The Detroit Red Wings had high hopes for their two games in Sweden. Unfortunately, they came away with only one point – an overtime loss to the Ottawa Senators.
While it was a great experience for the Red Wings to play overseas, the two games amplified a couple of their weaknesses: goaltending and team defense.
Red Wings’ Subpar Goaltending
When Ville Husso went home to be present for the birth of his child, James Reimer and Alex Lyon were left to man Detroit’s crease. Goaltending had already been a weak point for the Red Wings, and that was confirmed during the NHL Global Series.
Reimer started Thursday night – or afternoon, depending on where you were watching. He promptly gave up three first-period goals to the Senators. To be fair, the first goal was a deflection in tight that he had no chance to save. The others, though, were ones that he should have had. The same could be said for the fourth goal, which was allowed early in the second period.
On Friday, Lyon was solid through the first two periods against the Toronto Maple Leafs, but got hung out to dry in the third. Overall, he was fine. Fine doesn’t steal games, though.
Previously, Detroit has had the luxury of a high-octane power play to balance out their high goals against numbers. But the man advantage hasn’t been much of an advantage lately and went 0-for-7 in Sweden.
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If the Red Wings want to reach the playoffs this year, they need better goaltending. Whether that’s Husso stepping up or the addition of outside assistance, something has to change – and quick.
Porous Team Defense Plaguing the Red Wings
Part of the goals-against issue has been the defensive play in front of the goalies. Specifically, Detroit’s second and third pairs have not been effective.
Ben Chiarot and Jeff Petry need to be permanently separated. Both need more time in the stands as well. The same could be said for Justin Holl.
Shayne Gostisbehere can be dangerous in the offensive zone, but had a few too many blunders at five on five. He’s better off playing third-pairing minutes. Similarly, Olli Määttä was strong against Ottawa, but not so much against Toronto.
Lastly, Jake Walman and Moritz Seider were not dominant in Sweden, but they were a competent first pair at least. That is, until Walman got hurt. And it’s possible he’ll need to miss time.
Overall, the Red Wings need more from their defensemen. Their play during the NHL Global Series was strong evidence of that. Defensive zone coverage, positioning, and attempts to transition the puck up ice averaged out to be subpar. This isn’t poor planning – it’s poor execution. And that shouldn’t be happening with a veteran-heavy blue line.
At this point, there is no reason why Simon Edvinsson should be in the AHL. He is one of Detroit’s four best defensemen.
Detroit’s schedule doesn’t ease up when they return to action in North America. The New Jersey Devils, Boston Bruins, and Minnesota Wild are their next three opponents – certainly not the easiest schedule.
If the Red Wings don’t turn things around quickly, they’re going to fall behind in the Atlantic Division. And with so many talented teams in the division, they may not be able to make up that lost ground.