The Detroit Red Wings (33-24-14) are one of the hottest teams in the league right now. With the odds stacked against them with key players injured, they nearly pulled out a perfect four win week. Victories over the Toronto Maple Leafs (3-2), Pittsburgh Penguins (5-4 in OT), Minnesota Wild (3-2) and an overtime loss to the Wild tonight (3-4) have moved the Wings comfortably back into the playoff picture.
How did the Wings flip the switch and turn the playoff doubters into believers?
My plus/minus report will break it all down.
+ Snipequist, Gus, Goose
Called him what you want, but all Gustav Nyquist does now is score goals. Let’s tally up the numbers shall we. He has 6 goals this week, a goal in each of his last 5 games, a team leading 23 goals this season, and 18 of those coming after January 20. All this production from a guy that started the season in the AHL because the Wings didn’t have a roster spot for him.
When we look back a month from now Nyquist’s hot streak could be the main reason why the Wings were able to sneak into the playoffs.
+ Howard is Back!
If Nyquist isn’t the obvious hero, surely that honor has to go to Jimmy Howard. I admit (for the second time) that I gave up on Howard. That was about two weeks ago and since then he has played lights out. Huge momentum shifting saves combined with experience in late game situations makes for four games all decided by a single goal.
His goals against (12) and save percentage (.908) this week may not look pretty, but he is finding ways to win. Much like Jonas Gustavsson was doing earlier in the season.
+ Discipline and Instant Impact
With all the injuries, the Wings have had to adapt to a new style of hockey. This more disciplined and defensive minded outlook is completely different than what we expect out of a Mike Babcock coached team. Nonetheless, Babcock has made it work; easily a coach of the year candidate by my standards.
A lot of credit here has to go to Grand Rapid Griffins head coach Jeff Blashill for having these rookies prepared to step up. Usually it takes the new guys a few games to find their roles within a team. The Wings’ young guns have been able to seamlessly transition into the lineup and provide an instant impact on the game.
Honorable mention goes to the careless giveaways in their own zone that repeatedly haunt the Wings. But Jimmy Howard continues to bail out his defensemen, so for now that cancels out all the turnovers the Wings need to get that out of their system.
+/- Rating = +3
It doesn’t get much better than 7 points in 4 games this late into the season.
Can they do it again this week?
March 25: @ Columbus Blue Jackets
7:30PM EST on NBC Sports (or Fox Sports Detroit)
Standings: (36-29-6) 5th Metropolitan Division, 10th Eastern Conference
Last Meeting against the Red Wings: Mar. 11, 2014 at Columbus/Blue Jackets 4 – Red Wings 1
Prediction: The first of four crucial games this week. I like the Wings chances to bounce back after the overtime lost to the Wild. Blue Jackets 2 – Red Wings 3.
March 27: Vs. Montreal Canadians
7:00PM EST on TSN (or FSD)
Standings: (39-26-7) 3rd Atlantic Division, 4th Eastern Conference
Last Meeting against the Red Wings: Feb. 26, 2014 at Montreal/Canadians 1 – Red Wings 2 in OT
Prediction: The Canadians have been coasting through the end of the season going 5-5-0 in their last ten games. They get a big night from Corey Price and stun the Wings at home. Red Wings 1 – Canadians 3.
March 29: @ Toronto Maple Leafs
7:00PM EST on NHL Network (or FSD)
Standings: (36-29-8) 5th Atlantic Division, 8th Eastern Conference
Last Meeting against the Red Wings: Mar. 18, 2014 at Detroit/Red Wings 3 – Maple Leafs 2
Prediction: The Leafs are fading and have lost their last five games. The Wings keep that streak going and push Toronto further out of the playoff picture. Maple Leafs 0 – Red Wings 3.
March 30: Vs. Tampa Bay Lightning
5:00PM EST on Fox Sports Detroit
Standings: (39-24-8) 2nd Atlantic Division, 3rd Eastern Conference
Last Meeting against the Red Wings: Feb. 8, 2014 at Tampa Bay/Lightning 4 – Red Wings 2
Prediction: On paper the Lightning would win this game every single time. But, I like the Wings’ grit to at least grab a point out of this Atlantic division showdown. Red Wings 1 – Lightning 2 in OT.
I got the Red Wings picking up 5 points this week, and that may be a bit optimistic. But, if they want to make the playoffs then getting these points is a must. Just 3 weeks left in the regular season and 11 more games for the Red Wings.
There certainly is very little room for error in Hockeytown.
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