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Surprise? 27 Games Later, Young Red Wings Holding Own in Playoff Battle

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After dropping their third straight home game last Saturday, the Detroit Red Wings headed to the road to try and find some momentum.

It may not have been a flawless road trip, but it was a productive one. Detroit responded by defeating Columbus, notching a huge win over Tampa Bay, and taking Dallas to overtime yesterday afternoon. The one clunker was a 5-1 loss to Florida Thursday night, but snatching five out of a possible eight points was another positive sign for the young team.

Detroit now stands at 13-8-6, just two points shy of the final wild card spot. A season ago, the Red Wings were coming off a 7-3 loss to Colorado and were just a game over .500 at 13-12-3. Though they were technically holding the final wild card spot, the Boston Bruins had five games in hand are were just two points behind.

A tough second half of the season would follow for Detroit.

Fast forward to 365 days later, and the Red Wings’ positioning is far stronger.

Red Wings Still Face Stiff Competition

The next six games before the Christmas break sees alternating home and away games starting with Carolina on Tuesday. The Red Wings will visit Minnesota (December 14), Washington (December 19) and Ottawa (December 23). In turn, they’ll host Ottawa on December 17 and Tampa Bay on December 21.

Only Ottawa is a far cry from the playoffs right now. Every other team Detroit faces is in the playoff hunt (Washington, Minnesota) or a Stanley Cup contender (Carolina).

The four-day holiday break will allow the Red Wings to take a breath before they round out December against Pittsburgh and Buffalo on the road before closing out 2022 with Ottawa on December 31st.

The next nine games are another stretch of tests for Detroit in its quest to distance itself from the rebuild status.

Sizzling Wings Key to Continued Success

Dylan Larkin has continued to lead beyond the C on his chest, sitting atop the the roster with 27 points and tied for the lead with Dominik Kubalik in goals with 10. Sure, he’s going to want the costly turnover back from Detroit’s 3-2 overtime loss to Dallas, but any critic would be hard pressed to find more faults in Larkin’s performance this season.

Kubalik along with defenseman Filip Hronek have also keyed the Red Wings attack this season. Ville Husso has been stellar between the pipes, posting a .916 save percentage this season.

Another bright spot–rookie Jonatan Berggren who has been a spark for the offense.

Detroit Needs Consistency To Close Out Calendar Year on a High Note

The Red Wings are still without some of their bigger names with Jakub Vrana and Tyler Bertuzzi immediately coming to mind. But it hasn’t held them back. Even without two players counted on to help the Detroit attack, the Red Wings have been stronger on both sides of the ice.

After 28 games last season, the Red Wings had a staggering goal differential of -22. Their regulation point percentage, per Hockey-Reference, was just .411. This season, the goal differential is just -1, while their regulation point percentage is up significantly at .558. Prior to the Florida game on Thursday, Detroit sported a positive differential.

Goals have been harder to come by in the first period, with the Red Wings being outscored 25-18 in the first frame. Contrast that with Atlantic Division leader Boston, which sports a 25-16 advantage and only gets stronger by period.

The Red Wings have fought back admirably throughout the season, most notably against Buffalo when they rallied from a three-goal deficit before falling in overtime. To close out the year on a high note, narrowing the gap during the first 20 minutes will only help in that regard.

But 28 games into the season, Detroit is certainly in a better spot than the club was a year ago.

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