will be resting Henrik Lundqvist and will also be without Ryan McDonagh, Dan Girardi, Mats Zuccarello and Viktor Stalberg. Things are lining up well for Detroit.
If they do win Saturday and get into the playoffs, their first round opponent would be the Tampa Bay Lightning. In 2014-15 the Red Wings and Lightning played in an ultra-competitive series and Detroit nearly upset Tampa Bay. This year the Lightning have not been nearly as explosive as they were last year, seeing their goals per game drop from 3.16 to 2.74—which is still good for 12th in the NHL. The Lightning are also limping into the playoffs. We already know that Steven Stamkos won’t be available for at least one month and Victor Hedman, Ryan Callahan and Anton Stralman are each battling injuries of their own. The Lightning will certainly have the edge in goal though. Ben Bishop has had a Vezina Finalist-like season and the Red Wings have had some trouble in the crease for the better part of a month.
The Red Wings and Lightning split the season series, but I think Detroit could overtake the Lightning, in what would definitely be a closely contested series. If they do get past the Lightning in round one, the Panthers or Rangers/Islanders don’t frighten me all that much either. The Penguins and Capitals appear to be the class of the East and the way things have shaken out, Detroit would avoid them until the Conference Finals. It won’t be easy. The playoffs never are. But, this is a team I thought could contend all year and once you’re in the dance, everything changes. #confidence
I cannot come up with a definitive answer, but I will say this: they certainly have the potential to do damage.
Look at the rest of the East. Tampa is a team missing it’s best forward, and two best defenseman (although Hedman would likely play in Game 1), and even with them, they weren’t as dominant as they were last year, a team that Detroit took to seven games. You look at next round, and see Florida, who is good, but not amazing, the Islanders, who aren’t all that scary this year, and the Rangers, who should be renamed to the Henrik Lundqvists. These are all teams that Detroit could hold their own against. The East finals are a different beast, as you probably face the Caps or Pens, which doesn’t look to good for the Wings.
This could happen, based on one factor: the Wings show up. They inconsistently show up to games, and the defence can be anything but. We’ve seen it in the last two days. They impress in a 3-0 win over Philly, and get dominated in a 5-2 loss to Boston. If the team that beat Philly shows up, they can go far. If the team that lost to Boston shows up, they’ll be heading to the golf course sooner rather than later.
Dylan Larkin is around to inject some youthful energy, but he’s probably feeling the grind of an 82 game season. It took Larkin participation in four leagues and tournaments to get so much as 56 games in last season, and he hasn’t committed more than 30 games to his main league of choice since he was sniping in the dungeon at 13. At this point, you’re relying on a supporting cast to lead the way, which is a terrible thing to do.
If the Red Wings manage to get into the playoffs, I think they can do some damage but nothing too memorable. Their likely first round opponent is the Tampa Bay Lightning, a team limping into the playoffs. They couldn’t ask for a better scenario if they tried. The Red Wings have talent but not enough to keep up with some of the best in the East.
The make up of this team is an odd amalgamation of players that are about to hit their collective peeks and others that are slowly on the decline. None seem to be in the “sweet spot” at this moment in time. I guess as long as the streak continues, many will be happy. Who am I to rain on the parade?
Should the Detroit Red Wings make the playoffs, what sort of damage will they do? To be frank, not much. Tampa Bay is missing their #2 defenceman in Anton Stralman and that defence is still better than Detroit’s. They’re missing Steven Stamkos, an elite level player and still, we don’t know which Red Wings team we’re getting night to night so I can’t even be sure enough to call it for the Wings against this depleted roster. That is the difference here I think, while all the other teams in the east are dreaming of the chance to play the Lightning in the first round, I still think Detroit would struggle. Should they make it past the Lightning they’re almost a for sure out in the 2nd.
Dream scenario: the Wings get to the playoffs, the streak is alive and well and Blashill stops this conservative play (that doesn’t seem to be working anyways) and shakes things up. Maybe Datsyuk can see some 5v5 time with someone who can shoot the puck, hit the net AND skate. Maybe Athanasiou can see more ice time than Glendenning. How about Mantha or Smith drawing back into the lineup? I’m most interested in seeing (if at all) how the approach to this team changes should they make the playoffs. Right now, they’re doing what they feel comfortable with to get by. I’m hoping come playoff time maybe some players get a shot at the minutes and draw into the lineup where the numbers seem to suggest they should. Past a little lineup experimentation, there’s not much hope there for me as a fan of the team right now.
Sure, they could do damage to their own franchise.
(Slightly joking, but there’s more here from Jeff Veillette on why it might be better for them to miss.)
On the real though, the playoffs for the Wings essentially start tomorrow and by golly, they need to show up to PLAY. The Wings hold their own fate in their hands, really. The thing is, if the Wings do some damage, they’re doing so as pretty big underdogs. If they get to the playoffs, they do so by stumbling in there, rather than surging ahead.
As fun as underdog stories are, it’s never really a good to be the underdog. The Wings aren’t really one of those teams that’s really be unlucky so far. Of course, there’s a few games or calls have gone their way that could’ve changed things, but it’s not like this team was ever destined to be a Cup contender.
Even if the Wings somehow win four of seven, being the underdog in four series in a row is never a good thing. This team isn’t the 2012 Kings, far from it. The best I see is the Wings pushing to a team to six games.