If you take the Red Wing fandom out of it for a minute, that final 23-ish minutes of hockey at the Centennial Classic was some of the most exciting hockey that I’ve seen in a long time. With that said, the Red Wings failed to capitalize on a few great chances in overtime and ended up dropping a point to the Maple Leafs.
It was a chance to snap their rival’s winning streak and start 2017 with a bang. As of today, the Red Wings sit at 16-16-5 (37 points), which is seven points back of Boston for third place in the Atlantic, with three games in hand. The problem? Toronto (42), Tampa Bay (42) and Florida (40) are all in between them, so they need to make their run now or it’s going to be too late.
Last year it took 93 points to finish third in the Atlantic and it’s shaping up like that might be the case again this season. If we use 93 points as our benchmark, the Red Wings need 56 points in their final 45 games to get into the playoffs—in other words, they need to go something like 25-14-6 in the second half. That’s a .622 P%. Through the first half, only eight teams have a P% higher than that (CBJ, PIT, MIN, WSH, MTL, NYR, CHI & SJ), so the Red Wings are going to need to improve exponentially if they’re going to extend this playoff streak to 26-consecutive seasons.
If nothing else, maybe that Centennial Classic gave the Red Wings a boost, knowing they can score and knowing they can be the team coming back in the third opposed to being the team who blows the lead in the final period. Tonight they continue their seven-game road trip and start their west coast trip in Anaheim. Detroit beat Anaheim 6-4 on home ice in mid-December, but Anaheim has been a lot better at home this season.
THE RED WINGS
The big news from Tuesday’s practice was that they’ve finally changed the power play units. They’re expected to look like:
- Larkin-Athanasiou at the points. Vanek-Nielsen-Nyquist up front.
Yep, five forwards.
- Kronwall-Mantha at the points. Ott-Zetterberg-Tatar up front.
I’ve been saying put Mantha at the point for weeks now. He’s the only player on this team who can fire a heavy shot. But, Steve Ott on the power-play? Sure, he can win face-offs and be a decent net-front presence, but it doesn’t seem like a great idea.
In addition to an expected move to the point, Mantha was the best Red Wing on the ice on New Year’s Day, potting two goals with one assist. The rookie winger now has five goals and four assists (nine points) during his six-game point streak.
Mantha ranks third among rookies in goals per game (.409), fifth in points per game (.727) and seventh in shots per game (2.45). Mantha has been an absolute beast since being recalled and is the one bright spot for this team.
Dylan Larkin scored in the Centennial Classic to give him 11 goals in 37 games, but it’s hard to fault the second-year forward for his struggles. He is playing with Riley Sheahan, who simply can’t score, and Luke Glendening, who, well yeah. Obviously as this team starts to get healthy, his linemates will improve, but Andreas Athanasiou needs to find his way onto that line.
Speaking of injuries, here is when you should expect to see players return:
- Alexey Marchenko (shoulder) is expected to play on Thursday.
- Mike Green (upper-body) is expected to miss the road trip.
- Justin Abdelkader (knee) is expected to miss the road trip.
- Darren Helm (shoulder) is about two weeks away.
One glaring omission from the lines above is Ryan Getzlaf. The Ducks’ centre missed Tuesday’s practice with a lower-body injury, which forced the Ducks to shuffle their lines. The one line that remained intact was Cogliano-Kesler-Silfverberg. Kesler is having one of the best seasons of his career and easily his best season in Anaheim. The 32-year-old had two 70-plus point seasons in Vancouver (2010 + 2011), but with 15 goals and 19 assists in his first 39 games, Kesler is on-pace for 32 goals and 40 assists (71 points).
Consequently, Silfverberg is on-pace for 23 goals and 29 assists (53 points), which would mark his first 50-plus point season and Cogliano is trending towards his second 20-20 campaign.
Cam Fowler was off to his best offensive start, but has been held off of the scoresheet in last six games, but has been dangerous all season-long. Rookie Brandon Montour was a healthy scratch on New Year’s Day, but he saw extensive practice on the Ducks’ second power play yesterday and should draw into the lineup tonight. Montour has no points in his first two NHL games, but registered seven goals and 14 assists (21 points) in 25 games with San Diego (AHL) before being recalled.
BETWEEN THE PIPES
Jared Coreau played OK in the Centennial Classic, but allowing five goals usually doesn’t result in you starting the next games, so expect Petr Mrazek to get back in goal for the Red Wings.
Mrazek was 3-3-1 with a 3.52 GAA and .876 SV% in six starts and one relief appearance in December. In the first three months of last year, Mrazek was 11-7-3 with a 2.23 GAA and .927 SV% only to go 7-1-1 with a 1.32 GAA, .952 SV% and two shutouts in January. This time last year is where Mrazek truly found his groove, so let’s hope that happens again in 2017. Mrazek is 2-1-0 with a 2.18 GA and .918 SV% in his career against the Ducks.
John Gibson tied a franchise record on New Year’s Day by stopping 51 shots in a shootout win over the Flyers. Gibson has had an average campaign, but has won two of his last three while turning aside 105 of 112 shots (.938 SV%). The young netminder has gone 2-2-0 with a 2.96 GAA and .900 SV% in his career against the Red Wings.
THE LAST TIME…
WHERE TO WATCH
Puck drop is at 10:30 p.m. ET at Honda Center in Anaheim, California. You can watch the game on Fox Sports Detroit. If you can’t watch the game you can listen to it on 97.1 FM The Ticket.
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