Was Andrew Copp’s overtime winner on Tuesday the biggest goal of the season for the Detroit Red Wings? In the grand scheme of things when all is said and done, probably not.
It is, however, a worthy clubhouse leader.
January sure seems like too early a juncture in the NHL season to be holding a discussion about must-win games. And yet, in the case of the Red Wings, there certainlly seems cause for justification of this notion.
Starting Tuesday, Detroit was looking down a gauntlet of three very winnable games. Tuesday’s 3-2 victory over the San Jose Sharks on home ice was a good start toward what seems like a a trio of games that must conclude with Detroit collecting the maximum six points.
— Detroit Red Wings (@DetroitRedWings) January 25, 2023
Thursday, the Wings go to Montreal to face the Canadiens. The following night they are on Long Island for a date with the New York Islanders.
The Sharks and Canadiens are NHL bottom feeders. The Islanders are still in the Eastern Conference playoff chase, but that objective is fast slipping away from them following a 1-6-3 skid over their past 10 games.
Detroit, three points behind the Islanders and eight points out of a Wild Card spot in the East, needs to put the figurative dagger through all three of these teams. For starters, the Red Wings came perilously close to not getting their way against San Jose.
Red Wings Had To Overcome Sharks And Themselves
Over their past seven games the Wings have lost games to the Columbus Blue Jackets, Arizona Coyotes and Philadelphia Flyers. all teams residing among the bottom 10 of the 32-team NHL. That’s a location the Sharks also call home and yet, San Jose nearly became the fourth lower-rung NHL team to take out Detroit.
It was 2-1 Detroit late in the second period when Logan’s Couture cross-crease shot banked into the net off the leg of Red Wings defenseman Moritz Seider with seven seconds to go in the middle frame.
“For parts of the game we were really good and there were parts where we went to sleep and kind of let them back into it,” Copp said. “I guess we stuck with it and won the game, but that game ended up being a lot more complicated then it needed to be.”
For the most part, Detroit plays well. But then there are moments when the Moe, Larry and Curley version of the Red Wings returns, and chaos ensues. It was a Keystone Cops routine as they were continually failing to clear the puck that led to the tying goal.
“We’re still immature in how we manage our game,” Detroit coach Derek Lalonde said. “I don’t want to sound negative because this was a good win. But we complicated the game.”
Detroit Can’t Keep Giving Away Games
Recent wins over Toronto and Vegas show what this team is capable of achieving when they put it all together. But they need to be bringing that level of compete and discipline to the rink for every game if postseason play is an objective they want to achieve.
“We’re heading in the right direction,” Copp said. “Hopefully we get headed in the right direction quick enough here to make a little push at it.”
The losses to the Blue Jackets, Coyotes and Flyers show how thin the line between success and failure is for the Red Wings.
“It’s been a tough few games here,” forward Michael Rasmussen admitted. “We’ve played well and haven’t got results.”
Ultimately, results are the measure of successful teams. And Detroit needs a result in each of the next two games. Otherwise, it’ll be time to forget about the possibility of playoff hockey for another year.