It wasn't long ago that the Detroit Red Wings were in second place in the NHL Atlantic Division and just a few points out of first place. Now, with 17 games left in the season, the Red Wings need to make some changes or they could miss the playoffs for the first time in almost 25 years.
With a loss to the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday night, Detroit is now holding down the last wild card spot in the Eastern Conference. As of Monday afternoon, they are just four points ahead of the Philadelphia Flyers.
One problem plaguing the team is the lack of scoring. Detroit ranks 23rd in the NHL averaging 2.49 goals per game. Since the beginning of January, the Red Wings have played 27 games, but have only scored more than three goals five times.
The power play is also struggling and Detroit ranks 24th in the NHL. Going into the game against Dallas on March 1, the team was on an 0-20 streak until Pavel Datsyuk scored an overtime power play goal.
"I’ll be honest, when I watched the game against Colorado, we had four big-time chances that we didn’t score on," Head Coach Jeff Blashill said after the Dallas game. "The rest of it wasn’t good enough, certainly in the last stretch it hadn’t been good enough, but the power play needs to score just like a player does so it’s a big goal we scored.”
Rookie Dylan Larkin started the season hot, but has cooled off lately. He leads the team with 19 goals and a plus-18 rating, and is second with 39 points. Since Feb. 8 though, he only has one goal and one assist.
Another factor in the recent Red Wings slump has been goalie Petr Mrazek. He was pulled just minutes into Sunday's game against the Blackhawks after giving up two quick goals, and that came after he gave up five goals against Chicago on Wednesday.
Mrazek has played very well this season and earned a starting job. He has played in 45 games this season, the most since he played in 42 games during the 2012-2013 season with the Grand Rapids Griffins. In his last seven games, Mrazek has given up five goals three times.
"Long term, I have tons of belief in Petr, but in the short term, he's got to make more saves than he did today," Blashill said after Sunday's loss to Chicago.
Detroit also added Andreas Athanasiou, keeping him on the team instead of sending him back to the Griffins. Athanasiou has wowed fans with his quickness, but only averages a time on ice of 9:03, the second least on the team.
In the Detroit's final 17 games of the season, there are very important games against the Florida Panthers, Tampa Bay Lightning and Boston Bruins, all teams ahead of them in the Atlantic Division.
They also face the Pittsburgh Penguins who are ahead of them in the wild card, as well as two games against the Maple Leafs, one game against the Flyers who are just outside of the playoffs and a game against the Montreal Canadiens.
As of Monday, March 7, the Red Wings are four points behind the third place Bruins and five points ahead of the second place Panthers.
The team will need to put more points on the board, as 10 of the final 12 opponents rank ahead of the Red Wings in goals per game, with four of those teams in the top 10.