NHL coaches like to remind players that games in October, November and December are just as important as the games in March and April when playoff races are in full bloom. That’s particularly true for the Red Wings tonight as they face the Florida Panthers in Sunrise, Fla.
No playoff spot will be decided. But it feels nonetheless like an ultra-important contest for the Red Wings. If Detroit downs the Panthers, it will be the first time since 2010-11 Detroit swept the Panthers and Lightning on a Florida trip. They have only won once in the last nine road games against the Panthers.
A sweep would certainly add another layer of credibility to the idea that Detroit is in the Atlantic Division playoff race.
The Florida Panthers looked an awful lot like the #NHLJets did last year… weird 🤔
— LARS 🇨🇦🇺🇦✊ (@LittleGeneral04) December 7, 2022
The Panthers are not the same team they were a year ago when they won the President’s Trophy with 122 points. Like the Red Wings, they have been undermined by injuries. No. 1 center Sasha Barkov is expected to be out until mid-December with an illness. Here is an overview of how the Red Wings stack up against the Panthers:
Still Find the Net
The Panthers are just ahead of Detroit in the goal-scoring department. With Matthew Tkachuk replacing Jonathan Huberdeau, the team from South Florida sits 11th in the NHL at 3.42 goals per game and Detroit is 14th at 3.20.
Red Wings Playing Better
Numbers show that. The Red Wings (13-7-5) are playing .620 hockey and the Panthers (12-10-4) are at .538. The Red Wings are sitting in an Atlantic Division playoff sport. The Panthers are three points out of a playoff spot. The Red Wings are 6-2-2 in their past 10 and the Panthers have lost 7 of their past 10. Detroit has a game in hand.
Ville Husso is providing Detroit with better goaltending than Florida has gotten from the combination of Sergei Bobrovsky and Spencer Knight. Husso has played brilliantly for the Red Wings, posting a .916 save percentage and 2.54 goals-against average. He has stopped 76 of 80 shots to help Detroit the first two games of this road trip. Knight’s numbers are comparable (2.64, .919), but Bobrovsky is struggling with a 3.72 GAA and .880 save percentage.
Detroit’s Improved D
Word around the NHL is the Panthers are looking to acquire another veteran defenseman. Their defense hurt them last season in the playoffs. It’s not good enough this season, either. Detroit’s defense is still a work in progress, but it has improved since Jake Walman and Jordan Oesterle started playing more. Detroit’s top four of Moritz Seider, Ben Chiarot, Olli Maatta and Filip Hronek is beginning to look formidable. Hronek has been first rate in all three zones.
The Red Wings boast a higher power play efficiency and penalty-killing success. They are even better in the faceoff circle, although a 47.8% to 47.2% advantage is nothing to brag about.