Welcome to the second edition of Wings Weekly, my weekly review of the Detroit Red Wings 2017-18 season. This week was by far the harder of the first two weeks of the season. With games against the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Toronto Maple Leafs, and the Washington Capitals, the Wings 4-1-0 start would be challenged by three Stanley Cup contenders. It was an important week for the Wings as it would give us a gauge for how far away they are from seriously competing with the top of the league.
I can’t go any further without talking about the big news of the week. First, the Red Wings and Andreas Athanasiou came to an agreement on principle for a one year deal worth $1.387 million.
It was “on principle” because Detroit couldn’t officially sign AA without going over the salary cap. Then, Saturday afternoon, the team announced that they had traded Riley Sheahan and a 2018 5th round draft pick to the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for Scott Wilson and a 2018 3rd round draft pick. This was enough to clear up the space required to get the Athanasiou deal done. Wilson is a solid bottom-6 winger who put up 26 points in 78 games for the Penguins last season. He was scratched most of this year, but ranked 6th on the team last year in primary points per 60. At 25-years-old, he should jump Luke Witkowski and David Booth on the Red Wings depth chart and make the bottom-6 better.
The last piece of news is that Ryan Sproul was sent to the New York Rangers in exchange for forward Matt Puempel. This is mostly an AHL depth move, but it does something important for the Red Wings: it gets Filip Hronek into the Griffins regular lineup and allows the team to call up Vili Saarijarvi from the ECHL when they need him. More to come on those players as the season progresses.
Okay. On to the week in review…
The Wings went 0-2-1 this week, bringing their season record to 4-3-1. While this week’s record could be discouraging, there is a silver lining and it’s that Detroit actually played pretty well.
Let’s start with Tampa Bay. The Wings outplayed the Lightning in almost every box on the boxscore. Where they came up short was on their special teams play. Detroit went 0 for 6 on the powerplay, bringing their PP% down to a measly 15.6%. They also gave up a shorthanded goal and a powerplay goal in the first period. They started to build some momentum in the second period when a wild series of events lead to Justin Abdelkader scoring on a penalty shot. Then, Mike Green notched his first goal (ninth point) of the season to tie it up. The losing goal came off a terrible giveaway by Jonathan Ericsson and Frans Nielsen in Detroit’s own zone and Nikita Kucherov made them pay. Short of this one mistake, I do believe the result would have been much different for the Wings.
I didn’t get a chance to watch Wednesday’s game against Toronto, but getting the push updates from TheScore app had me melting into my seat. Four goals on the first five shots!? Seemed like Detroit was really falling apart. But when I got home, I went over to Corsica.hockey’s game page and it told a different story:
This chart is all situations CF% and that blue line is the Red Wings. The higher the Corsi For score, the better. The Wings also had the better Shots For percentage, outshooting the Leafs 33-26 (and 30-20 at 5v5), and xGF% both in 5v5 (56.01%) and all situations (55.41%). Overall, it seemed like they outplayed the Leafs and had it not been for the terrible start, it would have been a much closer game. By the way, both of the Red Wings goalies saw action in this game as Jimmy Howard was pulled after the third Toronto goal.
This brings us to Friday’s game against the Washington Capitals. In the 4-3 overtime loss, special teams came into play again as the Wings gave up two powerplay goals, one of which was the OT game winner to Alex Ovechkin. Detroit managed to net one on the powerplay, bringing their total this week to 1 for 14 or 7.14%. If they want to win games and climb the standings, they have got to get the powerplay going. Other than that, they were just okay against the Caps, posting a 44.83 5v5 CF% and 37 shots on goal. Darren Helm scored on a nice wrister shorthanded and Tomas Tatar netted two goals to keep the Wings in it.
So, overall, the Wings played pretty well against the league’s top talent this week. They outplayed Tampa and Toronto, but their special teams came up short. They need to figure out their powerplay if they want to beat these teams.
The Regular Stats
(Stats courtesy of NHL.com)
This week, there were three players who played at a point-per-game pace. Nick Jensen had a three-point night against the Leafs on Wednesday as he played 18:05 – the most ice time he’s had in a game this season so far. Dylan Larkin had two assists against Toronto and one against Washington to bring his total season tally to nine points in eight games. Larkin’s offensive output so far this season has been really encouraging. He’s currently tied for second on the team in points and is second only to Henrik Zetterberg in primary points per 60 minutes, indicating his playmaking ability has taken the next step.
