Quick Hits: The No Hits Edition

Winging It In Motown

I’m going to do this one different today because I don’t feel like looking around the hockey world for news. Just like with any regular Quick Hits, if you’ve got a topic that’s out there that you think would make for a good discussion, please share a link and your thoughts.

Instead, I want to talk about some of the very basic reasons I think the Red Wings are playing poorly. I don’t want to speak about the reasons behind those reasons though. That’s purely for the realm of speculation and I’m speculated out. Whether it’s a stale message or lingering health issues or upset players or complete lack of structure or whatever other reason you might want to guess that’s leading to the deficiencies is all fair game, but I don’t want to play in that.

Aside from the very obvious observation that the Red Wings are playing against teams that are playing very well and that it’s harder to play against good teams, that is.

However, the Florida Panthers being consistently good at angling their forecheckers towards puck carriers in such a way as to force tougher-to-complete passes and generally disrupt transition requires a team to play into those problems and here are the ways I think Detroit has been playing into it.

Unit Cohesion

If you watch from the perspective of the Panthers or the Rangers over the weekend, what you generally would have seen is all five skaters playing in positions that are most-appropriate for where their teammates and where their opposition is moving.

An aggressive forechecker on a good angle relies on his teammates to also be on good angles to deny the primary and the secondary options for the puck carrier. A successful backchecker is always angling the puck carrier to the least-dangerous spots while trying to time out the defense to separate the puck-carrier from the puck while leaving space for his teammate to get the puck moving the other way.

One-man strip-and-move plays are definitely fun to watch (think of how Pavel Datsyuk always played), but to be honest, the most successful transitions and forechecks rely on the position of at least three players. The Wings haven’t been doing that.

Physical Play

This one is fun because I don’t mean that the Red Wings don’t knock people around as much as they should. I think they simply try to make plays on the puck as a default stance when a lot of the time a focus on body position is what’s more-appropriate.

We’ve used the term poke-and-hope a lot in the last couple seasons, but there really is no better way to describe the problem. If the puck isn’t where you want it to be, then you poke at it and hope the end result of the play is the puck goes where you want it in such a way that you can get moving with it.

The big trouble with poke-and-hope is that it doesn’t account for what happens when that doesn’t work. I believe that prioritizing physically denying the other team the advantageous space should be the default. That has nothing to do with hitting, but rather being in that space first and not yielding that inertia to the hope that when the puck arrives, you’re not going to need that space much longer.

That’s pretty much it. They’re almost the same thing, as the physical play issue is an individual problem that compounds itself with the unit cohesion problem. Detroit players simply aren’t moving the right direction at the right speed and with the right spacing more often. In those situations, the “right” decision with the puck gets harder to see, harder to execute and harder to support.

There’s a million factors and an infinite number of guesses as to the reasons why it happens. I’m going to leave that to everybody else, but it’s something that has to get figured out before Detroit can count itself as one of the teams with something left to play for during the part of the year where every team should be making for-damn-sure they’re playing as soundly as the Wings have been beaten over the last two games.

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