The Detroit Red Wings have had a roller coaster of a season, to say the least.
From looking unstoppable at times to finding ways to lose games that leave fans scratching their heads, nothing should come as a surprise anymore.
But how has Detroit had such a mediocre season thus far in an inferior Eastern Conference?
Here are five storylines that won't go away in this 2013-14 season that have contributed to Detroit's place in the standings.
Most of these storylines are based directly off of statistics, but all of the statistics have a meaning over the course of a season.
It is both common knowledge and common sense that coaches will play the hot goalie on a regular basis.
Being a "No. 1 goaltender" only means so much when riding the pine in consecutive games. Such has been the case with Jimmy Howard while watching Jonas Gustavsson infringe on his starts early in the season.
|Record||Goals Against Average||Save Percentage||Shutouts|
As can be seen above, the only advantage that Jimmy Howard has is in the shutout category. Howard is on the injured reserve right now with a knee injury that has kept him sidelined for the bulk of December.
Howard will need to start playing better in the new year if the Red Wings hope to be a serious threat for a strong playoff run.
The Detroit Red Wings have uncharacteristically struggled at home this season, but they have been road warriors with an amazing record away from Joe Louis Arena.
|Record||Goals For||Goals Against||Power Play||Penalty Kill|
|Home||6-9-6||46 (19th)||61 (29th)||20% (13th)||82.0% (19th)|
|Road||10-3-3||48 (10th)||34 (2nd)||15.2% (20th)||88.3% (3rd)|
Detroit's dominance on the road can be summed up by their strong five-on-five play and dominant penalty kill. Detroit is giving up just 2.125 goals per road game, meaning that it is much easier to win on a consistent basis away from The Joe.
Keep in mind that Detroit has played just 16 road games this season, so it will be interesting to see if Detroit can keep this play up all season.
If that can happen, they should go into any playoff series as a favorite, having learned to play well away from home and potentially opening a playoff series on the road. The Wings are in the wild-card spot right now.
For now though, this disparity in records remains something to shake one's head at than anything else.
If Detroit can become more consistent at home and tone down on the exorbitant amount of goals that they are giving up there (second worst only to the Ottawa Senators in terms of total number), then the Red Wings can improve in the standings.
Whether fans choose to blame Detroit's position in the standings on other teams in the East underachieving or simply not having the personnel and coaches to do enough on their own is up for debate.
What isn't up for debate, however, is how injured the Red Wings have been this season.
The Red Wings beat the Calgary Flames in overtime on Thursday night without six regulars, including Johan Franzen, Henrik Zetterberg, Jimmy Howard and others.
This is just more of the same for the Red Wings, who have the third-most man games lost to injury, per Ansar Khan of MLive.com.
What has come forward as a result of this is a glimpse at the faces of the future in players like Tomas Jurco, Luke Glendening and Gustav Nyquist (who didn't have a roster spot until Danny DeKeyser went on long-term injury reserve).
Although injuries are largely unpredictable, Detroit has certainly had its fill and will be looking to move forward in the month of January once the bulk of these injuries heal up and players are healthy again.
Special teams can change games in an instant.
The fact that the Red Wings' penalty kill has improved from 18th to 12th to ninth in consecutive seasons is reason to be excited for the future of Detroit's special teams. The Red Wings are killing off 84.8 percent of opposing power plays and have only allowed 21 power-play goals in 37 games.
Detroit's power play was also doing well until Henrik Zetterberg went down with a herniated disk in his back. The Red Wings power play has dropped to 13th in the NHL at 18.2 percent with 23 power-play markers. Once Zetterberg returns, Detroit's power play should bump back up a few points.
Detroit's ability to get the job done on special teams takes a little bit of pressure off of them in five-on-five play.
Small mistakes in hockey games compound on each other and ultimately end up in the net of the team making them.
The Red Wings have been susceptible to blow leads in games this season and have given up 39 third-period goals, good for fourth-most in the league.
|Times Shorthanded||Blocked Shots||Giveaways||Leading After 1st period||Leading After 2nd period|
|Detroit 2013-14||138 (fourth-most in NHL)||458 (sixth-fewest in NHL)||318 (ninth most in NHL)||9-2-5 (.563) (sixth-worst in NHL)||9-2-4 (.600) (second-worst in NHL)|
The simple fact is that Detroit is failing where it matters most—the nitty gritty parts of the game. Detroit's statistics when leading after one and two periods are among the worst in hockey, and they have left numerous points on the table by losing in a shootout or in overtime.
There are a substantial number of teams that have not lost in regulation or in overtime when leading after two periods of play, and Detroit has simply not lived up to that standard this season.
Although Detroit is averaging only 8.8 penalty minutes per game (third-fewest in the NHL), they need to find a way to stay off of the penalty kill if they don't need to use it.
All statistics via NHL.com.