Throughout the current NHL season, the Detroit Red Wings continue to display that when they are on their game, they’re capable of beating any team. A pair of victories over the Tampa Bay Lightning, along with solo triumphs over the Toronto Maple Leafs and Vegas Golden Knights, are evidence of this fact.
“I think we’ve been playing pretty well against good teams and there’s going to be a lot of good teams we’re going to play against,” Detroit goaltender Ville Husso said. “We know we can beat anybody in this league.”
Here’s the thing, though – Detroit isn’t proving capable of bringing that level of game to the rink on a nightly basis. Consistent performance remains an elusive quality in this team’s DNA.
“Just that consistency in our game,” Detroit coach Derek Lalonde admitted as the element missing from his club. “I think consistency in getting over the hump. Putting a string together of consistent hockey.”
— Detroit Red Wings (@DetroitRedWings) February 5, 2023
It’s worked in both manners for the Red Wings. They’ve never been consistently good, or consistently bad for any long stretches of time this season. Detroit has never won more than three games in a row. At the same time, the Wings have never lost more than three games in a row.
Just look at the club’s recent results. The Wings are 3-1 over the past three games, but just 3-2-1 through the last six. Over the previous eight games, they are 3-4-1 and through the last 13 games, it’s 5-7-1.
Win a few, lose a few isn’t going to get them into the playoffs, however. Detroit is seven points out of the last playoff spot in the NHL’s Eastern Coference, holding one game in hand on the Pittsburgh Penguins, current owners of that spot.
Now Is The Time Red Wings Must Shine
Beginning with Tuesday’s home date against the Edmonton Oilers, it’s time for the Red Wings to put the pedal to the metal. There’s ground to be gained, and time is running out to make it happen.
“We’re trending in the right direction,” Detroit defenseman Jake Walman said. “I think for a lot of the year we’ve been trending in the right direction.
“I just think we need to keep the foot on the gas. We know what needs to be done to compete.”
The other factor working against the Wings is that they sit 14th in the Eastern Conference standings. There’s five other teams they must first hurdle before getting a crack at Pittsburgh in eighth.
“The biggest thing is you got to worry about what’s going on in here,” forward Robby Fabbri said. “You can’t control other teams winning and losing. The most important thing is staying focused in here.
”At the end of the day, we’re playing some good hockey. Just some things we’re going to tighten up and try to get on a little run.”
Have Wings Learned Their Lessons Well
Lalonde has spoken ad naseum about that new coaching catchphrase, the process. His mantra is that results follow process.
To a man, his players believe that this is not platitudes, but sound reasoning. Over the first half of the season, the team has being going to school, learning the lessons of their new coach’s way of doing things.
Now we all get to find out how well the players grasped those lessons.
“We’ve done a pretty good job of learning to stick with it and learning how to compete the whole game,” Walman said. “We got a pretty young team and I think the first half of the season was about teaching. We learned a lot.”
Last season, the team with the lowest point total to make the playoffs was the Nashville Predators with 97. Detroit has 34 games left to play. That’s 68 points up for grabs. Currently, the Red Wings are 21-19-8, good for 50 points. They’ll need to get 47 of 68 points to reach 97 for the season. It will require playing at a .691 clip the rest of the way.
“We’ve been proving it to ourselves and to other teams that it’s never easy when they come into here or we go on the road,” Fabbri said. “We’re going to want some more results, two points every night.”
Well, not every night, but certainly most every night. It seems like a big ask, a bridge too far for a team that hasn’t been able to win more than three in a row all season long.