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WINGS WEEKLY: SPECIAL TEAM STRUGGLES

It’s easy to forget how important the role players are. Since Luke Glendening has been out of the lineup, the Wings have had a 70.4% penalty kill success rate, which ranks 28th in the league. After losing Darren Helm and Justin Abdelkader last Saturday, they’ve allowed four shorthanded goals on nine opportunities. What’s worse is that the Wings powerplay has gone stale, performing at an 8.6% success rate, ranking 30th in the league.

Their special team struggles were on full display this week as they hosted the Dallas Stars and Carolina Hurricanes at Little Caesars Arena.

THE RECORD

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On Tuesday, the Stars brought the full power of their forecheck down on the Red Wings, holding them to a season-worst 15 shots on goal. Trevor Daley opened the scoring early, but it didn’t take long for the Stars to get to work, scoring four goals (two on the man advantage) on Jimmy Howard, who posted a .846 save percentage. The only bright spot for Detroit during this game was a(nother) highlight-reel goal from Andreas Athanasiou. The real impressive part of the goal was Tyler Bertuzzi’s pass as he displayed the patience of a seasoned pro.

The Wings then had a long break before they had to host the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday. Both teams were well-rested (the Canes were coming off of their bye week), which made for a terribly boring game. Seriously, it was one of the more boring games of the season. The Hurricanes scored two powerplay goals en route to a 3-1 victory. Tomas Tatar snapped a five game goal drought with a powerplay goal of his own.

THE NEWS

Trevor Daley left the bench in the second period of Detroit’s game against the Hurricanes. He didn’t return to the game. After, the injury was classified as lower-body and no timetable was provided for his return.

As a result of this, the Wings called up little Joe Hicketts from the Grand Rapids Griffins. Hicketts hasn’t had the best season with the Griffins so far, but he made a huge impression in the pre-season and Jeff Blashill is hoping he can provide a bit of energy and spark to the roster.

There’s no guarantee that Hicketts will play. Even with Daley out, the Wings have a full blueline with Nick Jensen, Xavier Ouellet, and Luke Witkowski available to play. That being said, they wouldn’t call up Hicketts to sit in the press box. My guess is Jensen or Ouellet will be scratched and Hicketts will get to play in his first career NHL game against the New Jersey Devils on Monday. It’s either that or a trade is in the works.

THE STATS

The Regular Stats

Only seven Red Wings recorded points this week and only three goals were scored. After some shuffling of the powerplay units, Tomas Tatar got back on the scoreboard this week. Athanasiou, Bertuzzi, and Larkin have been finding some chemistry as all three of them recorded points. Bertuzzi had two assists in Tuesday’s game against the Stars.

There’s not much to say here as there wasn’t much offensive output this week. Detroit’s shooting rates have been way down in January as they’ve only recorded 30 shots or more three times. You can’t score if you don’t shoot and the guys are trying to be way too cutesy with their passing. If you have the puck in the offensive zone, put it on net. You never know what kind of rebound or bounce it can create.

Full Year

I think we’re starting to see the point leaders for the season start to settle in. The top-5 haven’t changed from last week. Athanasiou is slowly climbing the rankings, both on this team and in the league. At the time of this writing, he ranked 34th in the league in goals-per-sixty (> 300 mins), behind teammate Gustav Nyquist (22nd).

Martin Frk is on the cusp of hitting the 20 point mark, which puts him on pace for 38 on the season. If he could crack 40, I’d say that’s an impressive rookie outing for him. Starting to hit the twine on the powerplay would certainly help him get there.

The Fancy Stats

The Wings didn’t play great this week, but at least they played consistently. Against Dallas, they put up a 5v5 shot attempt percentage of 48.39%. Against Carolina, it was 49.32%. We know the that the Wings aren’t a 50+ Corsi team, but if they can find some consistency in their game, they can start working on “the process” to get the details right and steal some wins.

Absent from this chart is Dominic Turgeon, who made his NHL debut last weekend against the Chicago Blackhawks. In his 25 minutes and 13 seconds of ice time so far, he has a 5v5 on-ice shot attempt percentage of 33.33%. That being said, he’s been deployed in mostly a defensive role with inconsistent linemates. He’ll be sent back down when Abdelkader/Helm are ready to come back, but it’s good to get him some experience at the NHL level as he’ll likely be one of the Wings bottom-6 in the coming years.

THE STANDINGS

At this point, the top-3 are pretty much set. The Bruins have been on an absolute tear lately and, with three games in hand, will likely finish above the Maple Leafs.

As for the Red Wings, the playoffs are feeling more and more like a pipe dream. They are ten points behind the New York Rangers for the 2nd Wild Card spot (with two games in hand), but they have five teams to leapfrog if they want to get in. Don’t get your hopes up.

THE WINGS NATION PLAYER OF THE WEEK

This week’s player of the week is Andreas Athanasiou for three reasons:

  1. He’s got 9 points in his last 11 games, forcing me to mention him in my last four columns.
  2. He had another amazing highlight reel goal on Tuesday against the Stars.
  3. The way he wears his hoodie in post-game interviews.

CONCLUSION

Detroit came up short on many levels this week, but most of all on the special teams. Their penalty kill, absent of Glendening, Helm, and Abdelkader, was atrocious. Their powerplay was even worse. They finally found twine with the man advantage, but it took some juggling of the lines to spark the offense. We’ll see if it sticks. If not, Glendening may be back on Tuesday and Abdelkader may be back on Thursday. Don’t expect Helm back until after the All-Star Game.

The positive in this is that it provides more opportunity for the young prospects to make an impression. This is what we’ve been waiting for. The next week will be an interesting one.

COMING UP

The Wings have a busy week coming up with three games on the schedule. Another back-to-back will have them wiped out, but they’ll get a nice five day break after their final game.

Monday, January 22 – @ New Jersey Devils, 7:00 P.M. ET

Tuesday, January 23 – vs. Philadelphia Flyers, 7:30 P.M. ET

Thursday, January 25 – vs. Chicago Blackhawks, 7:30 P.M. ET