Remember the last time that you watched the Wings in late November, December, and early January and were unsure if they’d make the playoffs? If there was hope at the start of the season, it seemed to diminish by the point the Wings were through 40 games.
The Wings saw their playoff chances tank from somewhere around 20% to hovering around 5% (according to sportsclubstats.com) and they uh, weren’t really all that good in this stretch.
Jeff Blashill began to feel his seat getting a little hot (he stayed on), Jimmy Howard got injured, we saw Jared Coreau make his NHL debut (and get his first win), and the team looked mediocre at best and awfully bad at worst.
We began to worry about Dylan Larkin’s production more seriously, saw what Vanek and Nielsen could do, Z was dependable as ever, and Andreas Athanasiou was scratched for nine games. The “Fire Holland” crowd grew a little larger, you grew a little restless, and as a whole the fan base began to get a little more gloomy.
The Wings had a +6 goal differential in two wins over the Ducks and Kings, in arguably the high point of their season, save for perhaps a six-game winning streak no one really understood.
But as a whole, this stretch was quite ugly, and we were only halfway through the season!
Fans began to call for a full rebuild, though it was hard to be cheering for a tank just yet. The prize of first overall in the draft this year simply didn’t have the same prestige as previous years, and maybe they’d pick it up in the second half with a late push? (Spoiler: they didn’t).
This team lost games to Tampa Bay, Montreal, Washington, Calgary, Montreal again, Florida, Pittsburgh, Columbus, Philadelphia, Arizona, Los Angeles, Tampa Bay again, Buffalo, Toronto, Anaheim and San Jose. 7 losses against non-playoff teams, 5 losses against playoff teams.
They beat Philadelphia, Vancouver, Buffalo, New Jersey, Dallas, New York (Islanders), Anaheim, Florida, Ottawa, and Los Angeles. Two wins over playoff teams, six over non-playoff teams.
Two wins over playoff teams in seven games is not great. Probably for the best the streak didn’t continue.
The stretch included a four-game losing streak, where the Wings managed to score just a single goal. In playoff form already!
Goals: Thomas Vanek (6)
Assists: Henrik Zetterberg (13)
Points: Henrik Zetterberg (17)
Wins: Petr Mrazek (5)
Vanek and Zetterberg performed as their usual, while Mrazek found a bit of mojo back to stop the team to 5 of its 8 wins.
Players that impressed
5-3-3. Mrazek’s best performance came on November 29th in a win over the Dallas Stars. 34 saves on 35 shots. Though he had a down year overall, Mrazek performed admirably in this stretch as he was forced to take over the #1 starter’s role again, at least temporarily as he’d somehow be fighting for the crease with Jared Coreau. It was arguably Mrazek’s worst season, but in this stretch he looked mostly like his usual self.
17 points led the team. The piece of cardboard comes through! Just on pace with his season average, as he was playing at a 68-point pace over these 20 games.
15 points in 20 games on 6 goals and 9 assists. Not much more to say, other than he played well enough to get himself sold out of town. Florida, who looked like a dark horse contender early in the season, ended up finishing one point ahead of the Wings. What a collapse. (Should we blame Vanek?)
Players that disappointed
Through 40 games, 0 goals. Beating a dead horse? Sure, but that seems like a mean name for Sheahan. Nothing more to say.
0 goals, 5 assists. The stretch was one of the weakest we’ve ever seen from the Goose in his time in Detroit.
Jimmy Howard played six games, playing the full night in just three of them. He lost five of them.
To his credit, he allowed 2 goals or less in three of his starts, but it was a four-goal stinker followed up by getting yanked after three goals that really contributed to his decline later in the year.
And oh yeah, he got injured. While Howard was an early season Vezina candidate, things started to go south in this stretch and the wheels eventually fell off when he was injured for nearly three months.
Looking at the Wings overall record wasn’t all that worrisome, but the Wings won just three games in regulation over this stretch. Three! That’s an average of twelve over the course of the season. (Even the Avalanche had 14 in this historically bad season).
The Wings did a decent job this season of disguising how bad they really were, perhaps none more than in this stretch than any other point in the season.
Highlighted by an outdoor loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on New Years Day, the Red Wings slowly saw themselves descending from a playoff juggernaut to the bottom of the Atlantic Division standings quite quickly.
Over the games, the Wings scored 52 goals and gave up 63. Over the course of a season a -11 goal difference will likely put you out of the playoffs, so it’s easy to see the kind of damage it can do over just a 20 game stretch.
The Wings finished 23rd in the NHL over this stretch, which seems a little surprising considering they picked up points in 12 of 20 games. Just two more wins in regulation (excluding the games they lost in overtime) would’ve put them in the top 10 over this stretch, but that’s the tight NHL that we know and love.
But by this point in the season, the Wings were firmly cemented for a bottom 5-10 ranking, sitting in 27th place. (By the end of the season, they finished in 25th.) It’d need to be a miracle that would save the Wings from themselves this season, but while they needed their best players to come through on a big way, instead we saw the Wings see major declines from many of their biggest names.
By January 5th, the Wings season was all but over.
Thanks for reading our season in review series. If you missed the previous articles, you can find them here: