The Detroit Red Wings playoff chances hang in the balance during this last week of the regular season.
With three games remaining in their regular season, there is still a lot that could derail the Red Wings' efforts to make the playoffs. Monday night's game against the Phoenix Coyotes wasn't as pretty as the final score (a 4-0 Red Wings' win) would seem to indicate.
The Red Wings came out on top in that game, but unless they shore up some areas as a team, they could still fall below the playoff "poverty line."
Here are five things that the Red Wings need to do to ensure that they make the playoffs.
To get the sarcastic comments out of the way, the Detroit Red Wings have to win games.
The Red Wings are still a point behind the Columbus Blue Jackets, but the Red Wings aren't necessarily chasing the Blue Jackets, as the Red Wings could catch the Minnesota Wild (who are also only one point up on Detroit) if Minnesota stumbles down the stretch.
The Red Wings are not a shoo-in to the playoffs by any means, but winning games will get them there, as the Red Wings control their own destiny with a game in hand on Columbus.
Jimmy Howard has stopped 83 of the last 87 shots that he has faced. Doing math at home?
That's a 95.4 save percentage.
Now given, playing the Nashville Predators, Calgary Flames, Vancouver Canucks and Phoenix Coyotes might not be the best sampling of "talent" this year in the NHL, but the fact remains that, out of the four goals that Howard has given up, he has not given up a goal that he has had a clear view of the shot.
The Red Wings need to make sure that this continues. As the defense has been suspect at times, the Red Wings have leaned heavily on Jimmy Howard to make saves.
In order to assist Jimmy Howard in his puck-stopping duties, the Red Wings need to continue to make sure that he can see the shots that come his way.
Detroit has given up 28.0 shots against per game this season, good for a top-10 spot in shots against in the NHL rankings.
But this prowess in shots against isn't due to blocking shots.
Simply put, the Detroit Red Wings don't put a lot of emphasis on their shot-blocking skills. The Red Wings are 28th in the NHL with only 533 blocked shots on the season. This isn't to infer that the Red Wings don't sacrifice the body when it matters.
But the Red Wings need to get down and dirty in their own zone. This is no more true than when the team is struggling to get the puck out.
No the Detroit Red Wings do not rank in the top half of the NHL in giveaways (via NHL.com). But the Red Wings have been awful at giving the puck away in their own end this season.
Defensive zone turnovers have led to goals against (via NHL.com). Too many goals against have become losses. Losses (both in regulation and otherwise) forced the Red Wings to be battling for their playoff lives in the last week of the season.
Turnovers are plays that can completely change a game. The Red Wings have found this out firsthand this season through far more than one of their 336 giveaways. Over 45 games, that's over seven giveaways a game.
Bottom line: Detroit doesn't need to give teams chances to win when the Wings are on the verge of missing the playoffs.
Tomas Holmstrom may no longer be playing for the Detroit Red Wings, but the Red Wings power play didn't seem to lose any steam against the Phoenix Coyotes on Monday night.
The Red Wings put up three power-play goals (including scores on their first two advantages) to take a 2-0 lead into the first intermission.
Obviously, the Red Wings aren't going to be that prolific on the power play during the remaining three games of the regular season (or the playoffs if they make it), but the Red Wings must take an important lesson from the Phoenix game.
Get to the net for deflections.
Sounds easy? Well, the Red Wings haven't thought of it until last night, when it worked twice. Once with the Franzen goal (above) and a second time when Damien Brunner scored in a similar fashion (seen here courtesy of NHL.com).
Detroit has wasted quite a few of their power plays this season, as evidenced by their 15th-ranked power play at 18.5 percent. They need to start getting movement toward the goal in some fashion.
As the Red Wings were largely unsuccessful on the power play in their previous games before Phoenix (0-10 over the previous three games), the Red Wings may have found their go-to move as far as making the power play better is concerned.
Twenty-two straight seasons.
That is what the Detroit Red Wings' playoff streak would extend to if they managed to make the playoffs this year. With the playoffs firmly in their grasp (win and they're in), the Red Wings need to take it upon themselves to do what needs to be done to make the playoffs.
Head coach Mike Babcock said it best, as quoted by Helene St. James of Detroit Free Press:
If you're Henrik Zetterberg, and it's your first year as captain, you don't want it on your watch. If you're Mike Babcock, in your eighth year of coaching, you don't want it on your watch.
If you're anyone of these players that has any stake in the Red Wings, and especially the ones that have put in a ton of time, they don't want it on their watch, either.
Simply put, if the Red Wings don't want this streak to end, it is up to the 23-plus men in the dressing room to ensure that they make the playoffs.
Play for pride.
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