Wings’ playoff chances growing dim
So this is what “it” looks like. It’s been so long that many of us have forgotten all about it.
The “it” I’m referring to is a National Hockey League team that isn’t likely to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs this season in general, and – specifically – the Detroit Red Wings.
It appears that the Red Wings’ 25-season playoff streak will end in its final season at Joe Louis Arena. Anything can happen, of course, but Detroit’s chances of making it 26 consecutive playoff appearances didn’t look good after a 2-0 loss to the Anaheim Ducks in Anaheim on Jan. 4.
The Wings were 16-17-5, good for 37 points and seventh in the Atlantic Division. Although they were only seven points out of the third and final Atlantic Division playoff spot, three teams – the Florida Panthers, Tampa Bay Lightning and Toronto Maple Leafs – stood between Detroit and the Boston Bruins, who were third in the Atlantic.
It is always difficult to gain ground with that many teams in the mix, even with 44 games remaining in the regular season. A wild-card playoff spot is out of reach, because the two wild-card teams will most likely come out of the Metropolitan Division.
Over the past few seasons, the Red Wings have rallied late to make the playoffs and/or gotten in on the last day of the season, as was the case in 2015-16.
That task will be quite difficult in 2016-17.
Detroit continued to be offensively challenged, averaging 2.32 goals per game, 25th in the league, and a big part of that has been a miserable power play.
The Red Wings 11.4 power-play percentage was 30th and worst in the NHL overall. But that was not nearly as bad as the unit has been on the road. It was only 2-for-56 for a 3.6 percentage, of course also worst in the league, and had gone 0-for its last-48 away from JLA. Detroit’s last road power-play goal had been Oct. 19 (by Thomas Vanek).
“Frustration doesn’t do anybody any good,” coach Jeff Blashill told the Detroit News. “What you can do is find ways to be successful. We look at every which way we can find ways to where we can be successful.”
Blashill added: “We just have to spend more time in the zone. Everybody is talking about how few shots we have, but a lot of that is spending enough zone time.”
The 2-0 loss to the Ducks is the fifth time the Red Wings have been shut out this season.
After missing a month with a strained right MCL, Brendan Smith re-aggravated the injury against Anaheim, in only his fourth game back.
“It’s a little sore right now,” Smith told www.mlive.com the following morning. “We don’t have too many answers right now. It was kind of a fluky (play). We’re just going to wait until the swelling goes down, kind of take it from there.”
Smith was not expected to play in the final two games of the California trip, Jan. 5, in Los Angeles and Jan. 7, in San Jose, and might be out longer.
“To me, it doesn’t feel anywhere near as bad as last time,” Smith said of the original injury on Nov. 26. “We’ll just have to see how everything goes in the next couple days and go about it like that.
“I think we did a good job of getting ready and taking precautions. It’s just unfortunate. Hopefully, we can figure out what’s going on and try and get back in.”
Smith was injured in the third period, after getting tangled up with Cam Fowler.
Niklas Kronwall suffered a lower-body injury in the game and was expected to miss at least the next two games before being re-evaluated.
The Red Wings finished the game – the entire third period – with only four defensemen.