RECORDS: Wings 17-18-5 Hawks 26-12-5
PUCK DROP: 7:30pm
THAT NERD LOOKS LIKE JAM: Winging It In Motown
ADJUSTED TEAM CORSI%: Wings – 47.9 (23rd) Hawks – 49.9 (16th)
ADJUSTED TEAM xGF%: Wings – 47.9 (22nd) Hawks – 47.8 (23rd)
POWER PLAY %: Wings – 11.2 (Dead Ass Last) Hawks – 18.5 (15th)
PENALTY KILL %: 83.2 (9th) Hawks – 76.1 (28th)
TRENDS: The Wings are o-for their last-54 on the power play. They’re even putting Steve Ott on it. I can’t begin to express the joy this makes me feel.
This has been something of a sweetheart homestand for the Hawks. The Sabres are awful, the Preds are hurt and struggling, the Canes were the biggest challenge and overcome, and now it ends with the complete hobo village that is the Detroit Red Wings these days. Guys… seriously, you haven’t seen a Wings team this bad since names like Barr, Burr, Cheveldae, Gallant, and Racine were involved. And chances are, you don’t recognize any of those names, which is just how long it’s been.
Like most things with the Wings of recent vintage, the problems start with the blue line. It’s awful. It’s been awful for years. They refuse to do anything about it, other than signing Mike Green before last season and I don’t know if that’s much of a thing anyway. It’s also hurt, as Kronwall and Green will miss out through injury. So will Brendan Smith, but that’s actually a good thing for them and they refuse to believe it because Smith makes TVR look like Muhammad I’m Hard Bruce Lee. The possession ways we had become so accustomed to seeing out of Detroit goes down in flames when all their d-men are balloon-handed doofuses with mittens pinned to their jackets at all times (how many references can you take in one paragraph?). So that’s why you’ll see all their d-men with bad to horrific underlying numbers.
Injuries didn’t help them in goal either, where Jimmy Howard was bailing out the blue line on a consistent basis but got hurt. And last year’s darling, Petr Mrazek, has been playing goal like he’s being attacked by bees most of the season. So whatever mistakes the Wings are making, and there are tons of them, are getting punished unmercifully.
Because there is some talent at forward, it’s just not scoring at the rate we’re used to seeing. That’s Good Nyquist is having his second straight season of shooting percentage problems, and those 25+ goal seasons seem a long time ago now. Zetterberg only has seven goals, though age has to play a role. Larkin is about where he was last season but is now playing center and it’s been an adjustment. Tatar only has eight goals. Athanasiou has seven when he’s not being bounced out of the lineup.
But on a different level, we heard for years that Mantha, Larkin, Tatar, Nyquist, Athanasiou, and whatever else were going to carry the torch from Dats and Z. This is it. They just haven’t been up to it, though the blue line obviously doesn’t help. Torch meet ground.
All of it adds up to THE STREAK coming to an end in April, which it would have three seasons ago anyway if they hadn’t gone sprinting for the Eastern Conference and the softer competition of the past seasons. The Wings would have been buried in the West and Central division had they stayed, so this is just a market correction. And a satisfying one at that. And it’s going to lead to some hard questions for fallen genius Ken Holland on what he’s going to do. This team needs a fuckton of blue line help and there isn’t much in the system. They’re moving into a new building next year, and hence a full rebuild isn’t in the cards. They might not even need it if they can find a way to get two young, good d-men to compliment what they already have at forward. But they have bad contracts making things harder. Frans Nielsen is a really good player. He doesn’t do anything for this team. Justin Abdelkader’s contract is one of the worst in the league. Danny DeKeyser is making $5 mildo until eternity for reasons I can’t identify. They’re spending over $9 million on both Mrazek and Howard. It ain’t pretty.
What the Wings could flog at the deadline though is dodgy. Vanek? Maybe sell someone on Smith? They could get something for Tatar who’s only a restricted free agent after the year, but do they want to? Big questions without a lot of answers.
The Hawks story is much simpler. Crawford gets the start, lineup remains the same. And now that I’ve built this up, they’re clearly losing to Detroit tonight because hockey and reasons. The Hawks should be able to tear up this blue line to the point of having to shield your children’s eyes, and really the only task is keeping Anisimov free of Zetterberg.
Enjoy how bad they are, because you’ve waited a very long time for it.