Henrik Zetterberg (Gerry Thomas/NHLI via Getty Images)
The Detroit Red Wings entered the 2015-16 campaign with their incredible post-season streak on the line. The Red Wings have lost four straight games and will be without defensemen Mike Green and Kyle Quincey Saturday night against the Vancouver Canucks, but that might be the least of Detroit’s worries.
For 24 consecutive seasons, the Detroit Red Wings have made the post-season. They’ve gone to the playoffs as Presidents’ Trophy winners and as a wild-card team. They’ve been swept out in the first round and they’ve won four Stanley Cups. But if the Red Wings can’t get through this current stretch of injury trouble, their incredible post-season streak could be at risk.
Already without the services of superstar center Pavel Datsyuk, the Red Wings have also lost Johan Franzen, who is fighting through another bout of symptoms related to his concussion issues. Friday, second-line center Brad Richards was held out of Detroit’s tilt against the Calgary Flames with a back injury.
Green was the victim of a crushing bodycheck from Flames right winger Josh Jooris behind the Red Wings net in the first period . Green popped right back up after the hit and remained on the ice to finish his shift, but upon returning to the bench, Green headed for the dressing room and was ruled out of the remainder of the contest.
“I don’t have an update (on Mike Green’s status), except that he wasn’t going to come back during the game,” Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said following Friday’s 3-2 overtime loss. “So I really don’t have an update on that.”
However, GM Ken Holland told media Saturday that Green, who has one assist in seven games with Detroit this season, would be held out of the Red Wings’ game against the Vancouver Canucks with an upper-body injury.
Quincey’s injury came in the third period when he was caught with a hit to the head by Flames rookie winger Sam Bennett. Immediately following the hit, the Red Wings blueliner went down clutching his head. However, in a confusing move, Quincey remained in the game and finished the contest. Saturday, Detroit GM Ken Holland confirmed Quincey would be held out of the lineup as part of concussion protocol, and he could be out of Detroit’s lineup for one week or more.
Making matters worse is that Detroit has lost each of their past four games and have picked up only a single point over that span, which came in Friday’s overtime loss to Calgary. And that’s a game Detroit should have won. Instead, ahead 2-1 with less than two minutes left, Flames center Joe Colborne scored with 1:12 remaining to tie the game and Calgary blueliner Mark Giordano scored with 1:48 remaining in overtime to hand the Red Wings the loss.
It’s not just that Detroit’s lineup has been beaten up by injury or that they’ll be without Quincey and Green for an undetermined amount of time, though. So far the 2015-16 Red Wings have looked like a shell of themselves. In the first season under coach Jeff Blashill, the Red Wings’ on-ice play has been less than satisfactory and Detroit’s underlying numbers at 5-on-5 don’t promise that things are going to get any better.
At their peak, in 2011-12, Detroit posted a shot attempts for percentage of 54.9 percent, had a plus-57 goal differential and started 57.2 percent of their shifts in the opposition zone at 5-on-5. The Red Wings’ possession numbers have stayed positive in each of the past five seasons, and their worst mark was 2013-14’s 51.4 percent shot attempts for percentage.
However, under Blashill, things haven’t looked great through seven games. Their shot attempts percentage is a mere 45.5 percent — jaw-droppingly low for a Red Wings team — and they’ve started more shifts in their own end than any other time in the past five seasons. Even worse, this is with the Red Wings actually getting bounces.
Generally speaking, a team’s combined 5-on-5 shooting percentage and save percentage, called PDO, will normalize to a number around 100 over the course of a season. With a PDO below 100, a team could expect good bounces to come their way. However, if a team has a PDO above 100, they’re getting exceptionally strong goaltending or have a bloated shooting percentage. As soon as either dips and the PDO normalizes, the team could expect their play to follow.
The Red Wings current PDO is 103.4, meaning that even though Detroit has lost four straight, they’re not due for a break here or there. If anything, the Red Wings should be expecting fewer pucks to bounce their way.
Blashill’s Red Wings have an uphill climb and piling up the victories isn’t going to get any easier with the current rash of injuries. Without Datsyuk, Franzen, Richards, Green and Quincey, Detroit will have to rely even heavier on their youngsters, including call-up Alexey Marchenko who will make his season debut for the Red Wings tonight.
The Red Wings’ post-season streak is, bar none, the most impressive in North American professional sports. Sadly, however, if Blashill can’t help his injury-riddled roster turn things around, it may come one season short of the quarter-century mark.
(All advanced statistics via War-On-Ice.com)