Legendary Wayne Gretzky is credited for uttering the famous hockey mantra that “you miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.” The Detroit Red Wings may have been absent when Gretzky said that.
The Red Wings certainly didn’t get that message last season when they finished 28th in the NHL with an average of 28.4 shots on goal per game. The
Florida Panthers led the NHL with 36.8 shots and then finished 12 points ahead of Detroit for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot.
That’s why it is noteworthy that the Red Wings registered 42 shots on net Saturday in downing the Tampa Bay Lightning 6-4. The line of Alex DeBrincat, Dylan Larkin and Lucas Raymond combined for 17 shots on the net. Daniel Sprong added six. They did that against a Lightning team that knows a little something about playing defense.
“I don’t know if we’re a high volume shot team,” Derek Lalonde said. “Certainly we weren’t last year. But we are obviously when we put up 40-some (vs. Tampa Bay). We obviously outshot New Jersey the other night. I just think some of those additions we talked about, what they add is we’ve got some shooters in there, too and they’ve been assertive.”
One of GM Steve Yzerman’s primary summertime objectives was to improve the offensive production by bringing in some pure shooters. He tried to do that by signing DeBrincat and Sprong.
DeBrincat generated 263 shots on goal for a struggling Ottawa team last season. That total would have led the Red Wings in shots last season. In fact, Larkin (244 shots) was the only Red Wings player to produce 200 or more shots.
Sprong managed 147 shots in 64 games last season while playing 11:25 minutes per game on Seattle’s fourth line. He scored 21 goals on those 147 shots. That would have ranked fourth in the Red Wings, ahead of players such as Lucas Raymond and Andrew Copp.
Red Wings fans have already seen that Sprong has a wickedly quick release and booming shot. It’s only two games, but it’s still appropriate for the Red Wings to at least be encouraged by the fact they have nine goals and 77 shots on goal in their first two games. DeBrincat and Sprong have combined for five goals and 15 shots on goal.
Knows How to Finish
DeBrincat has demonstrated he can be a game-changer for Detroit just because of his hands.
“Just a good stick, finish, some confidence,” Lalonde said. “At 4-3 (vs. Tampa Bay) that’s a tight game. That fifth goal is a huge goal. That’s a true finish. You can say he got a little fortunate but he’s getting pucks to the net. The one bouncer, his first goal. But even Sprong’s goal was just getting the puck to the net, having that shoot-first mentality. For him and our group, that’s been the way through two games so far.”
That’s the question for the Red Wings? Will the shoot-first attitude demonstrated by DeBrincat and Sprong be contagious? It seems to be for Larkin. He has 13 shots on goal in two games. That’s a pace for 533 shots.
DeBrincat creates space for Larkin because defenders have to respect DeBrincat’s shot.
“I hope so, but those guys, I think they get caught into it, a little offensive focused,” Lalonde said. “Both those type of players will get some rope with us. It’s just the reality of trying to be successful in that balance. I still think if those guys play with proper habits – the stopping and starting, the being good in their zone – just maximize as much time as they can spend on the rush and in the zone, it’ll make them successful.”