Welcome to another edition of Wings Weekly, a weekly review of the 2017-18 Red Wings season! This last week was a big one for the Red Wings as they fought to break a Holiday slump against their Division Rivals. Prior to the three games this week, the Wings were 2-5-3 in their last ten. In that stretch, they ceded a playoff spot to the Montreal Canadiens. They were overtaken by the Boston Bruins after a 3-2 overtime victory in Detroit on Wednesday.
The tightness of the race for that third place spot in the Atlantic Division made this week an important one for the Wings as they look for any edge they can get against their opponents.
This could have gone much worse for the Red Wings. They haven’t gotten three points in a three game stretch since the week of November 19th and the fact that they were able to do it against division rivals helps them manage the gaps in the standings.
The game against the Panthers on Monday was a bit of a bloodbath. In his first game back in the lineup, Luke Witkowski fought Micheal Haley twice and Luke Glendening fought Aaron Ekblad. I don’t mind fighting in hockey that much – I think it adds a layer of excitement that other sports don’t have – but I am vehemently against having a player on your roster whose only role is to drop his gloves. Witkowski had 4:28 of ice time and ten penalty minutes. He took a roster spot away from Tyler Bertuzzi!
Amid the penalties, there was some goal scoring. Henrik Zetterberg snapped his 23 game goal drought on a flimsy shot that somehow found its way past James Reimer in the first period. Detroit held the lead until the third period when Nick Jensen took a delay of game penalty for flipping the puck over the glass (one of the dumbest penalties you can take) and Vincent Trocheck tied it up on the powerplay. Then, in overtime, the Panthers got an odd-man rush that turned into a mess of bodies in front of the net, where Mike Matheson found the loose puck and buried it into the empty net. It was a messy goal, but Anthony Mantha decided not to backcheck and instead go to the bench, Andreas Athanasiou and Danny DeKeyser were playing 2-on-3.
— St. Nick (@nickseguin19) December 12, 2017
On Wednesday, the Bruins were in town and Detroit gave up another lead late in the third period. Thanks to goals from Tomas Tatar and Dylan Larkin, the Wings had a 2-1 lead when David Pastrnak was left unattended at the side of the net and buried a one-timer in the dying minutes.
Nothing better than a beautiful dish and a little 🍝. pic.twitter.com/JpiaTNSMVw
— NHL (@NHL) December 14, 2017
The whole thing started with a failed clearing attempt by DeKeyser. He then failed to cover Pastrnak who snuck in behind him. He should have gotten some help from Darren Helm, though, who was just gliding through the slot.
In overtime, it took just over 30 seconds for the Bruins to get an odd man rush and send Brad Marchand in on a breakaway. Mike Green overplayed the 2-on-1 and couldn’t catch Marchand once the pass was made. Detroit has been atrocious at 3-on-3 this year, so they should just avoid it altogether. At least they stole a point from both Boston and Florida.
Finally, we got the sweet taste of victory when the Maple Leafs strolled into town, without their superstar player. This was a fun game for me because I was there in person. Some things I noticed: Nick Jensen did not look good; I did not see Witkowski once; Mitch Marner is very fast; and Detroit relies heavily on their goaltending. Jimmy Howard had an outstanding game, turning away 25 Toronto shots, but one can only wonder how much longer Detroit is going to play for the playoffs. Perhaps, since there’s trade interest in Petr Mrazek, it’s time to shift the focus and build some value for the young goaltender?
Anyways, I know that’s being discussed ad nauseum right now. With the performance Howie gave this week, Detroit managed to stay in the hunt.
The Regular Stats
It was a good week for our fearless leader who finally snapped his goal streak and added three assists to lead the team in points. Trevor Daley and DeKeyser each scored their first goal of the season against the Leafs. Daley’s was a shorthanded snipe. Tatar added two goals this week to keep the Wings competitive. He’s been particularly good lately.
One thing I found interesting when tallying up the points this week was that there are four defensemen in the top-10 point-getters and none of them were Mike Green.
