The Detroit Red Wings played the Chicago Blackhawks last night for their 22nd game of the season. Currently, they are tied for third in their division, holding onto a playoff spot with a 12-7-3 record. The Red Wings are looking to get out of their rebuild and make the playoffs for the first time in seven seasons. With all the additions this offseason and new free agent signee Patrick Kane, these would lead most Red Wing or hockey fans to believe that making the playoffs is the intended target.
A Review of How the Red Wings Have Fared
One area that all Red Wings fans can agree that has improved is the offence. The offseason additions of Shayne Gostisbehere and Alex DeBrincat have sparked a relatively okay offence. Currently, they average 3.68 goals for per game, good for fourth in the entire NHL, versus the 2022-23 season, where they averaged 2.89 goals for per game. The power play unfortunately hasn’t improved much going from a percentage of 21.1 to 23.4 this season. The addition of Kane could help revitalize a power play.
Continuing our review, the Red Wings are averaging almost a whole goal more per game compared to last season’s Red Wings team. Dylan Larkin and DeBrincat are Detroit’s top scorers hovering around a point per game. Gostisbehere leads the defence in points with 18, hovering at just under a point per game.
This season so far the defence has faired okay. They are averaging 2.91 goals against per game. A lot of people haven’t liked the newer additions on the defensive core like Jeff Petry, Justin Holl, and Ben Chariot from last season. Interestingly all have some of the worst xGF% according to Naturalstattrick.com. xGF% compares a player’s “expected goals for” with their “expected goals against”. Therefore, having a lower percentage means the other team is getting more scoring chances than the Red Wings when that player is on the ice. Interestingly enough Chariot and Holl lead the team in plus/minus. On the other side offensive dynamo Gostisbehere currently sits at (-3) which is tied for worst on the team.
Defence has not been the Red Wings strong suit, this is from offensive efforts from defencemen. Trying to score or make a play and not focusing on the potential chance they could give up. If the defence cleans up their missed plays and reduces the number of goals against per game this will allow the team to win games where their explosive offence isn’t clicking.
The only word you can use to describe the Red Wings goaltending is inconsistent. Not good, not bad, just inconsistent. At times their goaltending trio has kept them in games, other times they are ducking from an overtime buzzer-beater. Alex Lyon sits at the top in save percentage with a .958 save percentage in his four games played. James Reimer has a .917 in six games played, and Husso has a .892 in his 12 games manning the crease.
Heading into the second quarter Lyon looks set to earn a lot of work. Depending on how he fares, he could be competing with Husso for the starting role. Reimer hasn’t been bad either and is out-performing Husso as of the moment. If the current trend keeps up it will make for an interesting situation on the back end. That could see Husso or Reimer on the trade block. It’s a small sample size from Lyon, but a good sample so far.
A team can have an amazing record, but if the majority of their games are against the San Jose Sharks or Chicago Blackhawks. Their record will be better than a team playing lots of games against the Boston Bruins or New York Rangers even if they aren’t a better team. The Red Wings have played multiple games against the Rangers and Bruins. They just played their first game of the season against the Blackhawks and have yet to see the Sharks in NHL action.
Comparing this season’s first 22 games to last season, they are almost identical. This season they are 3-6-0 against teams in a playoff position. In 2022-23, they posted a 4-6-1 record against teams that went on to make the playoffs. Against teams not in a playoff position, they have gone 9-1-3 this season. Compared to their 6-2-2 record against teams who ended up missing the playoffs.
Evaluation and Review Summary of the Red Wings Through the First Quarter
Where does this put the Detroit Red Wings? Most would say in a spot to make a run at the playoffs. The signing of Patrick Kane signals to everyone that the goal is to make a run at a playoff spot. Last season they had a decent run until they sold at the trade deadline. Fans will never know how close the Detroit Red Wings would have gotten to the postseason had they stayed the course. This season they will, possibly being buyers at the deadline to improve their chances of making the playoffs. With a lot of hockey to play the Red Wings are right where they want to be. Now, they have the writing on the wall to end their playoff drought in the spring.
Main photo: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports