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The State of the Detroit Red Wings

It’s been quite the bounce back season for the Detroit Red Wings. They’ve been able to stay healthy for the most part (knock on wood), the young trio of Tomas Tatar, Riley Sheahan, and Gustav Nyquist has proven that last year’s opportunity was not a fluke, Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk continue to provide the veteran leadership the young team needs, and goaltender Jimmy Howard had a solid first half before he suffered a groin injury. Head Coach Mike Babcock has called his group the best he’s had in Detroit since 2009. In addition, the special teams have been top-tier, placing in the top five in penalty kill and power play. The state seems very stable in Hockeytown at the moment with where they stand now.

Where Do They Stand?

The Red Wings have to be happy with where they stand at the break. Second in the Atlantic Division, third in the East, and 5th in the entire NHL. How have the Red Wings been able to stay the course? Well, it’s been an abundance of factors.

The team itself has been solid offensively after struggling early on, placing in the tenth spot in the league for goals for at a 2.92 clip. Captain Zetterberg leads the way with 44 points with Nyquist hot on his tail with 36 points. Datsyuk has played in 36 games and has 35 points. Tatar has already improved on his goal total from last season with 21 markers to go with 34 points. Niklas Kronwall has been steady as she goes with 27 points to lead the defensive core.

Speaking of defense, the Wings have been sound and it has been pretty. Currently ranking 6th in the league in goals against as a team (2.38), the failure to sign a top-tier defenseman in free agency has not affected the core. Kyle Quincey has enjoyed a bounce-back season, Brendan Smith has had another year of growth, and Kronwall has led the way in stabilizing the defense.

In terms of those fancy stats, the Wings are 4th in the league in shots against per game at a 27.1 clip, and are one of the top teams in possession evidenced by faceoff winning percentage ranking third at 53.9%. In terms of Corsi For%, the team is currently at a 54.3% clip, 0.1% away from first in the league. The team is first in the league in Corsi Against with 1609 shots against them compared to 1914 shots for.

Biggest Storyline of the First Half

There have been many memorable moments and storylines surrounding this year’s edition of the Detroit Red Wings, but one stands out above all others.

The Kids Are (Still) Alright

We all know the Red Wings were gutted last season, which led to the club digging into the farm to help the team stay afloat. Sheahan, Jurco, Nyquist, Tatar, and Petr Mrazek all came in and contributed, leading to all but one of them sticking when the Wings got bodies back. This season, they were put to the test of an 82-game schedule from the start.

They didn’t seem to mind. Tatar leads the team in goals with 21 and shots. 23-year-old Sheahan continues to display a hockey sense that is well beyond his years, while chipping in with 21 points. Swedish sniper Nyquist has 11 powerplay goals, 19 overall, and continues to develop his playmaking game with 17 assists. Jurco has been out with a nagging back issue and seems to need more seasoning, but that is common with players at the age of 22.

Goaltender Mrazek and defenseman Xavier Ouellet had bounced up and down from Grand Rapids until Howard and Jakub Kindl each were put on IR, leading to increased playing time with the big club. Mrazek has been a solid number-one netminder since Howard’s injury, winning five straight starts and posting an overall record of 9-3-1 with a .914 save percentage and 2.44 goals against average. Ouellet, whom many believe should have been up with Detroit in the first place, continues to play smart in any situation, whether it be an offensive breakout or settling things down in his own zone. He is currently fourth on the team since coming up in Corsi For% at 59.3 and second in Fenwick% at 59.7 in 5-on-5 situations.

Moves They Could Make At The Deadline

The biggest need for the Red Wings coming into the season was a top-4, preferably right-handed defenseman. Rumors have circulated throughout the season connecting the team to Captials defenseman Mike Green, Buffalo’s Tyler Myers, Coyotes blueliner Keith Yandle, and many more. While the thought of each of these players being acquired is enjoyable, there comes a price. Green is in the last year of his contract. Buffalo is asking for either of Detroit’s last two first rounders in the forms of Anthony Mantha or Dylan Larkin, a first round pick, and Tatar/Jurco for their 24-year old prize. The Coyotes are asking for a top-six forward. Steep, especially when the team is off to such a great start.

Pierre LeBrun of ESPN has reported on the Wings in a recent post of his “rumblings” section.

“If we can find a player that can upgrade us at a price we can live with, we’ll do it.”
-Ken Holland, Red Wings General Manager

Outlook for the Rest of the Season

One of the more underrated teams in the East, the Detroit Red Wings have set themselves up for a strong finish to the latter half of their schedule. After a home-filled schedule in November and December, the Wings made a statement on the first leg of the intense road-weary January and February schedule going 4-2 on that trip. Winners of five in a row with Mrazek relieving Howard due to injury, the Wings seemed to hit their stride going into the break. Now, time will tell if they can keep up in a wide open Eastern Conference. Health will be a big factor as the games start to pile up, especially for the veterans. Can the kids keep it up? How will Howard respond to his groin injury? Where will the Wings finish? Will there be a different Wing on the team after March 2nd? The answers to these questions and the journey to the playoffs begins Tuesday, where we will see what this team is truly made of in the last 35 contests.

Check out other articles in our “State of” series here:

Montreal Canadiens

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