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Detroit Red Wings

Playing Goal For Red Wings A Full-Time Workout



Alex Nedeljkovic, Detroit Red Wings
The Detroit Red Wings have given up more high-danger scoring chances than any NHL team this season, making life for their goalies a busy one.

Detroit Red Wings goalies Alex Nedeljkovic and Thomas Greiss are too young to remember the 20-minute workout, the popular high-impact workout that was part of the aerobics craze of the 1980s.

Griess and Nedeljkovic know all about 20-minute workouts, though. They get them just about every time they step between the pipes for the Red Wings. Sometimes, they’ll endure three of them in a single night’s work.

“We’re not a team that gives up 5-6-7 chances a game,” Detroit coach Jeff Blashill said. “We give up too many chances.

“When you do that, you put a lot of weight on the shoulders of your goalie.”

Red Wings Goaltender A Busy Occupation

According to numbers crunched by the hockey analytics site Natural Stat Trick, Detroit is surrendering the most high-danger scoring chances among the 32 NHL teams. The Red Wings have allowed 566 high-danger chances in 55 games. That works out to a per-game average of 10.29.

“The goalies, to expect them to roll out and be great (every night) is difficult,” Blashill said.

Breaking the data down even further, Nedeljkovic is facing 9.4 high-danger shots per game. Greiss is facing 8.89. Overall, Nedeljkovic on average stops 7.66 of those chances, while Greiss is thwarting 7.44 of them. Griess is showing an .837 high danger save percentage, which is 15th this season among NHL goalies who’ve played at least 20 games. Nedeljkovic (.815) is 29th overall in the same category.

Nedeljkovic Bouncing Back

The latter has struggled over the past two months. From Dec. 1-March 1, Nedeljkovic was showing a goals-against of 3.52. But he’s rebounded strongly with a 4-3 overtime win over Carolina and a solid performance in Friday’s 3-1 loss at Tampa.

“He’d be the first one to say he’d been fighting it a little bit,” Red Wings captain Dylan Larkin said. “That (effort against the Lightning) was a great performance out of him. He was calm, ate up a lot of rebounds and didn’t kick much out.”

Nedeljkovic is someone who sets the bar high for himself. “I’ve got all the confidence in the world in myself to go out there every night and give the guys a chance to win and personally be one of the better goalies in the league,”Nedeljkovic said.

“I’ve got a long way to go but that’s how I view things. That’s not going to change.”

Greiss, who is getting the starting nod Saturday in Florida against the Panthers, also pulls no punches when self-assessing his 2021-22 campaign. “Up and down,” Greiss said. “Started well, had a rough stretch the last few games and now played pretty well again.”

Goaltending Can Overcome Defensive Shortcomings

The fact of the matter is that the Wings are not a team that can outscore their mistakes. If their goalies don’t bring their A-game to the ice, there’s another L coming up for Detroit.

Nedeljkovic is facing 32.5 shots per 60 minutes. That’s 13th in the NHL. At 32.1 shots per 60 miunutes Greiss rates 16th in the league in this department.

“I think the goaltending position is the most important position in hockey and I hold our goalies to a high standard,” Blashill said. “So when I think they need to be better and execute at a higher level, I make sure to let them know.”

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The Wings certainly aren’t anywhere near the defensive team they were a year ago. Detroit finished 20th in the NHL in goals against per game (3.00) in 2021. This season, the Wings rank 30th (3.56).

It would be wrong to pin the blame for this on the netminders. At the same time, they can’t be held entirely blameless for the debacle. Detroit has allowed five or more goals 19 times this season.

“You need your goalie to make big saves at big moments and you need to help him by trying to make sure you’re not giving up big-time chances,” Blashill said. “I also know that good defense can really help breed good goaltending. It kind of goes hand in hand and we probably need to be better at both.”