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Will Red Wings Be In a Playoff Position on American Thanksgiving?



Derek Lalonde, Red Wings coach

Thoughts said aloud sometimes become beliefs in the NHL. We’ve all heard them. Coaches have shelf lives. You can’t rotate goalies in the postseason. Goalies shouldn’t play on back-to-back nights. A team needs to fail in the NHL playoffs to learn how to win in the playoffs. Teams that want to win an NHL playoff round should make sure they have veterans who have won the Stanley Cup before.

Teams that are in a playoff position on American Thanksgiving are likely to qualify for the playoffs in the spring.

Most of those beliefs are at least rooted in the sport’s history, even the one about Thanksgiving, provided you accept that a 75% probability is a likely occurrence. In the salary cap era, 76% of teams in a playoff spot on the American holiday (based on percentage of available points earned) have gone to play in the postseason. Those numbers exclude any season when a full schedule wasn’t played.

Last season’s results fit that model: 12 of the 16 teams that were in an NHL playoff spot on Thanksgiving were still there at the end of the season. That’s 75%.

High Playoff Probability

Seventy-five percent isn’t a guarantee. But most gamblers would like that probability. Detroit Red Wings fans would certainly like that fact if their team could hold one of those spots on Thursday. As this story is being written on Sunday afternoon, the Red Wings (9-5-3), according to the, are the No. 1 wild card team in the Eastern Conference. They are the only wild card team, in either conference, with a points percentage above .600.

They have one game remaining game — at home Wednesday against Nashville — before Thanksgiving. They are only two points out of second in the Atlantic Division. Based on the schedules of their prime contenders, if the Red Wings win that game against the Predators, they will be in a playoff spot on Thanksgiving.

That doesn’t mean anything, but it is a positive indicator, like the way they have played the last two games. They have defeated the San Jose Sharks and Columbus Blue Jackets by a combined score of 13-5.

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“We are a little bit up and down, but we are just trusting our system,” defenseman Moritz Seider told Bally Sports. “But in the end it is going to work out.”

The offense seems to be coming together at the same time they are starting to appreciate coach Derek Lalonde’s defensive scheme. “If we want to win games, we have to shut it down,” Seider said.

The Red Wings are home against the Arizona Coyotes on Friday. But they have more challenging games coming up. Early in December, they have a five-game span when they play the Tampa Bay Lightning, Florida Panthers, Dallas Stars, Carolina Hurricanes and Minnesota Wild.