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WINGS WEEKLY: HAPPY MANTHA-VERSARY

Welcome to another edition of Wings Weekly, a weekly review of the Detroit Red Wings 2017-18 season! The Wings were busy this past week as they hit three of the four Western Canada teams before returning home to face the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday night. Considering they had to play through a back-to-back while changing time zones three times in four days, the team fared pretty well.

THE RECORD

2-1-1

Going .500 and collecting five points along the way is not a bad week for this team, especially considering they faced three playoff teams. In an oddly-timed (for the East Coast) afternoon game against the Edmonton Oilers last Sunday, the Wings turned their offense and defense up to a higher level. Blashill seriously shuffled the lines with the purpose of shutting down Connor McDavid and shut down McDavid they did. Dylan Larkin and Luke Glendening were tasked with this incredibly important defensive task and not only did they succeed, Larkin managed to get 10 shots on goal. Anthony Mantha and Martin Frk each scored and Petr Mrazek was stellar in his first game since October 20 in the 4-0 victory.

The following night, the Wings were in Vancouver for a rematch against the Canucks. Not wanting to be embarrassed the way they were in the two teams’ previous meeting, the Wings scored a quick goal in the opening minutes of the game. They added a second goal in the second period and, just when we were all feeling comfortable, the Canucks crawled back in the third, tying the game halfway through the period. Luckily, Tomas Tatar broke his scoreless drought with a beautifully placed shot in the final minutes of period, putting down the Canucks for good.

The good feeling can only last for so long and the Calgary Flames put an end to it with their 6-3 romping of Detroit on Thursday night. Petr Mrazek was back in net and turned away 28 of Calgary’s 33 shots as Jaromir Jagr scored his first as a Flame. Despite their best efforts to claw back in the second period – Nielsen, Mantha and Frk each scored a goal – Detroit couldn’t beat Mike Smith more than three times. The Wings completely outplayed the Flames in the third period, but couldn’t sweep their West Coast road trip.

Finally, the boys were back at home Saturday night to take on the Blue Jackets. It was, for the most part, a pretty even game that came down to great goaltending on both sides. The Jackets scored first, in the opening minutes of the game, but couldn’t solve Jimmy Howard afterwards. The Wings didn’t add one until the third period as Andreas Athanasiou picked up a rebound down by the goal line and fired it past a sprawling Sergei Bobrovsky. The game went to OT where Bobrovsky made a massive save on a Mantha-Athanasiou 2-on-0, sending the game to a shootout.

The shootout went nine rounds deep, but it was Jack Johnson who put an end to it, sliding a puck past Howard blocker-side. It put an end to Detroit’s incredible three season long shootout win streak. Prior to this, the last time they lost in a shootout was February 20, 2016 against the Ottawa Senators.

THE STATS

The Regular Stats

Anthony Mantha led the charge this week with five points in four games. Marty Frk ended his scoring slump by adding a goal against each of the Oilers, Canuck, and Flames. Two of his three goals were on the powerplay, meaning the strategic deployment to utilize his shot is working. Justin Abdelkader had three assists in his three games played (he missed the last game against Columbus with a fractured cheekbone) and Larkin added two assists, keeping him at the top of the Red Wings point race.

Full Season

Look at these kids leading the point charge. Mantha is producing at a 0.89 point-per-game pace and Larkin is producing at a 0.83 point-per-game pace. It’s nice to see them outperforming the veterans on the team who we’ve been relying on for far too long. Marty Frk is carving out a nice spot for himself on this lineup as he rounds out the top-5. He’s been impressive on the ice when he’s had the puck and when he hasn’t.

The Fancy Stats

Despite the four goals they scored, Detroit played a very conservative and defensive game against the Oilers. Mrazek was spectacular in net. From there, they had great puck possession against the Canucks and the Flames (thanks to a third period push). They were an even 50% against the Blue Jackets in a duel of goaltenders.

Danny DeKeyser is really stretching my chart out. The only reason I’m looking forward to his return is so that he can improve his Relative Corsi-For percentage and shrink the length of this chart.

Other than that, Dylan Larkin has been a standout relative to his teammates and Niklas Kronwall has also been playing strong. David Booth darted to the top of this chart after the one game that he drew into this week.

Finally, I wanted to show this heatmap from hockeyviz to illustrate the contrast from last week. The Wings did a much better job of taking shots from the dirty area in front of the net. The red arch that goes from the corners to the slot was all blue last week. Their improved quality of shots this week resulted in eight 5v5 goals for.

THE STANDINGS

With their five points this week, Detroit managed to stay ahead of Montreal, Boston and Buffalo in the standings. Ottawa had a fortuitous trip to Sweden as they squeezed four points out of their two games against the Avalanche. It’s always nice seeing the Avalanche lose, but if the Sens had even lost one of those games, the Wings would be much closer to that third place spot. It’s still early in the season to draw any solid conclusions from the standings, but it’s definitely fun to track. There is only an eight point difference between second place and sixth place. It’ll be a fun race for the top-3 spots.

THE WINGS NATION PLAYER OF THE WEEK

Jan 1, 2017; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Detroit Red Wings forward Anthony Mantha (39) reacts after scoring the tying goal to force overtime against Toronto Maple Leafs during the Centennial Classic ice hockey game at BMO Field. The Leafs won 5-4. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Celebrating his one-year anniversary of being called up from the Griffins, this week’s player of the week is Anthony Mantha.

Since that call-up, Mantha has played in 78 games, amassing 25 goals and 52 points for a goal-per-game pace of 0.32 and a point-per-game pace of 0.98. This week, Mantha led the team in points and got to the dirty areas in front of the net to create scoring opportunities. He’s played his way onto the top line and gets powerplay and OT time. He’s also relied on much more in important situations. This is a talent that Detroit is going to want to lock-up soon because he’s improving with every game.

CONCLUSION

The Wings faced some tough competition this week and fared pretty well. Five out of a possible eight points on a road trip like that is a success for this team. Now, having lost two in a row, they need to dig in and tap into the defensive play they showed against the Oilers. 12 of their next 14 games are at home. They’re entering a very important stretch of the season and they’ll have huge home ice advantage for the majority of it. Hopefully they can build some momentum and carry it through.

COMING UP

Let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves, though. The Wings have a light week ahead of them to catch up on some much needed rest after the intensity of last week. Both of their games are at home.

Tuesday, November 14 – vs. Calgary Flames, 7:30 P.M. ET

Friday, November 17 – vs. Buffalo Sabres, 7:30 P.M. ET