The 5 Most Impressive Detroit Red Wings During 2013-14 Regular Season
An eighth-place finish in the Eastern Conference for the Detroit Red Wings may not be an “impressive” season by their standards.
However, with Man Games Lost indicating that the Red Wings suffered through a franchise-record 417 man-games lost, they’ve come out smelling like a rose.
After securing the final spot in the East, Detroit is preparing for its daunting first-round opponent, the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Boston Bruins. Detroit won the season series 3-1—all three wins in regulation—outscoring the formidable Bruins 13-9.
Detroit suffered through long stretches without world-class talents and team leaders Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk. It’s hard for a team to press on effectively without its best players, but the Red Wings overcame those absences with impressive contributions from some unlikely sources.
Their 23rd consecutive playoff appearance could wield significantly more drama with continued production from the players that got them to the postseason—and Ansar Khan of MLive.com reporting that Henrik Zetterberg may return in the second round.
Their notable performances landed each player on the following list.
Gustav Nyquist is the leading candidate for team MVP this season.
Playing in just 57 games, Nyquist buried 28 goals—the team’s only 20-goal scorer—finishing one point off off the team lead.
His play earned national attention, as he was selected to Team Sweden for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi and was recognized for his torrid scoring pace over the final two months of the season.
Nyquist didn’t make the Red Wings’ roster out of training camp because of an exorbitant amount of forwards. Once he played two NHL games, he would’ve lost waiver-exempt status, requiring him to clear waivers if demoted back to the AHL.
When he was called up in November, he made it clear he was in the NHL for good.
He was the NHL’s second star in March with an impressive 10-game point streak (ended April 4), the longest for a Red Wing since Zetterberg went 11 games with a point from Dec. 22, 2010 to Jan. 10, 2011.
Nyquist’s incredible season is one for the ages and possibly the primary reason Detroit remained alive in the playoff hunt.
He is going to be leaned on heavily in the postseason, but has shown he’s ready to embrace the responsibility.
The Kid Line
Detroit’s biggest boost came from the emergence of the “kid” line consisting of Tomas Tatar, Riley Sheahan and Tomas Jurco.
Tatar began the season with Detroit and eventually played himself into the everyday lineup. Sheahan and Jurco were call-ups when Detroit lost Stephen Weiss, Zetterberg and Datsyuk to injury.
Sheahan solidified himself as a reliable faceoff winner, while the entire line proved responsible defensively and dangerous offensively.
The line finished the season a combined plus-20 and provided great energy and scoring depth. Tatar finished the season with 19 goals and 39 points in 73 games and posted 11 points in the final 12 games.
The youth of the line (average age of 22) and its experience in the Calder Cup Final last year offer a unique level of familiarity that could pay dividends for Detroit in this year’s playoffs.
These three players grew exponentially down the stretch and have helped Detroit turn the direction of its entire franchise around—not over the season, but in just a few months.
There is no doubt this line should be together come next season, and it should make Detroit even more competitive for years to come.
Looking at the individual numbers for Jonas Gustavsson, his 2013-14 season wasn’t much to write home about.
However, a closer look shows just how instrumental “Gus” was in earning a 23rd consecutive postseason appearance.
His 2.63 goals-against average and .907 save percentage don’t jump off the stat sheet, but both are career bests for the 29-year-old Swede. His 16-5-4 record is also the best winning percentage he has posted as a professional.
Gustavsson’s value is made apparent in his relief of Jimmy Howard, primarily when the starter missed time with injuries in December and January. He showed consistency upon second glance, winning five consecutive starts on two different occasions.
In two starts against the Boston Bruins—Detroit’s first-round opponent—he registered two wins, a 1.50 GAA and .936 save percentage.
Detroit has needed a dependable backup goaltender, and although injuries slowed Gustavsson considerably, he has been reliable this season.
Support at the goaltending position was necessary for Detroit to remain in the hunt, and Gustavsson’s contributions were essential. Without them, Detroit’s streak possibly ends at 22.
Darren Helm had been limited to just one game since the end of the 2011-12 season. When he returned to Detroit’s lineup on Nov. 2, he scored on his very first shift.
The speedster still missed time here and there, but he finally appears healthy and ready to contribute every way he knows how.
Helm played 42 games this season and tied his career high in goals (12) set back in 2010-11. His pace would have equaled 23 goals over the course of an 82-game season.
He is a major player on the penalty kill and his speed makes him dangerous in all facets.
On March 29, he scored his first career hat trick in a pivotal 4-2 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs. Helm’s huge game delivered a substantial blow to Toronto’s playoff hopes, while putting Detroit in the driver's seat for a wild-card spot.
He’s the quintessential defensive forward and has shown more flair offensively this season than in years past.
His value to the team is irreplaceable. To have him back in the lineup is a huge boost and he provides a tremendous example for rookies and veterans alike.
Detroit’s defense struggled at many points throughout this season, but Niklas Kronwall was able to maintain his own level of consistency.
His traditional linemate, Jonathan Ericsson, suffered multiple injuries this season, causing Kronwall to adjust on the fly to multiple different partners.
Kronwall finished the year with eight goals and 49 points, just two off his career high set in 2008-09. That season, Detroit featured four 30-goal scorers and Kronwall played on the power play with Nicklas Lidstrom.
He put up his second-best point total in 2013-14 on a team missing its top scorers for a significant amount of time. He finished the season with an even plus/minus rating for the only playoff team with a negative goal differential (minus-eight).
His 49 points tied Daniel Alfredsson for the team lead in scoring and he’s the first defenseman to lead Detroit since Hall of Famer Paul Coffey in 1994-95.
He has quietly been the leader on and off the ice for a team that was forced to get significantly younger in a hurry. His leadership has been effective for the newer players, and it evident in the team’s standing.
He may not offer a Lidstrom-esque style of play, but Kronwall has cemented his place on the team. It’s hard to live up to the billing of No. 5, but No. 55 has defined himself as the key component on Detroit’s blue line.