The Detroit Red Wings are an improved team this season, propelled by some stellar performances from the trio of rookies – how have the special teams faired during this stretch of improved play?
The power play has been one of the biggest improvements made by this year. Statistically, it doesn’t rank too high in comparison to other teams. Detroit has a 16.9 percent success rate on the man advantage, which is the 25th best in the league. But last year, the Red Wings finished with the second worst percentage in the league – 11.4 percent.
There are a few reasons for the Wings improved power play. First, and probably most importantly, the team has two above average power play quarterbacks now. Last season, Filip Hronek often ran the power play unit (or Dennis Cholowski when he was up), and he never quite seemed comfortable with the role. This year, Detroit’s best defenseman, Moritz Seider, has proven to be better than advertised as the backend of the power play. His skills as a puck mover and distributor have proven to be great assets on the man advantage. Nick Leddy has a similar skill set; he’s been solid as the quarterback for the second unit. Also, the addition of a lethal playmaker like Lucas Raymond only adds to the firepower of the unit.
Alex Tanguay should also get some credit for the improvements. While most of the power plays success has been due to new players on the roster, Tanguay has been the one putting them in situations where they can thrive. He quickly realized that Seider was the best power play quarterback on the team, giving him the spot on the top unit very quickly. He’s also done a good job drawing up movement to get players like Dylan Larkin, Raymond and Filip Zadina heavily involved (although Zadina’s finishing hasn’t been great to this point).
The penalty kill, however, hasn’t been great. Currently, the team’s 76.8 kill rate is 26th in the NHL. That’s a couple percentage points less than the Red Wings 78.7 percent last season. However, the below average penalty kill is more reflective of Detroit’s struggles defensively this season.
In summation, the special teams have been mostly middling so far. The power play has taken major strides since last year, but it is not yet league average. It’s honestly impressive that the team is vying for a playoff spot with such mediocre special teams play.