The calendar is turning to a new year, but when it comes to succeeding in close, low-scoring games, the Detroit Red Wings remain stuck rolling with last year’s model.
A 5-3 loss to the Boston Bruins on New Year’s Eve wasn’t the scorefest than the final scoreline is suggesting. Boston scored a pair of empty-net goals to get to five on the ledger. Detroit tallied a late power-play goal.
In essence, this was a 3-2 Bruins victory and it’s that outcome that was again underlining the main cause for concern with the Red Wings and any thought of them being a legitimate playoff club.
When things are tight and goals are hard to come by, they simply can’t clamp it down.
— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) December 31, 2023
As the NHL season gets into January and especially into February, these 5-4 and 6-5 games are going to be the exception. The teams capable of consistently winning the 3-2 and 2-1 games are the clubs that will rule the day.
Detroit clearly isn’t one of those clubs.
“I think that’s kinda part of the maturation of a team, especially a young team,” Detroit defenseman Ben Chiarot said. “Winning those tight games, knowing how to hold a lead.
“Those are things we’re working on here and it takes time to know and be comfortable in how to play those games. That’s something we’re figuring out still.”
Red Wings Lalonde Bristles At Numbers
Detroit is now 0-16-1 when scoring fewer than four goals in a game this season. When that total was brought up to Red Wings coach Derek Lalonde, he got downright indignant in his response.
“That’s a misleading stat because we have two shutouts and a lot of those four-goal games we’ve given one or two or three goals,” Lalonde said.
We decided to humor him and did the math.
Of the 17 games in which the Red Wings hav accounted for fewer than four goals, there’s only three in which they could’ve won had they scored at least three times. There was a 2-0 loss to the Florida Panthers, a 2-1 setback to the Carolina Hurricanes and a 1-0 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers.
The only possible way they could’ve turned the other 14 losses into victories would’ve been by scoring at least four goals.
In other words, the underlying numbers don’t back up the coach’s theory.
Bruins Know How To Get It Done
One thing Lalonde wasn’t going to dispute is that his team still needs to shore up its defensive work.
“Of course our defense needs to improve,” Lalonde said. And against Boston, it did. Just not enough to garner two points.
“Probably our most complete 60 minutes from start to finish in a while,” Lalonde said. “Just came against a team with a very slim margin of error to be successful. It’s a little disappointing. I think they only had one chance in the third and it was a missed face-off assignment and in the back of the net.”
The Chuckie connection. pic.twitter.com/skd1f8MMV4
— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) January 1, 2024
When the Bruins got in front, they showed the Red Wings how an experienced playoff team then plays with the lead.
“That’s their recipe,” Lalonde siad. “They’re a high compete, well-coached team that leans on elite, elite, elite goaltending. That’s a very comfortable game for them.”
It’s a lesson the Red Wings are still learning. And continuing to get failing grades during game night exams.