Over the course of last season, it became abundantly clear that the Detroit Red Wings were not the elite Red Wings of old.
Sure, the skill level was still high, and they had star players on the ice in Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg. But the work ethic stalled at some points, and the team began to develop some bad habits.
These habits haunted the team all the way down the home stretch of the regular season, as the Red Wings qualified for the playoffs in their final regular-season game.
Since the Wings proved that they can still give the eventual Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks a run for their money, it is worth cleaning up these bad habits so that Detroit will be even more poised to dominate in the playoffs next year.
Here are four bad habits that simply must go this season.
The Detroit Red Wings could have finished a lot higher than they did in the standings last season. This was because the Red Wings finished 27th in the NHL in winning games that they led after the first period at just 64.3 percent.
This disturbing trend not only lowered their end-of-season point total in the standings but also came back to haunt them in the playoffs.
The Red Wings gave up 20 third-period goals in 14 playoff games, ultimately failing to close the door on the Anaheim Ducks and Chicago Blackhawks in various games that they played.
Although the Red Wings made the playoffs and finished with a 7-8 record in the postseason, they could have advanced to the Western Conference Final had they been able to win one of the final three games of their series against Chicago.
Come 2013-14, it is imperative that the Red Wings learn to close the door when they have a lead after the first period.
The Detroit Red Wings had the 10th-highest shots-per-game total at 30.1 shots per contest. Unfortunately, the Red Wings also had the fourth-highest missed-shots-per-game total.
If opposing goaltenders don't have to make saves, then it makes it easier for them to keep Detroit off of the scoreboard.
The Red Wings aren't lacking in skill, so it doesn't make sense as to why there would be 612 missed shots in 48 games. That's almost 13 shots per game that the opposing goaltender doesn't have to stop.
They definitely have to focus more on making a conscious effort to hit the net.
The Detroit Red Wings have been called a "soft" team in the past in terms of lacking a hitting game.
But let's get one thing clear: The Red Wings are not a soft team to play against. Just ask any player that has been hit by Nik Kronwall.
But one player does not make a harder-hitting team; it requires a team-wide effort to be a consistently more physical squad to play against.
The issue with Detroit is that when the intensity and the hitting ramp up in the playoffs, the Red Wings have no answers. Although they can skate harder, the lack of a physical game in the regular season—only 865 hits last season—was good for the second-fewest hits by any team all season.
While Detroit plays a more puck-possession game and effectively limited other teams to the seventh-fewest shots against last season(27.5 per contest), the Red Wings need to up the ante with their physical game in the regular season.
If the Red Wings can accomplish this, they will be more difficult to play against in the postseason because there will be minimal adjustments from their normal style of play.
There's some strange things about hockey that can't be explained with mere numbers. One of these things is that the team with the most shots doesn't always win the game.
The Red Wings were only 14-13-5 last year when they out-shot their opponents but were 10-3-2 when they were out-shot by their opponents.
Try and figure that one out.
As Detroit carried the play in most of their games last year with the 10th-highest shots-per-game average and the seventh-lowest shots against per contest, one would think that Detroit should've won more often than not.
In the end, it likely stems back to not getting off to a good start in games. Despite the Red Wings' obvious shot advantage on the final stat sheet, the Red Wings scored just 33 goals in the first period, good for 20th in the NHL. This means that Detroit was playing catch-up all game and had to play from behind on a regular basis.
All statistics courtesy of NHL.com.