Red Wings coaches often look at the NHL schedule in 10-game segments. It’s a simple, concise way to measure progress or decline. A way to narrow the focus. It’s easier for players to get their arms around what needs to be accomplished in the next 10 games than it is to think about an 82-game plan
The Red Wings (4-3-2) play their 10th game Thursday at home. That offers an opportunity to review some of the statistics that tell their story in the first segment:
Detroit Ranks 27th With 167 Scoring Chances For (NaturalStatTrick.com)
That speaks to the reality that the Red Wings have three top six forwards (Tyler Bertuzzi, Robby Fabbri and Jakub Vrana) out of the lineup. Bertuzzi and Fabbri are injured and Vrana is in the NHL/NHLPA Assistance Program. The Red Wings are averaging about 18.5 scoring chances per game. They are giving up 23.4 scoring chances per game.
Their 3.11 goals per game is below the league average, but it’s not bad given that Vrana and Bertuzzi are both former 30-goal scorers.
A GAA of 3.56 Won’t Get it Done
The Red Wings rank 25th with a 3.56 goals-against average. It’s hard to win if you need four goals every game to accomplish that. This is not a league where scoring four goals is easily accomplished.
Coach Derek Lalonde has asked his players to play a simpler defensive style and the results have been mixed.
This Detroit team must give up two or fewer goals to win games on a consistent basis and they aren’t yet getting that done often enough.
Power Play Improved, But Not Impressive
You can talk about how the Red Wings are starting to do the right things on the power play and penalty kill, but pro sports are about results. A team cannot be successful in the NHL with a power play ranked in the bottom third of the league. The Red are 23rd at 18.8%
Feel free to wonder if the power play would be better with Bertuzzi and Vrana. Probably it would be. But final scores don’t take into account exceptionable circumstances. If you want to be a playoff team, you must overcome injuries
Red Wings 28th With a 44.3% Faceoff Efficiency
Last season, the Red Wings ranked 18th with a 49.7% efficiency. This season, Dylan Larkin is 90-87 in the faceoff circle for a 50.7% efficiency. Pius Suter is 23-23 for 50%. But Michael Rasmussen (42.1%), Andrew Copp (37.6%) and Joe Veleno (36.15%) are off to slow starts on draws.
Copp has traditionally been strong on faceoffs, averaging 51.3% in his career. That makes his 50-83 record in the first nine games puzzling.
The Red Wings don’t have any right-handed faceoff centers, which puts them at a disadvantage. But they should be better than they are and it will hurt them if they don’t improve.
Too Many Lopsided Losses
Over the past four games, the Red Wings lost to the Buffalo Sabres by five goals and to both the Boston Bruins and New Jersey by four goals.
If there was one area the Red Wings especially wanted to clean up this season it was their competitiveness. Too many times last season, especially late in the season, the Red Wings collapsed defensively. The Red Wings gave up five or more goals 32 times in 82 games.
Already this season, the Red Wings have given up five or more goals four times in nine games. Derek Lalonde has asked his players to keep the puck out of their net as their highest priority.
Copp Has Zero Goals
The Red Wings are not concerned about this because it seems clear that Copp’s slow start has everything to do with hurrying back from offseason surgery. He totaled 21 goals and 53 points last season. Copp can contribute offensively.
But it isn’t helping that Andrew Copp hasn’t scored in his first nine games. The Red Wings need offense from Copp, particularly considering the top players they have out of the lineup.
“Probably a little rust there from missing camp,” Derek Lalonde said. “I think he’s also a little bit in the pressing situation. He’s competitive, he’s hard to play against, he plays in every situation for us and is extremely productive in every situation. I like where his game is at. Do you see a little frustration in that he probably wants a little bit more?
“Maybe. But that’s why he’s the special player, competitive player he is.”