Don’t look now, but the Red Wings are fighting to keep their season alive right now. After going 4-8-3 over a 15-game stretch from December 9th to January 12th, the Red Wings returned to Joe Louis Arena on Saturday and kicked off a season saving stretch with a huge win over the Pittsburgh Penguins. They followed that up with a shutout over the Canadiens on Monday and will need to carry their play tonight vs. the Boston Bruins.
A journey back to the playoffs will have to be a long and impressive one, but it’s not out of the question yet. The Red Wings currently sit seventh in the Atlantic Division, which puts them six points back of the Toronto Maple Leafs (who have two games in hand) and seven points back of the Bruins (the Red Wings have two games in hand) for second in the division.
I’ll continue to use the benchmark of 93 points of last year for the Red Wings to get back into the playoffs and as it stands today, they would have to go something like 22–11-5 (49 points) in the remaining 38 games to get there.
This is a big stretch for the Red Wings as they get set to face teams they are chasing. They play the Bruins twice in the next four games, they have a must-win in Buffalo on Friday and they take on the Maple Leafs next Wednesday. Even after that, they meet bottom feeders in the Devils and Islanders on home-ice, before it gets tough again. If the Red Wings can go on a nice run right now, the playoffs remain a possibility, but don’t get too fired up just yet. One game at a time, starting tonight with the Bruins.
THE RED WINGS
To no one’s surprise, Jeff Blashill will roll with the same lineup tonight. If it’s not broke, don’t fix it. Thomas Vanek scored the lone goal on Monday and continues a ridiculous stretch of scoring. He is currently on a six-game point streak, having recorded five goals and four assists (nine points) over that span.
The return of Mike Green has helped the power play a little bit. During his eight-game absence, the Red Wings power play went 1-for-26 (3.8%) but they’ve cashed in twice in 14 opportunities (14.3%) since he returned. It isn’t great, but it’s a step in the right direction.
For as bad as the power play has been, the Red Wings’ penalty kill has been solid and currently ranks 14th in the NHL (82.4%). If the season ended now, their 11.5% on the power play would be tied for the ninth worst power play in the last 20 years. That just has to improve.
The Bruins are coming off of an ugly 4-0 loss to the Islanders on Monday, but their lineup will remain exactly the same. Since the calendar flipped to 2017, the Bruins have gone 3-4-1 while averaging 2.75 goals for and 2.88 goals against per game.
The Bruins are being led by their top line of Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-David Pastrnak, who have been one of, if not the best line in the NHL so far this season.
via Sean Tierney (@ChartingHockey)
Marchand leads the team with 43 points (17G / 26A) in 47 games and Pastrnak is tops on the team with 19 goals, but hasn’t tallied a goal in 14 games. As dominate as this line has been, Bergeron’s point total simply makes no sense. He has just 18 points (9G / 9A) in 44 games this season, but nine of those points (5G / 4A) came in the last 13 games—which matched his point total from his first 31 games.
BETWEEN THE PIPES
Jared Coreau vs. Tuukka Rask.
Coreau will make his third consecutive start. The rookie netminder stopped all 18 shots that he faced in the shutout win over the Canadiens one Monday. It was his fifth win and second shutout in just eight games and he has yet to lose at Joe Louis Arena so far. Coreau has been better than the Red Wings could have hoped when Jimmy Howard went down and he will continue to start as long as he is playing well.
Rask was pulled after allowing three goals on 15 shots in the Bruins’ loss to the Islanders. Rask has gone 3-3-0 with a 2.56GAA and .888 SV% in January. He has also played great on the road this season, winning 13 of his 21 starts while posting a 1.82 GAA and .934 SV%. The 29-year-old netminder stopped all 24 shots he faced in a 1-0 shutout win in the first meeting between the Red Wings and Bruins.
THE LAST TIME…
WHERE TO WATCH
Puck drop is at 8:00 p.m. ET at Joe Louis Arena. You can watch the game on NBC Sports Network. If you can’t watch the game you can listen to it on 97.1 FM The Ticket.
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