The Red Wings are two games into their toughest stretch of the 2021-22 schedule after a monumental win over the Rangers and a rather humbling loss to the Avalanche, but there are still three games left against some of the best-ranked teams in the league.
Saturday, Feb. 26th – versus the Toronto Maple Leafs @ Home
Currently sitting 3rd in the Atlantic division and 7th overall, the Leafs are the “easiest” team the Wings will face in this stretch. Auston Matthews, leading the Leafs in goals and points, is always a threat no matter who the opponent may be. Matthews tallied his 35th goal of the season on Feb. 24th versus the Wild, tying him with Leon Draisaitl for most goals scored in the 2021-22 season thus far.
The last time the Red Wings faced Toronto was January 29th and was easily one of the most disastrous games for Detroit this season. A 4-2 Red Wings lead heading into the 3rd period should have resulted in a win, at least you would assume so, but in this case, it did the full opposite.
The Leafs rallied and scored five goals in just over ten minutes of play, crushing Detroit 7-4 on home ice. This game is not only important for the Wings in terms of fighting for a higher spot in the standings, but they have to redeem themselves from January 29th and prove that they are capable of holding a lead against this team.
Tuesday, March 1st – versus the Carolina Hurricanes @ Home
The Carolina Hurricanes have had an incredibly strong season so far as they are ranked 1st in the Metropolitan division and 3rd overall, making them a threatening opponent for Detroit. Former Hurricane Alex Nedeljkovic will be facing up against his ex-teammates for the 2nd time this season and is hoping to secure a win this time.
When the Red Wings and Hurricanes last met on December 16th, they suffered a 5-3 loss on Carolina’s home ice which added to the already lengthy list of road losses this season. It’s no secret that the Wings tend to play better at home so hopefully having the home ice advantage and a crowd of fans will fire up a victory next Tuesday.
Friday, March 4th – versus the Tampa Bay Lightning
Certainly, nobody is thrilled whenever the Lightning are the opponent, especially after the 2015 and 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs (or just in general). A rendezvous with Tampa Bay, ranked 2nd in the Atlantic division and 4th overall, is surely a rough start to a rough Florida road trip for the Red Wings. The Lightning have Steven Stamkos leading the team in goals and points (24G, 56P), Victor Hedman leading the team in assists (39), and of course, Pat Maroon boasting 65 minutes of penalty time (13th in the league).
The Red Wings and Lightning have not crossed paths since the 2021-22 home opener on October 14th which was an exciting game but resulted in a 7-6 overtime loss for Detroit. The first appearance of the beloved rookies, Lucas Raymond and Moritz Seider, was against Tampa in that home opener, so it will be interesting to see how they play against them this late in the season. Will Seider land one of his patented reverse hits on Stamkos? Only time will tell!
Saturday, March 5th – versus the Florida Panthers
To close out this rather turbulent stretch of the schedule, the Red Wings meet up with the Panthers who are ranked 1st in the Atlantic division and 2nd overall, just behind the Colorado Avalanche. Just like the game against Colorado on Feb. 23rd, the Red Wings need to prepare to play as hard as they can because this team is here to put up a fight.
Another team that Detroit has not seen since late January, where they recorded a 3-2 overtime loss on home ice. Jonathan Huberdeau leads the team in points and assists (56A, 74P) and is 1st in the league regarding assists and 3rd for points total. Between Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov (23G, team leader)- the Red Wings defense is going to have to show up and show out for this road game to hopefully bring home a win.
These upcoming games will definitely not be easy for Detroit, especially those on the road against the Florida teams. Playing a consistent two-way game and not collapsing into either fully offense or fully defense is a simple key towards having greater success against these highly ranked teams.
This Red Wings team is capable of putting up a good fight against all of these teams if they play the way that they did when they beat the Rangers in a shootout on Feb. 17th, which was objectively one of their best games, if not their absolute best game this season. First things first, Detroit needs to redeem themselves from the Jan. 29th home loss to the Maple Leafs on Saturday evening- then the remainder of this tough stretch can play out.