The Red Wings are in trouble folks. Not a lot of people were expecting the Red Wings to hang with the Capitals on Friday, but they did, only to allow a late third period goal and lose 1-0. It was certainly a tough way to lose and it’s even worse when it’s your third consecutive loss and a loss that puts you under .500 for the first time on the season.
Despite the recent struggles, the Red Wings have a chance to turn things around tonight with the Calgary Flames in town. The Flames have lost seven of their last 10 games (3-6-1) and recently lost their best offensive player (Johnny Gaudreau) to a fractured finger. They come in as a low-scoring team that gives up a ton of goals and has the worst special teams in the league. If this isn’t a beatable team, then they don’t exist.
Let’s take a closer look at how these two teams stack up against each other:
|Detroit Red Wings||Calgary Flames|
|Goals For||2.33 GF/PG (24th)||2.26 GF/PG (26th)|
|Goals Against||2.67 GA/PG (t-17th)||3.26 GA/PG (26th)|
|Power-Play %||16.4 % (16th)||8.9% (30th)|
|Penalty Kill %||77.8% (27th)||73.9% (29th)|
|CorsiFor %||45.70% (29th)||51.14% (10th)|
THE RED WINGS
Tonight is expected to mark the return of Thomas Vanek, who has missed the last 11 games with a hip injury. Vanek to replace Tyler Bertuzzi in the lineup and for his return to bump Luke Glendening back to his familiar fourth line role. Vanek will return to the lineup on a line with Frans Nielsen and Dylan Larkin, while Anthony Mantha will get an opportunity to play on the top line with Henrik Zetterberg and Gustav Nyquist.
The Red Wings were a much better team when Vanek was in the lineup.
- 3.43 goals for per game (t-6th in the NHL)
- 2.43 goals against per game (6th)
- 22.2% on the power-play (t-11th)
- 5-2-0 record (.714 P%)
- 1.64 goals for per game (28th)
- 2.82 goals against per game (23rd)
- 12.5% on the power-play (t-22nd)
- 3-7-1 record (.318 P%)
Now, I’m not suggesting that Vanek is the cure for this team, but he is a crafty veteran who played very well early in the season and has yet to be on the ice for a 5-on-5 goal against in seven games. He’s not going to fix all of their problems, but those numbers speak for themselves and he will certainly make them a little more dangerous offensively and will definitely help their power-play.
Without Gaudreau, the Flames are way less dangerous, but they’ve done a fine job without him so far. In two games since the injury, they’re 1-1-0, but the loss came against the surging Blackhawks, in a game which the Flames were in.
The positive for Calgary is that their second line of Matthew Tkachuck-Mikael Backland-Michael Frolik has been one of the most dominating 5-on-5 lines in the NHL so far this season, so that group will stay together. If they can get second-year forward and former No.4 overall pick Sam Bennett to step up on the top-line with Sean Monahan and Troy Brouwer, then their top-6 remains potent, while they wait for ‘Johnny Hockey’ to return.
After those two lines, the wheels kind of fall off for the Flames. Their bottom-6 is made up of spare parts thanks to injuries to Lance Bouma and Kris Versteeg. With that said, they are a heavy team that isn’t fun to play against.
The Flames’ blueline remains it’s strongest asset. Mark Giordano and T.J. Brodie are among the best defensemen in the NHL and Dougie Hamilton is still trying to find his way in Calgary. Hamilton, who has been linked to the Red Wings, is a great defenseman, but his usage has been questionable at times under first-year head coach Glen Gulutzan.
BETWEEN THE PIPES
There is no word on who will start in goal for either team, but I think it’s safe to assume it will be Jimmy Howard for the Red Wings. Despite the loss on Friday, Jimmy was great again, stopping 27 of 28 shots (.964 SV%). In nine appearances he continues to carry a save percentage above .940 (.945), which has him tied with Matt Murray for sixth in the NHL. Petr Mrazek has had more success against the Flames in his career, but I don’t think Jeff Blashill will read too much into that and will roll with the hot hand.
For the Flames, it could be Brian Elliott, who has sat for the last three games. Elliott often started against the Red Wings during his time in St. Louis and he has played very well vs. Detroit. In 12 career appearances, he has a 2.38 GAA and .918 SV% against the Red Wings, but that has only translated into a 4-6-2 record. However, it has been a tough first season in Calgary for the veteran netminder. He had a rough start to the season, followed that up with a strong of wins, which was subsequently followed by a five-game losing streak, in which he has posted an .869 SV%. If it isn’t Elliott, Chad Johnson (no, not that one) will make his fourth consecutive start.
WHERE TO WATCH
Puck drop is at 7:30 p.m. ET at Joe Louis Arena. You can watch the game on Fox Sports Detroit or the NHL Network in the United States or SportsNet in Canada. If you can’t watch it, you can listen to it on 97.1 FM The Ticket.
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