Tomas Tatar lead the offensive charge this week with points in all three games. Tatar has looked better than ever after offseason shoulder surgery. He got off to a slow start, but this is an encouraging week for him as he capped it off with a two goal performance against the Capitals.
The other player worth noting is Mike Green, who put up another two points this week with a goal against the Lightning and an assist against the Capitals. I mentioned it in last week’s article, but it’s so important for him to be producing in a year where he’ll be one of the top rental defensemen on the market at the trade deadline. He got off to a phenomenal start and maintained it this week. He’s currently leading the team in points:
(Stats courtesy of NHL.com)
The Fancy Stats
After last week’s uptick in their game against Vegas, the Wings kept their Corsi momentum rolling into Tampa and Toronto. They posted their highest Corsi-For percentages of their season so far this week before crashing to below 45% against the Capitals on Friday night. For now, Detroit needs to focus on directing puck to the opposition net. No doubt adding Athanasiou and Wilson to this mix will help drive the play in that direction.
(Data courtesy of Corsica.hockey)
Martin Frk continues to lead the team in RelCF% by a wide margin, despite not putting up a point in his last four games. His role has been diminished, playing a mere 12:57 per game. This was only more than Luke Glendening, Riley Sheahan, Luke Witkowski, and David Booth. With the kind of underlying numbers Frk is putting up, one can only wonder what he could do with more ice time.
Larkin continues to impress with his +6.97 relCF%. This is quite the improvement over his -0.23 from last season.
Other notable numbers belong to Gustav Nyquist (-2.49) and Henrik Zetterberg (-2.90) who had an off-week against some of the best teams in the league. Imagine if these two were as tuned in as the rest of the team? This offense could really do some damage.
Finally, Danny DeKeyser continues to trail the team. Luke Witkowski’s down there, too. No surprises here.
(Standings courtesy of NHL.com)
Now we’re starting to see some separation in the standings. The Lightning have pulled ahead of everyone else and are holding on to the top spot in the Atlantic Division. The Leafs lost their chance to gain ground last night when they lost 6-3 to the Ottawa Senators on Hockey Night in Canada.
It’s still early enough in the season that these standings don’t really matter. Buffalo is only three points behind Detroit who is only three points behind Toronto. There will be a lot more movement in the coming weeks. The real surprise of the season so far has been the Montreal Canadiens who only have one regulation win. Other than the Mikhail Sergachev for Jonathan Drouin trade, the Habs didn’t really make any significant changes to their roster. Expect them to bounce back, but don’t downplay how bad this start is for them.
THE WINGS NATION PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Tomas Tatar is this week’s player of the week. After a slow start to his season, Tatar broke out this week with three goals and four points. His first goal against Washington was a beautiful deflection off a Dylan Larkin shot to tie the game at 2. He also scored the next goal of the game on the powerplay to put the Wings up 3-2.
Tatar sauce. Heck of a redirection. pic.twitter.com/r6CU8V4mbh
— Brad Galli (@BradGalli) October 21, 2017
Keep it up, Tats!
Detroit held their own against some of the best teams in the league, but their failure on the powerplay resulted in them losing all three games. In addition to this, both Howard and Mrazek were mediocre, further proving how much these Wings rely on solid goaltending to win them games.
Defense remains the weakest link on this team that just needs to erase one or two poor decisions in their own zone to change the outcome of their games. Their offense can continue to score goals, but they need to keep them out of their own net too. Not every team can be Toronto.
The Wings will hit the road this week against three division foes after hosting the Vancouver Canucks at Little Caesars Arena. This is their chance to either gain ground in the standings or remain middle of the pack.
Sunday, October 22 – vs. Vancouver Canucks
Tuesday, October 24 – @ Buffalo Sabres
Thursday, October 26 – @ Tampa Bay Lightning
Saturday, October 28 – @ Florida Panthers
I am actually travelling to Florida this week to see the Wings in both Tampa Bay and Ft. Lauderdale, so please forgive me if next week’s Wings Weekly is posted day late. Until then, LGRW!