Detroit Red Wings' 5 Biggest Questions in Final Month of 2013-14 Season

Isaac SmithAnalyst IMarch 15, 2014

Detroit Red Wings' 5 Biggest Questions in Final Month of 2013-14 Season

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    Paul Vernon/Associated Press

    With one month to go in the Detroit Red Wings' season, there are many more questions than answers.

    Some of these questions have trivial or little meaning in the grand scheme of things, but some contain all-important answers that will define the rest of the Red Wings' season.

    While the answers to these questions are subject to change based on how well the Red Wings do over the last month of the season, the questions will remain until they are answered definitively in one way or another.

    Here are the five biggest questions for the Detroit Red Wings over the final month of the season.

Are There Enough Healthy Bodies to Get Detroit into the Playoffs?

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    Gary Wiepert/Associated Press

    The Detroit Red Wings are a hurting unit as a whole.

    It seems like every game there is at least one Red Wing that is injured and must sit out the next game, all of  next week or longer to get back in the lineup.

    In fact, as of March 15, the Red Wings have the second-most man-games lost this season, according to mangameslost.com, with 303 man-games lost through 66 games played.

    With Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk and Stephen Weiss (to name a few) all out with injuries, the Red Wings truly are the walking wounded this season.

    Do the Red Wings have enough stamina, endurance and durability to stay healthy enough to give them a chance to make the playoffs this season?

    At this point, it doesn't look like it.

The Kids Are Alright, but Can They Elevate Their Play Even More?

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    Riley Sheahan scores a first-period goal against the Edmonton Oilers on March 14.
    Riley Sheahan scores a first-period goal against the Edmonton Oilers on March 14.Dave Reginek/Getty Images

    The kids—for those in doubt—refer to Riley Sheahan, Tomas Tatar, Brendan Smith, Tomas Jurco (before his injury), Luke Glendening and other AHL call-ups this season. 

    Unlike the song by The Offspring, the kids in fact are alright.

    But for the Red Wings to make the playoffs without their top two offensive threats in Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, the kids are going to have to be better than alright.

    Can Sheahan, Tatar and Co. elevate their game to another level to help Detroit reach the playoffs?

    They will need to with Detroit's offense nowhere to be found (on most nights lately) without Zetterberg and Datsyuk.

Can Jimmy Howard and the Red Wings Offense Ever Get on the Same Page?

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    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    Like Detroit Red Wings fans, Jimmy Howard gets fired up when the Red Wings win.

    But without a substantial portion of the Red Wings offense in the lineup, Howard will need to rise to the challenge of keeping his team in games more than he did during the earlier part of this season.

    In fact, though Howard hasn't been fantastic with a 2.60 GAA and a .913 save percentage, he has given his team a chance to win games.

    With the exception of December, when Howard had a 3.93 GAA, he has generally been solid since the New Year's Day with a GAA of 2.30 in the months of January and February.

    The challenge, of course, is how to get the offense to back Howard's solid work in the net. With his impressive goals-against average in January and February, one would think that Howard's record over that span would have been better than a mere 7-4-2.

    That was not the case.

    The Red Wings are only scoring 2.56 goals per contest this season (18th in the NHL), meaning that, mathematically speaking, they are cutting it very close between wins and losses. The Wings power play has also slumped recently, dropping to 17.3 percent (17th in the NHL). 

    Bottom line: Detroit needs its offense to match Jimmy Howard's effort in net, because when he does show up, he isn't getting enough goal support to give the Wings the "W" on a nightly basis.

Can We Trust the Red Wings Defense?

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    When a team has to start asking questions about its defensemen in mid-March, there's probably an issue that hasn't been resolved yet.

    Example A is in the video above. Don't bother watching if your computer or mobile device needs to be in one piece after this slideshow, as it is a painful video to watch.

    Brendan Smith throws a blind backhand pass right onto the tape of Ryan Smyth, who buries it past Jimmy Howard to tie the game 1-1 in the third period. The Red Wings needed a shootout to win, but in a game where Jimmy Howard had otherwise been perfect, that was a brutal goal to give up at that moment in the game.

    So back to the question: Does the Detroit defense inspire trust?

    The simple answer is no. Of the 99 goals that Jimmy Howard has given up this season, 43 of them (or almost half) have come in a tie game and another 25 have come when the Red Wings were leading by exactly one goal.

    Doing the math at home, that means that there have been 43 times that the Red Wings have gone from getting at least one point (in a tie situation) to getting no points and another 25 times that Detroit has gone from possibly getting two points to getting just one or, even worse, no points.

    The Red Wings have the 11th-most giveaways in the NHL at 228, but that doesn't tell the story, as these giveaways always seem to end up in the back of the Detroit net.

    The Red Wings defense needs to shore itself up before it is too late (if it isn't too late already).

Will the Detroit Red Wings Make the Playoffs This Season?

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    Jim Mora may be an NFL coach and not know an inkling about hockey, but his words can be used to describe the Red Wings to a T right now.

    The Red Wings have done a lot more to hurt their playoff cause than to help it of late, despite being just two points out of a playoff position.

    To be honest and forthcoming about the Red Wings' chances to make the playoffs, there must be some evaluation of where the team is at currently.

    Without pushing the panic button completely, the Red Wings need to play 60-minute games from here on out to make the playoffs. 

    Play for the points and the rest will work itself out if the Wings can turn in a complete game effort and clear rebounds for Howard.

    However, if this team reverts back to any of its old ways (be it turning the puck over in the defensive zone or otherwise), kiss the playoffs goodbye.

    So pay attention to Jim Mora and forget about making the playoffs for now.

    Focus strictly on fixing the glitches, hiccups and embarrassments that have become the norm over the past few games.

     

    All statistics via NHL.com unless otherwise noted.