With a new coach and offseason roster changes aplenty, this season was sure to be one of transition for the Detroit Red Wings. How have they done so far?
With a rookie head coach, a starting goalie job up for grabs, a teenager named Larkin, and no Dan Cleary, this season was sure to be one of transition for the Detroit Red Wings.
Let’s look at how they did in the first half of the year.
Winning streak: The Detroit Red Wings managed a 13 point unbeaten streak that saw Detroit go 8-0-5 during that stretch. They earned 21 out of a possible 26 points, and climbed near the top of the Eastern conference rankings.
Winning close: The Wings have managed to win 18 one-goal games – tops in the NHL. Winning close games is obviously helpful in the Red Wings quest to continue their playoff streak. More importantly, the ability to win tight games will serve them well during the playoffs, when the competition is stiffer, and close games are the norm.
Mrazek emerging: Coach Jeff Blashill announced at the beginning of the season that the goalie position would be a two-headed monster, with Petr Mrazek and Jimmy Howard splitting time. Mrazek’s stellar play has made that plan irrelevant.
Quite simply, Mrazek has exceeded expectations and surpassed Howard. Mrazek ranks third in the league in goals against average (2.03) and second in the league in save percentage (.932). He has solidified his position as the Red Wings goalie of the future (and present).
Dylan Larkin: Larkin has been a revelation. When training camp started he wasn’t even a lock to make the opening night roster. His immense talents (and poise well beyond his years) earned him a roster spot anyway, and he hasn’t looked back.
Larkin leads the Red Wings in scoring (tied with Henrik Zetterberg at 33 points), and for much of the season he led the entire NHL in plus-minus rating (he currently sits second overall at +24).
Detroit is firmly entrenched in the playoff race once again this year, and a big reason for that has been the impressive play of a teenager named Larkin.
Free agent additions: It might seem unfair to single out Mike Green, but this is more reflective of the free agent additions as a whole. Brad Richards has brought veteran savvy, but not much in the way of tangibles. He has compiled just 13 points.
As far as Green goes, he does have 19 points. But he got off to a slow start this season, has a minus 6 plus-minus rating, and the Red Wings power play (which Green was supposed to boost) is merely ranked 18th.
Offensive Offense: One reason Mrazek has had to perform at such a high level is the fact that the Red Wings offense hasn’t been very good. They rank 21st in the league in goals per game. Pavel Datsyuk started the year injured, and now appears a step slower, or still working his way back to 100% healthy.
Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar have not disappointed, but both have been streaky (goals and scoring droughts included). Whatever the reason, the Red Wings will have to improve their offense moving forward if they expect to make a deep run in the playoffs.
Jimmy Howard: If Mrazek has exceeded expectations, Howard’s performance this year has been underwhelming. His goals against average (2.76), save percentage (.908), and win-loss record (7-7) are all mediocre numbers that rank Howard in the middle or bottom half of the league. Not to mention that big contract of his.
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Rookie head coach Jeff Blashill has the Red Wings tied for second in the Atlantic division, and firmly entrenched in the Eastern Conference playoff race. They are still somewhat a team in transition, but if they can improve their offensive output, tighten the screws defensively, and continue to get the best version of Petr Mrazek, the Red Wings will be in good shape when playoff season comes around.