Green has certainly cooled off and it makes his defensive gaffes that much more glaring. Still, he’ll be the biggest fish at the trade deadline this year. How he plays in the coming weeks will determine whether Detroit can get a first or a second in 2018 for him. Larkin continues to lead the charge as Mantha went pointless this week. After a solid offensive start to the season, Mantha has seriously cooled down. Part of it is the team is struggling on the powerplay (eight of his points are powerplay points) and the other part is that he’s just not getting the bounces in front of the net. Him and Athanasiou need to be much more impressive if this team is to be competitive.
The Fancy Stats
The Wings actually played a decent 5v5 game in their 6-1 loss to the Blues and they carried that momentum into the Florida game. No 5v5 goals were allowed against the Panthers and I wonder if they would have scored at all had Jensen not taken that delay of game penalty. Their shot attempt percentage took a serious dip against the Bruins, which is something I’m getting used to seeing at least once a week. They rebounded against the Leafs, but were still less than 50% as the Leafs, for the most part, controlled the flow of 5v5 play.
There’s nothing revolutionary here, just more inconsistency.
Daaaaaaamn Dylan! The D-Boss bobblehead night on Monday must have really pumped him up because he was far and away the best Red Wing this week. And all season, really. Mantha and Tatar have benefited from playing with him as they both jumped to the top of this chart, too. Frk continues to impress at 5v5, which is a big reason why he found himself on my Nice List.
Zetterberg continues to struggle at 5v5 as his age is finally catching up with him. He plays most of his minutes with Nyquist, which explains why Goose is at the bottom of this chart, too. A growing concern of mine lately has been Athanasiou’s 5v5 play. It’s been three weeks now that he’s found himself in the -4 Relative Corsi-For range. You can argue that Blashill isn’t giving him the ice time he needs to turn his play around, but I don’t see him turning anything around with the ice time that he is getting.
Here’s where the overtime losses become frustrating. If Detroit beat Florida and Boston in regulation, they’d be tied with the Bruins for third in the division right now. Ottawa beating Montreal in the outdoor game certainly helps, but it’s going to be a bloodbath for that third place spot.
The Atlantic Division is very bad. Outside of first and second place, nobody is going to steal a wild card spot from the Metropolitan, so it’s all going to come down to that third place spot. This is actually best case scenario for the Wings. They are within reach of the playoffs, but if they don’t make it, they are in top-10 pick territory. I, for one, want to see the team at least trying to compete, so I’m happy with where we’re at right now. That being said, I don’t expect them to be in the picture in a couple of months time.
THE WINGS NATION PLAYER OF THE WEEK
This week’s Wings Nation Player of the Week is Dylan Larkin. In addition to his stellar 5v5 play, Dylan has been a gem on the powerplay and the penalty kill. He scored a beautiful shorthanded goal against the Bruins that gave the Wings the lead in the game. I’m really glad that he turned his play around this year. We desperately needed him to.
By the way, if anyone has one of those slick D-Boss bobble heads that they want to unload, shoot me a message because I will exchange money for it.
In conclusion, the Wings need to avoid overtime. They have not won once at 3-on-3 this year. In order to avoid overtime, these third period breakdowns need to stop. Goals are hard to come by on this team so when you have enough to give you the lead, you need to preserve that.
The next two weeks are going to dictate how Ken Holland proceeds with the roster. With some tough match-ups coming up, the Wings can either prove that they can compete or crumble completely. If it’s the latter, expect dominos to start falling in the New Year.
Detroit plays three games this week, including a back-to-back, before breaking for the a short four day Holiday. Their last game before Christmas is against the Bruins. Let’s hope that they can get a win in regulation this time so that we’re not all sulking on December 25th.
Tuesday, December 19 – @ New York Islanders, 7:00 P.M. ET
Wednesday, December 20 – @ Philadelphia Flyers, 8:00 P.M. ET
Saturday, December 23 – @ Boston Bruins, 1:00 P.M. ET