It took the Detroit Red Wings eight games to get into the win column, and it didn’t come easy on Saturday.
Despite going down 2-0, the Red Wings were able to take a 3-2 lead deep into the third period before Mike Hoffman beat Jimmy Howard with a softy from the right boards. After trading chances early in overtime, Gustav Nyqvist was sprung on a breakaway and he made no mistake, scoring his first of the season and tying Dylan Larkin for the team-lead with seven points.
— Detroit Red Wings (@DetroitRedWings) October 21, 2018
Detroit was the last team in the NHL to record a win and still have the worst points-percentage (.250) in the league.
On Monday, they will kick-off a three-game home-stand (continues Friday vs. SJS and Sunday vs. NYI) against the Carolina Hurricanes. The Hurricanes have had a great start under first-year head coach Rod Brind’Amour, going 4-3-1 in their first eight games. In typical Hurricanes fashion, Carolina leads the NHL in shots per game (42.1), second in CorsiFor% (60.42) and fourth in ScoringChancesFor/60 (33.1) but are in the middle of the pack in goals per game (3.25). The Hurricanes continue to be plagued by below-average goaltending, which is something Detroit is familiar with. The Red Wings come into Monday with the lowest 5v5 save percentage (.881). When you pair that with the fifth lowest 5v5 shooting percentage (5.8), you have a one-win team.
The Hurricanes should continue their 5v5 dominance tonight, but their special teams have let them down so far. Carolina has the worst power-play% (6.7) and penalty-kill% (65.4). For Detroit, the power-play has been surprisingly good, converting at 28.0 percent (7th) and they have killed 84.8 percent of their penalties (6th). If the Red Wings are going to win this game, they will need to continue their special teams success.
The Red Wings
Jeff Blashill continues to roll with some extremely confusing lines. Despite Dylan Larkin and Anthony Mantha being excellent together over the years, he seems set on splitting them up. The duo have a 52.5 CorsiFor% and and have averaged 29 ScoringChancesFor/60 in 608:58 5v5 TOI together since 2016-17. In a short sample this year, Larkin and Gustav Nyquist have been great, but their numbers have taken a huge hit with Darren Helm on their wing—SCF/60 drops from 44 to 24 with Helm on that line.
The second line is the only one that makes sense right now. With Henrik Zetterberg out, Frans Nielsen and Andreas Athanasiou have taken on a larger role. They have posted great 5v5 numbers with Tyler Bertuzzi, but the goals have been hard to come by.
The blue line will remain the same, which means Filip Hronek will be a healthy scratch for the third straight game. If you’re going to scratch him, send him down so he can play. Despite a brutal start to the season for the team, Dennis Cholowski has been one of the biggest surprises in the NHL. Cholowski has scored two goals and three assists (five points) in his first six NHL games, but that 12.5% shooting percentage will have to come down eventually. Regardless, the fact that the he is playing nearly 22 minutes (21:48 TOI/GM) in his rookie year and not looking out of place is a huge development for Detroit. To offset a robust 12.5 SH% is the fact that he is on-pace for 213 shots, which would have ranked 11th among defensemen last season. Defensemen usually average around 5-to-7 percent SH%, so that shot volume puts Cholowski on-pace for about 10-to-15 goals. If he is able to score double-digit goals this season, he would be the second Red Wings blueliner to score 10-plus goals since 1989—the only other was Nicklas Lidstrom in 1991-92.
The Hurricanes have been so dominant at 5v5 because of their top-2 lines. The Sebastian Aho line has been a high-event unit this season, but still carry a 55.26 CF%. That doesn’t mean you can’t score when they’re on the ice, because they’re actually giving up more scoring chances than they’re getting—32 SCF/60 and 35 SCA/60.
The same can’t be said about the Jordan Staal line. This trio has put up some freakish numbers in their first eight games. A 68.3 CF%, 38 SCF/60 and just 20 SCA/60 showcases just how dominant they’ve been, but the results haven’t been all that great. Despite owning the puck, they’ve given up the same amount of 5v5 goals as they’ve scored, because of a paltry 5.71 On-IceSH% and an ugly .871 On-IceSV%. Detroit will have a difficult time generating offence when they’re on the ice, but sub-par goaltending could open the door.
Between the Pipes
The Red Wings’ old goaltending tandem will square off tonight. Jimmy Howard will be in net for the Red Wings and Petr Mrazek will get his fifth start for the Hurricanes.
Howard has easily been better than Jonathan Bernier in the early portion of the season, so Blashill will stick with him to try and string a couple of wins together. Howard stopped 34 of 37 in Florida, but would definitely like that Hoffman goal back. Since Little Caesars Arena opened, Howard has gone 15-14-7 with a .911 SV%, which is significantly better than his 8-16-4 and .903 SV% mark on the road.
As for Mrazek, he hasn’t had the best start to his Hurricanes career. The former Red Wing has a 3.07 GAA and .874 SV%in four starts with Carolina, but will be motivated to keep his job tonight. Curtis McElhinney has outplayed him since being picked up off of waivers from Toronto and Scott Darling is nearing his season debut, so the Hurricanes have a decision on their hands. A good outing tonight could go a long way for Mrazek staying put as Carolina’s No.2 netminder. When he started against the Red Wings as a member of the Philadelphia Flyers last season, Mrazek was yanked after allowing three goals on 19 shots in just 29:57 TOI.
How to Watch
Puck drop is at 7:30 P.M. EST and you’ll be able to watch the game on Fox Sports Detroit.
As always, follow us on Twitter to get instant reactions and all the hilarious jokes that we will be making throughout the night.