Detroit Red Wings' 5 Keys to Keeping Their Playoff Streak Alive
The Detroit Red Wings have made the playoffs for 21 straight seasons.
The 1989-90 season marked the last time that the Red Wings failed to qualify for the playoffs.
With the retirement of Nicklas Lidstrom in 2012 offseason, the Red Wings' playoff streak has never been more in doubt.
Going into Friday night's game against the St. Louis Blues, Detroit is 3-2-1 and currently possesses the eighth spot in the Western Conference.
Before the Los Angeles Kings won the Stanley Cup as an eighth seed last season, most teams in the bottom three seeds in either conference were generally discarded as potential Stanley Cup champions.
The Kings proved otherwise.
Get into the playoffs and anything can happen.
With that being said, and however unlikely the Red Wings' chances at a deep playoff run appear, here are five ways the Red Wings can continue their playoff streak.
1. Special Teams Need to Improve Drastically
Detroit's special teams need to improve, plain and simple.
The Red Wings' power play sits at 9.4 percent through six games; it is second-to-last only to the Los Angeles Kings' 6.1 percent.
Twenty-ninth on the power play and 25th on the penalty kill.
Those aren't the kind of numbers that inspire confidence in a team or its fans. Whether it is changing up personnel, or changing up the scheme, something has to be done.
This "something" can be started by taking away some of Kyle Quincey's minutes on special teams.
When playing the power play, Quincey is a disaster as he often fumbles the puck while attempting to hold it in the zone, and the penalty kill is no better as he is occasionally far out of position to make a play, or even worse, whiffing on clearing attempts and allowing second chances for the other team.
2. Win the Majority of the "Four-Point" Division Games
With there being only 48 games in the season, the fact that 18 of those games are against divisional opponents makes division games mean even more than they would otherwise.
The Red Wings are 1-1-1 against Central Division opponents on the young season.
They will play back-to-back divisional games this weekend as Friday night's contest against the St. Louis Blues shows the Red Wings hoping to extract revenge for a season-opening, 6-0 throttling in St. Louis.
On Saturday night, Detroit plays the Columbus Blue Jackets in Columbus.
The thing with divisional games that fans sometimes forget is that every win (and two points in the standings) that a team gets means that the other team won't get those points in the standings.
If games end in regulation, the game becomes a "four-point" swing in the standings.
In a shortened season, it is very easy to see how these four-point games will have a powerful impact on the standings throughout the season.
3. Everyone Chips in at Both Ends of the Rink; No Exceptions
Led by the two-time Selke Trophy winner Pavel Datsyuk, the Detroit Red Wings have a plethora of solid two-way forwards that can generate offense, while shutting down the opposition at the same time.
Names like Henrik Zetterberg, Valtteri Filppula, Darren Helm (currently sidelined with injury) and Johan Franzen encompass the great depth that the Red Wings have in the way of two-way forwards.
But it cannot just be these five forwards that contribute at both ends of the rink for Detroit.
Each player on the Red Wings' roster must contribute on both ends of the ice game in and game out.
No games off, no exceptions.
The great thing about the current situation on the Red Wings' roster is that although there are so many injuries, there are opportunities from these injuries for other players to raise their game to new levels.
These injuries provide head coach Mike Babcock the chance to find his "perfect" lineup combinations.
The players that take advantage of their respective situation and contribute both offensively and defensively will find themselves playing more, and being in the lineup in general.
4. Skate Hard, Hit Harder
Helm (pictured above) is one of the Red Wings' "energy" players.
When Helm is in the lineup, the Red Wings are a completely different team.
Unfortunately for the 'Wings, Helm has been limited by various injuries this past offseason including a back injury sustained in training camp.
The Red Wings need to pick up the slack from Helm.
That slack includes two main components to any successful hockey team.
Skating hard and checking harder.
When the Red Wings come out of the gate skating and engage their forecheck, they are one of the most dangerous teams in the NHL.
Detroit is 2-0-1 on the young season when the Red Wings outhit the opposition, while just 1-2-0 when they are outhit.
The Red Wings must put to rest any theories that they are a soft team and like to avoid contact by skating hard and out-hitting their opponents in the majority of games this season.
5. Rule 76: Play Like a Champion
For those readers who are familiar with the movie Wedding Crashers, a simple catch phrase (Warning: NSFW due to language) is all one needs to hear.
"Rule 76: No excuses, play like a champion."
The Red Wings return a large part of their lineup from last year, and many of the players on the ice have won a Stanley Cup.
When playing in the NHL after winning a Stanley Cup, one is finally familiarized with the strength and determination that it takes make it to the Stanley Cup Finals and win it all.
It is about taking pride in doing the "little" things correctly.
These "little" things include: back-checking, winning faceoffs, finishing hits, clearing pucks, getting shots on goal and all the things that won't show up on the highlight reels.
If the Detroit Red Wings play like champions on every given night this season, they make the playoffs hands down.
If not, maybe 21 is the last stop in this playoff streak.
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