Another week gone and only six more to go before the playoffs are finally here. The Detroit Red Wings (28-20-12) couldn’t have asked for a better start after the Olympic break. They claimed all four points available this week helping them build a safety net over the other teams fighting for the last wildcard spot in the Eastern Conference.
The return of my plus/minus report will serve to breakdown how the Wings were able expand their lead in the extremely tight playoff race. Let’s just say the “animals” helped lead the way.
+ Duck, Duck, Goose
Gustav Nyquist always seems to find himself at the right place at the right time. Wednesday in Montreal was a prime example as he found himself an empty goal to put home the game winner in overtime. The easy tap-in came off a rebound redirected by Johan Franzen (more on him later). It was Nyquist’s 15th goal of the season and now ties Pavel Datsyuk for 2nd most goals on the team. Nyquist returned the favor in Ottawa with a slick saucer pass through three defenders to Franzen for an assist. He has at least one point in 11 out of his last 13 games.
Nyquist has arguably been the best Red Wing since the New Year and perhaps the most productive player in the organization (AHL and NHL combined) this season.
+ Mule’s Hat Trick
Johan Franzen returned to lineup this week after missing 21 of the last 22 games and the Olympics due to reoccurring concussion symptoms. While most players need a few games to get back in sync and knock the rust off, Mule stepped right into action. He took over the offensive workload immediately with 5 points and was the key difference maker in both victories this week.
Not only did he assist on both goals in Montreal in his first game back, but then went into Ottawa and got us Michiganders free Arby’s curly fries with a hat trick (whatever happen to the roast beef sandwiches, now those were the days). It’s only the 2nd Red Wings’ hat trick this season. The first one came from the man praised above, Nyquist on February 2nd against the Washington Capitals.
If the Mule continues to play like he did this week then I have no doubts the Red Wings will comfortably make it into the playoffs.
– Gave a Point Away
The Canadians were outplayed for a majority of the game on Wednesday, yet they stole a point with a game tying goal with 30 seconds left in regulation. It’s a point that probably won’t haunt the Red Wings as the Canadians currently occupy the 2nd spot in the Atlantic division, but giving up a mad scramble goal like that can’t happen this late in the season.
The Wings were just lucky Nyquist came to rescue so they didn’t have to go to another shootout.
+/- Rating = +1
Overall, it was a great week of hockey; nothing more to say really. The offense was clicking, the defense was solid, and both Howard and Gustavsson narrowly missed out on shutouts.
Now the focus is to carry this momentum over into the upcoming games this week.
March 4: @ New Jersey Devils
7:00PM EST on Fox Sports Detroit
Standings: (26-23-13) 6th Metropolitan Division, 11th Eastern Conference
Last Meeting against the Red Wings: Dec. 6, 2013 at New Jersey/Devils 1 – Red Wings 3
Prediction: The Devils are starting to pull the pieces together in an attempt to salvage their season, like most teams trying to get into the playoffs this time of year. I expect it’s going to be a close end-to-end game and I’ll just favor the Red Wings because Jimmy Howard has been getting his mojo back in net. Devils 1 – Red Wings 2.
March 6: Vs. Colorado Avalanche
7:30PM EST on Fox Sports Detroit (or NHL Network)
Standings: (38-17-5) 3rd Central Division, 5th Western Conference
Last Meeting against the Red Wings: Oct. 17, 2013 at Colorado/Avalanche 2 – Red Wings 4
Prediction: The Wings struggle at home (11-11-8) and this isn’t the team they want to face on Nick Lidstrom’s jersey retirement night. The Wings battle and at least get it into overtime for their former captain, but Colorado is too strong and take the full two points in overtime. Red Wings 2 – Avalanche 3 in OT.
March 7: Vs. New Jersey Devils
7:30PM EST on Fox Sports Detroit
Prediction: The rematch from the game on Tuesday. I like the Wings’ chances to bounce back from the loss to the Av’s with stellar goaltending and a few lucky bounces past Martin Brodeur (or Cory Schneider) to get the win. Red Wings 2 – Devils 0.
March 9: @ New York Rangers
12:30PM EST on NBC
Standings: (33-25-3) 2nd Metropolitan Division, 6th Eastern Conference
Last Meeting against the Red Wings: Jan. 16, 2014 at New York/Rangers 1 – Red Wings 0
Prediction: Call it scripting or whatever you want, but the Wings find themselves in a number of high scoring games when they play on national television. The latest came when Nyquist scored his hat trick in Washington as mention above. So, why not have another one? Rangers 3 – Red Wings 4.
The Red Wings will have to get use to have more games on the schedule each week. In four of the remaining six weeks, the Wings have to play the maximum four games per week. Eight points a week is going to rapidly shake up the standings.
Don’t blink because one extremely bad or good week could change the entire outcome for the rest of season.
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