The Detroit Red Wings and Pittsburgh Penguins met on Oct. 18 after a 4-0 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Oct. 16, with both teams coming off of back-to-back wins and looking to keep their hot streak alive. The Red Wings were able to ride a strong second period to a 6-3 victory over the Penguins to push their win streak to three.
Special Teams Continue to Provide
Heading into the game, the Red Wings’ penalty kill had been sitting at around an 83% success rate, but going up against a team like the Penguins who possess two solid powerplays spearheaded by guys like Sidney Crosby and prized offseason acquisition Erik Karlsson, the hope was that they could continue to have success.
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The Red Wings ended up shorthanded three times throughout the game and the penalty kill once again showed up, killing off all three penalties and raising their success rate to 86% on the year. The penalty kill was led by numerous blocked shots by players and solid saves by goalie Ville Husso when the Penguins were able to get quality chances on him.
The Red Wings’ powerplay also continues to be something special to watch, cashing in on two of their three opportunities in the game, with the solo unsuccessful powerplay being an abbreviated one of only 37 seconds. The team’s first powerplay unit continues to show chemistry and great puck movement that helped lead to an easy rebound goal for David Perron in the second period off a shot from captain Dylan Larkin in the slot. The other powerplay goal that the team scored was off Andrew Copp’s stick into an empty net with just over a minute remaining in the game. Through three games, the Red Wings hold the league’s best powerplay, sitting at a 46% success rate.
Defensive Zone Play Struggles
The Red Wings had shown some struggles through the first three games in their own zone leading into the game against Pittsburgh, and those struggles made their way back throughout the game yet again. There were numerous times that the Red Wings had problems getting the puck out thanks to the pressure of the Penguins’ forecheck.
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Prime examples of the defensive zone struggles come in the form of the three goals that the Penguins scored. With the first goal, the Red Wings’ defense seemed to just back into Husso while Evgeni Malkin entered the zone and eventually made his way behind the defense after dropping the puck off to former Vegas Golden Knight Reilly Smith. The second and third goals came off of plays that started from the point and Husso being screened to the point that he really stood no chance of making a quality attempt to save the shot.
If the Red Wings want to have continued success throughout the season, their defensive play is going to have to improve and help their goalies out, or it could become a long season in the defensive zone for the team.
Pace of Play Key to Wings’ Success
The old phrase “speed kills” seems to be quite fitting for the Red Wings so far this season, with the fact that when they are able to get going, it comes off of the speed of the pace of play they have. Whether it be the actual speed of the players skating (Larkin, Daniel Sprong) or the smooth and quick movement of the puck, the team seems to be playing at a pace that fans have not seen in a while and it has made it exciting for everyone to watch.
The puck movement may be the most impressive part of the offensive side of their game in the sense that there are a ton of new players on the team and the chemistry seems to have clicked pretty quickly to start the season. A prime example is the aforementioned first powerplay unit that consists of two new pieces in Shayne Gostisbehere and Alex DeBrincat. The puck movement that they showed in the game against the Penguins led to the easy goal that Perron scored. The forecheck can also be thrown into the mix of the pace of play they play at, with them being right on top of opponents trying to break the puck out of their zone and was on display again against the Penguins, being able to force a few turnovers thanks to their forecheck.
What’s on Tap for Red Wings
The Red Wings will hit the road once again, heading to Ottawa for a Saturday matchup against the Senators before returning home on Sunday for a game against the Calgary Flames to wrap up the week of play.