It’s another early summer in Hockeytown.
For the third consecutive season, the Detroit Red Wings failed to advance past the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. It’s been a distant eight years since they’ve drank from the Stanley Cup. And it’s been at least four years since they’ve been regarded as a serious contender to do so.
A particularly disturbing trend that plagued Detroit’s 2015-16 campaign was a puzzling inconsistency. Constant line shuffling, individual player struggles, and a power play that made general manager Ken Holland’s assessment that their man-advantage was their enforcer look obviously hollow.
Valuable points were lost against teams like Carolina, Buffalo, Columbus, and New Jersey earlier in the year. Had Detroit been able to pick up an additional few points against teams like that whom they should have beaten, they might have enjoyed home ice advantage over Tampa Bay this postseason.
And of course, there was the debacle of a first period on March 15 against the Philadelphia Flyers. The Red Wings had the chance to separate themselves even further from the Flyers, who were right behind them in the standings; instead, the Flyers pounded Detroit into submission, out-shooting them by a horrifying 23-3 in the game’s first 20 minutes. The previous week, Detroit dropped a 5-3 decision to the lowly Columbus Blue Jackets. What was particularly disturbing about both games is that the Red Wings seemed vastly under-prepared to play in those contests that would have major implications on their ultimate standing in the Eastern Conference.
Their final two games of the regular season were both chances to gain additional ground in the tightly packed Atlantic Division. Instead, they were trounced by the Boston Bruins 5-1 (again, Detroit looked completely unprepared to play), and then lost to the New York Rangers in a game where they sat All-Star goaltender Henrik Lundqvist and a few other top line players. Had it not been for the Bruins coming completely unraveled in their final game of the year against Ottawa which gave Detroit a playoff spot, there might not have been a giant “25” at center ice at Joe Louis Arena.
The power play struggles continued in the five-game series against Tampa Bay. Detroit scored one power play goal out of 25 chances, including more than a few 5-on-3 opportunities – the last of which came early in the first period of Game 5.
We’re not used to seeing the Red Wings falter like this, and their failure to take advantage of the opportunities they were given culminated in yet another early exit from the playoffs – after qualifying for them because another team failed. It’s becoming like a broken record, and the fans are getting tired of hearing it.