Detroit Red Wings weekly: Helm sparking the playoff push

After a slow start to the week the Detroit Red Wings (35-26-14) bounced back to take the 4 remaining points with solid victories over the Toronto Maple Leafs (4-2) and Tampa Bay Lightning (3-2).

The outcome moves the Red Wings up to 7th in the Eastern Conference standings and clear of the cut off line by 4 points. It’s looking more and more likely the Wings will be on the road in either Boston or Pittsburgh to start their run for the Stanley Cup.

But, let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. One step at time, so here is a look back at the positives and negatives from the week in my plus/minus report.

The Pluses

detroit red wings

A sight we are all hoping to see once again in a few months. Too much to ask for?

+ Helmer’s Hatty

The speedster Darren Helm didn’t waste any time making a huge impact after his return to his lineup. His hat-trick in Toronto was the first of his career and put him at a nice even 10 goals for the season. With Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg out, the Wings needed that second spark plug guy and Helm was able to fill the role.

His speed can’t be matched and that’s what makes him the x-factor moving forward for the final 2 weeks of the regular season.

+ Young Guns

The Wings put up 13 goals this week with 9 of those coming from players 25 years old or younger. Gustav Nyquist was been attracting all the attention with his unreal hot streak in which he has scored 11 goals in his past 9 games. Tomas Tatar looked unstoppable in the 3rd period against the Canadians picking up 2 highlight reel goals. There was even a Joakim Andersson sighting tonight with a rebound goal and Riley Sheahan continues to impress on the “kid line” with the aforementioned Tatar and his partner in crime Tomas Jurco.

Hockey isn’t all about offense though. The defense (and offensive awareness) of Brendan Smith has improved tenfold from the start of the season. While 24 year-old Danny DeKeyser continues to solidify his role as a reliable anchor on backline for seasons to come.

The Minuses

- Slow Starts

The Red Wings gave up the 1st goal in all 4 games this week. They were able to fight back in three of them but not showing up at the start of games is a recipe of disaster. I know these Wings are a feisty bunch but somebody should tell them that it’s easier (and more comforting to watch as fans) if you aren’t trailing for most of the game. Not giving up goals in the final 5 minutes of games would be helpful as well.

+/- Rating = +1

The Wings did what they had to do to stay in the playoff race, even if it looked ugly at times.

So, take a deep breath and regroup because the Wings are looking at another set of 3 games in 4 nights starting on Wednesday. Here’s what is on tap with my predictions.

April 2: Vs. Boston Bruins

8:00PM EST on NBC Sports

Standings: (52-17-6) 1st Atlantic Division, 1st Eastern Conference

Last Meeting against the Red Wings: Nov. 27, 2013 at Detroit/Red Wings 6 – Bruins 1

Prediction: The Wednesday night rivalry game on NBC Sports will be a telling sign if the Red Wings can pull together a playoff run. The Bruins are 9-0-1 in their last 10 games and have been red hot through March cruising to the top spot in the East. I’ll give the Wings a fighting chance and hope they can steal a point. Red Wings 2 – Bruins 3 in OT.

April 4: Vs. Buffalo Sabres

7:30PM EST on Fox Sports Detroit Plus

Standings: (20-45-9) 8th Atlantic Division, 16th Eastern Conference

Last Meeting against the Red Wings: Nov. 24, 2013 at Buffalo/Sabres 1 – Red Wings 3

Prediction: From the best in the Eastern Conference to the worst. This is a must win, can’t have a letdown game this late into the season. Red Wings 3 – Sabres 1.

April 5: @ Montreal Canadians

7:00PM EST on NHL Network (or FSD)

Standings: (43-26-7) 2nd Atlantic Division, 3rd Eastern Conference

Last Meeting against the Red Wings: Mar. 27, 2014 at Detroit/Red Wings 4 – Canadians 5

Prediction: Back to the top of the Atlantic Division for the final game of the week. The Wings will have revenge on their mind after what happened this week. But, like the Bruins, the Canadians are also playing some of their best hockey right now: 8-2-0 in their last 10 games. Canadians 4 – Red Wings 2.

That means I’m looking for 3 points out of a possible 6 this week. If they can manage that then they should be in the driver seat for the final week of the regular season to extend the playoff streak to 23 seasons. 7th place in the East would probably mean a date with Pittsburgh Penguins in the 1st round, while the 8th seed is looking at the Boston Bruins.

Wait, I did it again. I’m getting too far ahead of myself; just one game at a time.

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