Detroit Red Wings weekly: 3rd period breakdowns

The Detroit Red Wings (15-11-9) are struggling. There is no other way to phrase it. Players are dropping like flies and the team has lost five straight games.

These aren’t the Red Wings we are accustomed to seeing. The silver lining is that the Wings still occupy a wildcard spot in the Eastern Conference with a 5 point cushion over the 9th place Ottawa Senators.

So with that optimistic mindset in place, here is my looking back at the week that was.

Warning: It’s not going to be pretty.  

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Mrazek put together two shutout periods with a couple of remarkable saves before the Lightning blew the game open in the 3rd last Sunday. (Photo Credit: Dave Reginek / Getty Images)

The Pluses

This was one of the most depressing weeks of the season. How could I possibly award any positive points for the Red Wings? It wouldn’t make any sense if I did.

On a side note, we did get to see some of the up and coming talents in the organization. The injury bug allowed Tomas Jurco, Petr Mrazek, and Luke Glendening some playing time in the NHL. All three of them showed potential as future Red Wings regulars and tonight that trend will continue as Riley Sheahan gets the call up to replace the injured Gustav Nyquist.

The Minuses

- Sealing the Deal

The Red Wings are turning into the Detroit Lions. They can’t close out victories.

These numbers are frightening: 0-6 in shootouts (worst in NHL), 9 overtime loses total (worst in NHL), and a .600 winning percentage when leading after 2 periods (2nd worst in the NHL). Add in the three goals given up in the 3rd period against the Tampa Bay Lightning to finish my claim. This is becoming an inexcusable mental problem without a solution.

So, what’s the correct answer? Firing the head coach wouldn’t make much sense here, like it would in the NFL. The Wings just need to pull together and find that winning spirit that’s gone missing. It’s in there somewhere; we have seen it multiple times already this season.

At the very least Hockeytown fans, don’t start panicking just yet. The Red Wings always seem to find that resolve when it matters the most. It’s what separates them from the Lions.

-  The Small Things

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Datsyuk’s return has helped but hasn’t been enough to stop the bleeding. (Photo Credit: Mike Carlson / Getty Images)

Pinpointing a major flaw that needs to be fixed to end the losing streak is impossible. It’s really a combination of minor issues pilling up: Special teams going cold, the offensive attack stalls out for periods at a time, unforced turnovers in our own zone, or even as simple as bad skating.

In prior losing streaks it was obvious that the secondary scoring was the problem. Gustav Nyquist and Darren Helm came in and fixed it. This time it’s not that simple. This is certainly a team problem that can’t be fixed by one or two players. I’m sorry, but Pavel Datsyuk can’t carry this team by himself.

+/- Rating = -2

Without the injuries this week would have easily been a -4 or -5. The team has to fight through these rough patches, and the true fans have to as well. We are getting to the point where bandwagon supporters are starting to jump ship. And it’s probably only going to get worse before it can get better.

The Red Wings’ have a tough 3-game schedule this week on the cusp of Christmas and the New Year.

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Riley Sheahan makes his 3rd NHL appearance tonight against the Ducks. (Photo Credit: John Kosak)

December 17: Vs. Anaheim Ducks

7:30PM EST on Fox Sports Detroit

Standings: (23-7-5) 1st Pacific Division, 2nd Western Conference

Last Meeting against the Red Wings: May 12, 2013 at Anaheim/Ducks 2 – Red Wings 3

Prediction: It’s the first time the Red Wings get to face the Ducks since knocking them out in the first round of the playoffs back in May. It’s at Joe Louis Arena and Gustav Nyquist has been confirmed out with a groin injury. The odds are certainly not in the Red Wings’ favor.  Red Wings 1 – Ducks 3

December 19: Vs. Calgary Flames

7:30PM EST on Fox Sports Detroit

Standings: (13-15-5) 6th Pacific Division, 13th Western Conference

Last Meeting against the Red Wings: Nov. 1, 2013 at Calgary/Flames 3 – Red Wings 4

Prediction: This is easiest game on the schedule this week, so it’s a must win. Red Wings 3 – Flames 0

December 21: @ Toronto Maple Leafs

7:00PM EST on NHL Network (or Fox Sports Detroit)

Standings: (17-15-3) 5th Atlantic Division, 7th Eastern Conference

Last Meeting against the Red Wings: Jan. 7, 2012 at Toronto/Leafs 4 – Red Wings 3

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Construction of the Winter Classic ice rink has begun at Michigan Stadium. (Melanie Maxwell / The Ann Arbor News)

Prediction: The tune up game before the Winter Classic on New Year’s Day needs to demonstrate that the Wings are going to take this Original Six rivalry seriously. At this point in the season it’s safe to say the Leafs and Red Wings are going to be fighting each other for the 3rd spot in the Atlantic Division or the two remaining wildcard spots. Making the four division games they play against each other crucial. Leafs 2 – Red Wings 1 in a shootout

The Winter Classic is two weeks away, but before the Red Wings can experience the festivities that were taken away from them during the lockout shorten season last year, they have to stay focused on the present (and not the presents).

If the Red Wings continue to slip down the standings and eventually out of a playoff spot that would be worse than getting coal on Christmas in Hockeytown.

You can follow me on Twitter @AEisen13 and while you’re at it, follow @isportsweb.

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