The Detroit Red Wings dropped their sixth straight game, this time to the Washington Capitals 4-3 in overtime. The Red Wings over the last 11 games are 2-6-3 but have managed to earn seven points in those 11 games. They have fallen out of a playoff spot and have slid all the way to 12th in the Eastern Conference standings. They currently are 11 points from the last-place team. After such a promising start, it must be asked: what is going wrong with this team right now?
What's the problem with the Detroit Red Wings?
Before Monday's game, I would have said the Red Wings' problem was special teams, but they held the Capitals to zero power-play goals last night in three chances. They had allowed a power-play goal in four straight games and Ottawa had three power-play goals against them. In those eleven games, they saw their penalty kill percentage drop from 80.3% to 76.7%.
A potential issue
The problem really seems to be the inability to hold onto leads. In three of the last six games, they had leads and eventually lost. Against Dallas, on December 10th they led 1-0 and lost that game 3-2 in OT. Against Ottawa, they led 1-0 and 2-1 before Ottawa took over and won 6-3. Monday, they led 2-0, 2-1, and 3-2 before losing 4-3 in OT. They can potentially fix this problem by shifting around the defensive lines. For weeks I’ve said the defensive pairings should be: Moritz Seider and Filip Hronek as the first defensive pairing with the other two being Olli Maata and Jake Walman then Ben Chiarot and Jordan Oesterle.
A Goaltending Issue
Part of the problem is Ville Husso, who has been great for the Red Wings this season but ever since the Tampa Bay game on December 6th he has not looked the same. Husso had an 11-4-3 record with a 2.54 Goals Against Average and a .916 save percentage once the Tampa Bay game ended. Since then, Husso has appeared in four games going 0-2-2 allowing 3.25 Goals a game. Is Husso tired? He has looked like it, the issue for the Red Wings is whether or not they have a reliable backup.
Alex Nedeljkovic has not been great going 2-4-2 with a 4.09 Goals Against Average and a .880 save percentage. Magnus Hellberg also made an appearance going 0-1-0 with a 3.11 Goals Against Average and a .857 save percentage, it might be time to give him a few more shots and see what you have there. If Hellberg cannot be what was expected, then it should be time to explore the trade market and see if you can get a solid backup goaltender at or before the trade deadline.
A Scoring Issue
The Red Wings this season have scored a total of 90 goals for an average of 2.90 goals a game which ranks them towards the bottom of the league at 24th overall. Since this slide began, during the last 11 games, they have scored a total of 25 goals, 2.27 goals per game. On the flip side, their opponents have scored a combined 40 goals, a combined 3.64 goals per game average.
The Red Wings overall in the 11 games have scored three or more goals only five times, with only two of them resulting in wins. The Red Wings need to find a way to get more pucks on the net and generate scoring opportunities if they are going to snap this slide. They will be getting more scoring coming back soon when Robby Fabbri comes back most likely on January 4th and Jakub Vrana hopefully coming back toward the end of January maybe early February.
For the time being, it might be time to change the lines around a little. The only player that should be locked into a spot right now is Dylan Larkin as the first line Center, after that you can move anyone anywhere. An idea that should be floated out there is to have your top three forward scorers (Larkin, Dominik Kubalik, and David Perron) separated on the top three lines and allow them to make plays with the other talent on this roster that has been struggling.
The Red Wings better figure things out soon because over the next 18 days they will have six games against teams that are ahead of them in the playoffs. They will play the Tampa Bay Lightning, Pittsburgh Penguins, Buffalo Sabres New Jersey Devils, Florida Panthers, and Toronto Maple Leafs. If they are not careful, they could be also chasing the Ottawa Senators when they face them again on Friday as well. If the Red Wings cannot get things fixed and fast, they may find themselves unable to rebound once the offensive reinforcements come back.