The Detroit Red Wings are feeling pretty good about themselves. For the most part, there’s sound reasoning for the positive vibes.
With a 7-2-2 record, the Wings have established a significant home-ice advantage at Little Caesars Arena.
For the first time since the 2017-18 season, the 10-9-3 Red Wings show a winning record 22 games into the season. They were also 10-9-3 that season but in the midst of a seven-game losing streak.
Twice this season, the Red Wings have fallen into four-game losing skids but were able to pull out of their funk and get back to winning.
“It’s been a special feeling and we need to keep it going and we need to continue to get better,” Red Wings captain Dylan Larkin said.
He’s absolutely right about the need to continue to get better. And it starts by displaying the ability to take their show on the road.
Detroit is a dismal 3-7-1 away from the friendly confines of LCA. Only six NHL teams – Chicago, Arizona, Buffalo, Ottawa, Montreal and Seattle – have won fewer times away from home this season.
This is not the company the Red Wings want to be keeping.
Red Wings Must Become Road Warriors
Good teams win on the road. Playoff teams win on the road. Of last year’s postseason participants, only the New York Islanders (11-13-4) were showing a losing road mark.
If the Wings want to be in the reckoning to be considered among either of these groups, they need to find a way to be a reasonable facsimile of what they are at home when they are away from home.
“Everyone knows to make the playoffs you have to take care of home-ice advantage but you need to go at least .500 on the road,” Red Wings defenseman Jordan Oesterle said.
Clearly, Detroit isn’t the same team when traveling to other NHL outposts. The Red Wings have surrendered five or more goals seven times this season. Six of those games were played on the road. They’ve netted two goals or fewer in 10 games this season, seven of which were away contests. Detroit’s road penalty kill is 28th in the NHL at a 70% success rate.
Can You Bring Your Own Crowd?
Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill is offering a suggestion as to how the Wings can replicate their home cooking when away from home. However, his plan would be requiring the Ilitch family to charter numerous jets and display a willingness to spend an exorbitant amount of cash in the secondary ticket market.
“We’d like to take our crowd, but we can’t, and that’s probably a good segue to what we got to do better and that’s quell momentum on the road,” Blashill explained. “How do you do that? You manage the puck better. You put pucks behind, you take what’s given. If there’s plays to be made, you make the play. If there’s not a play to be made you live another day.
“We got to defend better and not give up easy chances and we got to get the puck out of our zone.”
Simply put, good road teams simplify the game plan. They don’t push the issue and the least among their concerns should be putting on an entertaining display on the ice.
“Be patient and wait for our chances to score goals,” Oesterle outlined as a successful road blueprint. “If it has to be 0-0 until the third and then score in the third, so be it.”
While patience may be virtuous, rolling out the welcome mat can’t be part of the agenda.
“I think we need to go in and be very direct in our play,” Oesterle said. “Go in and try to force our hand on them and not sit back and let the game come to us.”
Boston Are Red Wings’ Arch Nemesis
The Red Wings get to next test their road worthiness on Tuesday at a place where good days for them are few and far between – Boston’s TD Garden. Since Game 2 of the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs, Detroit is 1-11-2 there, including an embarrassing 5-1 debacle on November 4.
“We’ve really grown as a group throughout this season with the ups and downs,” Jordan Oesterle said. “That’s the next step, to go in and play good on the road games.”
Doing so in Boston would be as appropriate place as any to get this part of their game started.