Despite having just 41 points, the Detroit Red Wings currently have the best winning streak in the Eastern Conference. Blashill’s men have taken eight points from their last four games. While reassuring to fans of the winged wheel, is this a sign that the team’s fortunes are finally turning around? Or is it just a blip in an otherwise mediocre season?
Since losing to the New Jersey Devils on December 27th, the Red Wings have taken the spoils against the New York Rangers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Ottawa Senators and Florida Panthers. There are few teams in the league that would struggle against Ottawa and Florida but points are points, and in the race for a wildcard spot, each one counts. Over this four game window, Andreas Athanasiou has been Detroit’s standout goal scorer, averaging a goal per game, the goose is definitely loose on the wing. Gustav Nyquist has three goals and Dylan Larkin has been quietly impressing. Defensemen Mike Green and Trevor Daley have also impressed and Jimmy Howard‘s heroics can’t be ignored either.
Of course no team ever won the Stanley Cup in January, but the biggest hurdle the Red Wings face in the race for the playoffs is the other teams in the Atlantic. There’s a gap in the standings between the top three teams and the other five that’s big enough to drive a Zamboni through, and the Red Wings are currently the best of a bad bunch. Right now both wildcard places are taken up by Metro teams, and the three spaces below are the same.
I’m not going to write a team off that still has 42 games left to play, especially my Red Wings, but the team has a lot of work to do to if it wants to bridge the points chasm that’s building ahead of them. Tonight the Wings face a real test as they take on the the Tampa Bay Lightning, a team looking to extend their lead at the top of the table.
Although currently unbeaten in 2018 this feels like a blip as the Red Wings don’t have enough tricks up their sleeves to take points from the serious contenders. This isn’t to take away from a team that’s working hard, but effort doesn’t always equate to points and for all the hard work that the team is putting in on the ice, the pay-off hasn’t been there enough to make a big difference.
A recent topic in our writers’ room was ‘why the hype about Athanasiou?’ His lightning fast speed is an undeniable asset for Detroit, but it also seems to be Blashill’s entire strategy. Perhaps this is unfair, but the perception the Red Wings have is that they’re a team that is easily outplayed and rely on breakaways and pace. You could say that’s unfair but having watched an awful lot of Red Wings games this season, the team looks very one-dimensional and my head says this team is done if we don’t see big changes soon. What exactly are those changes? Well that’s a good question…