The Detroit Red Wings go into Wednesday’s home game against the Tampa Bay Lightning looking to end a season-high six game losing streak. They have picked up two points in those six games, one coming Monday night in a 4-3 overtime road loss to the Washington Capitals.
The six-game slump matches the longest slump the Red Wings had last season. They lost six in a row twice — March 4-15 and again March 24-April 3. They picked up one point in the first six-game losing streak and two in he second.
“I think we just need to play a full 60-minute hockey match,” Red Wings forward Oscar Sundqvist said about their losing streak. “It feels like way too many times it’s been late in periods and we’ve been letting in goals. We need to close those periods out, even if it’s during a tough stretch during the game. We need need to be able to keep the puck out of our net and get back into the locker room with a lead.”
The inability to hold leads has been a problem. “We just need to keep working, maybe be a little more detailed in our game,” Sundqvist said. “I don’t know what really causes us to let in goals late in periods. We just need to find a way to get out of that.”
Here are some numbers and facts contributing to the Red Wings’ current losing streak:
Michael Rasmussen and Dominik Kubalik each only have one assist over the past six games. Kubalik is -5 during the slump and Rasmussen has been -4. Lucas Raymond is also -5 during the losing streak, while David Perron is -4.
Kubalik’s lack of production has been particularly stressful because he helped carry the team in the early going on. The Czech forward had 10 points in one five game span earlier this season. He is still second on the team in scoring with 26 points. But he’s not getting as many shots as he had earlier in the season.
Five of the six teams to beat the Red Wings during this losing skid were playoff teams last season. The Ottawa Senators were the only non-playoff team in the group. And the Senators came into Detroit on a 7-2-1 surge.
It’s fair to wonder if we had an exaggerated impression of the Red Wings’ competitive level because they played a weaker schedule over the first quarter of the schedule. It’s not as if coach Derek Lalonde didn’t admit that the team’s underlying numbers show they weren’t as strong as they appeared.
It doesn’t get any easier for the Red Wings. Two of their next three games are against the Tampa Bay Lightning, who have won 11 playoff rounds over the past three seasons, plus the Pittsburgh Penguins who have made the playoffs for 16 consecutive seasons. A rematch with the Senators is sandwiched between those games.
During the losing streak, the Red Wings have been outscored 23-10. They have averaged 1.66 goals per game and given up an average of 3.83. They lost one of their games 1-0 to the Carolina Hurricanes. If you remove that game, the Red Wings gave up an average of 4.4 goals per game in the other five.
The increased goals against reflects several factors, including untimely mistakes, poor penalty killing, sloppier defensive play and even less sharper goaltending than we are used to seeing from Ville Husso. He has four of the losses, and his save percentage was .899 in those games. He would likely say there were at least a couple of goals he would like to have back.
But this losing streak hasn’t been about goaltending. This has been a group failing. Poor clears on penalty killing, troubles sorting out defensive responsibility at inopportune times and blown coverage are all a part of the problem.
Special Teams Failure
The Red Wings have given up six power play goals during the losing streak. They have also scored only three power play goals in 22 opportunities. That’s 13.6%. Not good enough in this era. Their penalty killing has been at 71.4% during the losing streak.
Special teams always have ups and downs during the season, but the Red Wings need a higher degree of consistency to stay competitive.
No One Rising Up
Nic Dowd scored twice in 11 seconds to help the Washington Capitals beat Detroit Monday night. Drake Batherson scored twice in Ottawa’s win against the Red Wings. Goalie Pyotr Kochetkov produced his second consecutive shutout to beat the Red Wings 1-0 during this losing streak.
Opponents seemed to have someone grabbing the spotlight during this losing streak. The Red Wings have not truly had any player generate a “big game” during this losing. No one scored two goals in a game. No one even registered two points. Even Filip Hronek, who had been the team’s hottest player, went lukewarm during this team slump. He had one goal in six games.
One player who put up numbers that made you take notice was Jake Walman. He only played five of the six games and he was +4. He also put up 14 shots on goal in those games. He probably cemented his role on this defense with his continuing strong play.
But it is clear that if the Red Wings want climb out of this losing slide, they need a player or two to lead the charge.