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Three For Four: Looking Ahead at the Red Wings Road Trip

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It’s the late game times that remind of the old Western Conference playoff games for many Detroit Red Wings fans. The late night viewing that begins tomorrow includes the Los Angeles Kings (Tomorrow 10:30 pm EST), Anaheim Ducks (Tuesday 10 pm EST), and San Jose Sharks (Thursday 10:30 pm EST). The final contest of the stretch has Columbus at the more sleep friendly 7 pm EST next Saturday.

So while caffeine will be a pre-requisite for most fans the morning after, the Red Wings find themselves searching for answers after the 8-2 shellacking they took from the New York Rangers Thursday night.

Here are three thoughts for the four games Detroit has on tap for the road trip.

Red Wings Can Avenge An Early Season Loss to Los Angeles

It was a cat and mouse game against the Kings back in October, handing Detroit a 5-4 OT loss. It was Detroit’s first game without a win at that point, and while it showed the Red Wings had tenacity, the result went the wrong way for them.

The Kings enter the contest on a three-game winning streak, and sandwiched between two teams on hot winning streaks of their own. Since starting the season 0-2, the Kings have gone 9-4-1 since.

This is a chance for a statement game for Detroit, who will get nearly two days off of rest before kicking off the first of three late games. They responded with a victory after losing to Buffalo 8-3. It also resulted in a three-game winning streak.

Could this be the precursor to a West Coast sweep?

The necessity for victory: Play their Game. It sounds cliché, but it was spoken about post game by captain Dylan Larkin. The Red Wings led the game and were still in it at 2-2, until they didn’t. Similar to the Buffalo game, once the puck started going in the net, the confidence sagged. Lalonde spoke to the Red Wings having to play their top game for 60 minutes and of the four games on the trip, Los Angeles will be the stiffest challenge.

Cause for Concern: Los Angeles takes control early. The Kings can score in bunches and though the earlier battle went back and forth, the Kings, too, have played much better hockey since that contest. Their Goals For per Game is at 3.19, good for 15th in the league. Their last two games have been tighter, and the Red Wings goaltending has sparkled this year minus a few clunkers.

Meeting Trevor Zegras and the Ducks on Tuesday; Sharks on Thursday

Detroit dumped the Ducks 5-1 early on in the season and it hasn’t been smooth sailing since for Anaheim. They’re currently hemorrhaging goals and also have yet to win in regulation, going 0-9-5 in their first 14 games. This one, if the Kings game goes south, has the potential to get things back on track for Detroit. San Jose waits just two days later, being in a similar place as the Ducks–tied at the bottom of the Pacific.

The necessity for victory: Wake up the Power Play. The Red Wings have slid back in their last two games, going a combined 0/9, and truly struggling with Montreal in an 0/7 effort. Buoyed by having Jonatan Berggren with them, the young Swede was an asset in Grand Rapids with the extra man. Could he be a new wrinkle that helps Detroit find his scoring touch again?

Cause for Concern:  Both games scream trap. Anaheim just pulled itself out of a seven game losing streak only to start a new one at two. They’ve given up the most goals in the league, and despite having some young firepower with Troy Terry and Trevor Zegras, are not scoring many goals either. Going back to Lalonde’s words, regardless of those facts, the Red Wings must take care of business early and throughout in order to avoid a letdown.

As for San Jose, they have the league’s second best penalty kill, which if Detroit does get opportunities, could provide some fits. Consistent five on five play has been an issue at times so against San Jose, the power play may not help things as they could against Anaheim.

Columbus, Bitten By the Injury Bug, Ends the Road Trip Next Saturday

The Bluejackets will be a shell of themselves, with injuries to key defenseman Adam Boqvist, and Zach Werenski, the latter expected to be lost for the season. Nick Blackenberg, a third defenseman, is lost for at least two months.

As with the final two West Coast contests, the game should favor the Red Wings.

The necessity for victory: Don’t Miss out on Opportunities: The final three games feature teams that are giving up goals at alarming rates and drowning in the respective divisions they’re in. Columbus should be a team Detroit handles well, with its speed and depth scoring. Like Anaheim, Columbus is fishing the puck out of the net often. In fact, they’re first and second respectively in Goals Against per Game at 4.57 and 4.38.

Cause for Concern: Keeping the Injury Bug Away: While Columbus has seen its own concerns with injury, Detroit hasn’t exactly been the healthiest of teams. Of course, it’s part of the game. But they’re approaching the quarter mark of the season, and key injuries have sent Detroit calling to Grand Rapids. Staying healthy obviously makes for the final three games of the road trip to have much better results. Heading into the final game of the four game trip, this is where Detroit is likeliest to be on fumes.

In short, Detroit should see success on the trip, with the opener against the Kings as the real 50-50 contest. But as any faithful viewer of the sport of hockey can attest to, nothing is guaranteed.

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