Detroit Red Wings weekly: Puzzling split

detroit red wings

Gustav Nyquist celebrates the Red Wings lone game winning goal of the week. (Photo Credit: Eliot J. Schechter / Getty Images)

The Detroit Red Wings (18-13-9) got shut out by the New York Islanders and narrowly escaped another close loss by defeating the Florida Panthers 4-3 during this Christmas week. Getting a split isn’t really a bad outcome, but when it comes against two of the worst teams in the Eastern Conferences it certainly does raise some question marks.

  • Can these Wings keep the playoff streak alive?
  • Could injuries be their key downfall?
  • Is Jimmy Howard’s starting role in jeopardy?
  • Which young guns get the opportunity to stay with the Wings as the veterans start to get healthy?
  • Why can’t the Wings win at Joe Louis Arena?

I could go on and on. My plus/minus report will break down the good and the bad from the week that was in an attempt to answer those questions.

The Pluses

+ Monster Saves

Jonas Gustavsson is turning heads. His 30 saves against the Florida Panthers won the Red Wings the game. His flurry of highlight reel saves has made the decision of who is going to start the Winter Classic a very difficult one for Mike Babcock.

“The Monster” has outplayed his role as backup goaltender by going 11-3-2. For comparison, Jimmy Howard’s record is 6-8-7. Howard wants to get the start in Nashville tomorrow but will have to get cleared by the team doctor first. If he does get cleared to play then I wouldn’t be surprised if Babcock sticks with his top goaltender for New Year’s Day showdown in Ann Arbor.

detroit red wings

Gustavsson making one of many sprawling saves against the Panthers. (Photo Credit: Eliot J. Schechter / Getty Images)

+ Rallying the Troops

The moment of the week has to be Henrik Zetterberg’s power play goal in his returning to the lineup. Pavel Datsyuk set him up perfectly and the “Euro Twins” delivered a spectacular goal. Not only was Hank’s presence felt right away, but Justin Abdelkader’s speed and toughness helped ignite the bottom lines as well.

While the rookies have helped pick up the slack and showed the future of the Red Wings’ organization, the return of the veterans would be in Detroit’s best interest (as well as Grand Rapids). Experience goes a long way in hockey. Especially when you have a group of guys that has to live up to the expectations of always making the playoffs.

So, as we enter the last half of the season I hope to see Tomas Jurco, Luke Glendening, and Riley Sheahan battling for the Calder Cup rather than the Stanley Cup. I say that with great respect because their time will come, but right now the veterans need to get healthy and rally the troops to make a successful push for the playoffs.

 The Minuses

- Unforced Errors

detroit red wings

Danny DeKeyser won’t have time to ease back into the lineup with Jonathan Ericsson out 3-5 weeks with fractured ribs. (Photo Credit: Sergei Belski / USA TODAY Sports)

With the injury report getting all the attention lately, we tend put more pressure on the guys that come in to fill those roles. While the forwards have thrived on the NHL exposure, the same can’t be said about the defense. Danny DeKeyser and Jonathan Ericsson’s injuries have opened holes in the Wings’ backline.

Not to point fingers, but Brendan Smith, Kyle Quincey, and Brian Lashoff have been pushed into playing more minutes and have turned the puck over way too much for my liking. From deflected passes to dead giveaways they are giving the opponents quality scoring chances that could easily be avoided. I get it if it’s from Smith or Lashoff because they are still young but Quincey has no excuse.

These unforced errors need to be fixed fast because it’s starting to become a bad habit.

- What’s cooking at the Joe?

The Red Wings have one the worst home records in the NHL (6-10-6). An unbelievable statistic when just two seasons ago they set a franchise record by winning 23 straight games at Joe Louis Arena. Normally, I would suggest what could be fixed but I’m dumbfounded at the lack of success the Wings have at home.

Is it just a fluke or is there more to it? I want to say it’s a fluke but as the losses continue to pile up I’m not so sure. At least the Winter Classic is at the Big House so that’s one fewer home game at the Joe.

+/- Rating = Even

While the win over the Panthers is still fresh in our minds we can’t forget about the letdown against the Islanders. So, by that logic I have to consider this week a washout.

Hopefully the Wings can get back on the plus side this week with 3 games on the schedule included the highly anticipated Winter Classic.

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December 30: @ Nashville Predators

8:00PM EST on Fox Sports Detroit

Standings: (17-18-4) 7th Central Division, 12th Western Conference

Last Meeting against the Red Wings: Nov. 19, 2013 at Detroit/Red Wings 0 – Predators 2

Prediction: Jimmy Howard’s return should give the Wings the boost they need to just eke out a win. Predators 1 – Red Wings 2.

January 1: Vs. Toronto Maple Leafs

detroit red wings

The stage is set.

1:00PM EST on NBC

Standings: (19-16-5) 5th Atlantic Division, 7th Eastern Conference

Last Meeting against the Red Wings: Dec. 21, 2013 at Toronto/Maple Leafs 4 – Red Wings 5 in a shootout

Prediction: The Winter Classic, a special game preview and my prediction will be posted tomorrow. UPDATE: Here it is.

January 4: @ Dallas Stars

8:00PM EST on Fox Sports Detroit

Standings: (19-12-6) 5th Central Division, 10th Western Conference

Last Meeting against the Red Wings: Nov. 7, 2013 at Detroit/Red Wings 3 – Stars 4 in OT

Prediction: The start of a 5-game road trip that will see the team head out west to California. While the Wings have been one of the best road teams this season, this match-up will challenge the Eastern vs. Western Conferences which has be dominated by the West. Stars 3 – Red Wings 1.

The Winter Classic is finally upon us. Hopefully it’s the focal point of a great week of Red Wings’ hockey.

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

Read more Red Wings rumors, news and opinion on our Detroit Red Wings page.

  • 547984

    Hope to see them get on a streak after those injuries. And I don’t think a goalie controversy is here yet…but those monster saves from Gustavsson…

    And Jurco, he has a lot of talent but he has to stop with those fancy moves until he can control the puck better. Seen a few mistakes from him too.

    Can’t praise Nyquist and Tatar enough, they really brought quite the energy to this team, and they didn’t do awfully bad during that injury stretch…so I still have confidence they’ll sneak into the playoffs.

    Great article though.

    • Alex Eisen

      Hey 547984,

      The young guns surely are carrying the team (along with Gustavsson) it will be an interesting shift of power as the veterans are starting to become healthy again. So yes, give those guys credit they deserve but the veterans need to pick up where they left off and continue pushing “their” team forward.