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Detroit Red Wings

Red Wings Facing Tough Test In Canadiens

Detroit in need of two wins and some help



Red Wings bench
If the Red Wings lost another game in regulation, they're out of the NHL playoffs.

People will tell you that on paper, the Detroit Red Wings are left with the easiest slate of games among the four teams competing for the second Eastern Conference wild card spot in the NHL playoffs.

Meanwhile, the Red Wings will quickly be reminding everyone that NHL games are decided on the ice, not on paper.

“We’ve got Montreal and that’s dangerous the way they’ve been going,” Red Wings captain Dylan Larkin was quick to point out.

Out of the postseason picture, the Montreal Canadiens are merely playing spoiler down the stretch. And they’ve been doing plenty of spoiling.

Montreal is 5-4-2 over the past 11 games. By comparison, Detroit is 3-4-3 over the past 10 games. Washington is 3-5-2 and Philadelphia is 2-6-2. Two of those losses were dealt to the Flyers by the Canadiens.

Only Pittsburgh (7-1-2) can boast of a better run of late than the Canadiens among the four competitors for the eighth seed in the East.

The Wings know all about playing the spoiler. It’s been their role down the stretch over each of the past seven seasons. Playing free and clear of pressure is an entirely realm to the pressure-packed existence Detroit is currently living.

“We’ve been in that position that they’re in and it’s a whole different ballgame of what we’ve been playing, these playoff-style games,” Larkin said.

That element alone can make the Canadiens a very dangerous opponent.

Montreal Has Given Red Wings Fits

The two teams are meeting Monday at Little Caesars Arena, where the Canadiens have made themselves at home. Over the last 11 clashes at LCA between Detroit and Montreal, the Red Wings are 4-4-3. Detroit is 0-0-1 this season and 0-0-2 through the past two contests.

Red Wings coach Derek Lalonde’s gameplan for his club on Monday is to ignore the big picture and think small.

“Play the right way,” Lalonde said. “We can’t look at it as two games. It’s about that first period at home on Monday night, getting a good start.

“Our starts have been good of late. Stay composed, narrow our focus and that narrow focus will be our first period.”

The Red Wings have actually been faring better at Montreal against the Canadiens. They won 5-4 in overtime there in December and are 3-0-0 through the past three games at the Bell Center. However, Detroit is just 5-6 in the last 11 games at Montreal.

Red Wings Need Four Points

It was Meat Loaf who warbled that two out of three ain’t bad. However, in the case of the Red Wings and their playoff hopes, three out of four is the bare minimum requirement for survival.

Washington, Detroit and Philadelphia all have 87 points, one better than Pittsburgh. But the Capitals and Flyers clash in the season finale for both clubs. That guarantees one of those teams will be finishing the season with no less than 89 points.

Since the Red Wings lose the tiebreaker for the final playoff spot, they’ll have to get to no fewer than 90 points to hold a chance of qualification.

“We need four (points),” Larkin was expressing.

That being said, even going four-for-four over the next two games might not be enough for the Wings. If Washington and Detroit both win out, the Capitals and Red Wings will each have 91 points. But the tiebreaker goes the way of the Caps.

Bottom line, Detroit does require two wins and some help. And the Red Wings shouldn’t be counting on the Canadiens being helpful to their cause.