With Road-Laden Schedule Ahead, Detroit Red Wings Must Fix Special Teams

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For a team with so much skill, the Detroit Red Wings‘ special teams troubles are beyond mind-boggling. The Red Wings are the only team in the NHL without a road power-play goal as they are mired in a 0-for-36 slump with the man advantage on the road.

The Wings are clicking at a nice clip at home on the power play at 22.1 percent, but the problem is the Wings play 14 of their final 22 games on the road, including three West Coast trips.

Injuries have messed with Mike Babcock finding consistent lines he can use on the power play. However, a team with Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, Damien Brunner, Johan Franzen and Niklas Kronwall should not be slumping this bad on the power play, even if they were playing road games on the moon.

A major part of the Red Wings’ power play struggles can be attributed to the retirement of power play quarterback Nicklas Lidstrom and net front presence Tomas Holmstrom. Defensemen like Brendan Smith, Kyle Quincey and Jakub Kindl are nowhere near the point men Lidstrom was while players like Dan Cleary haven’t been able to fill the skates and role that Holmstrom had.

However, the fact the Wings can score on the power play at home, yet haven’t registered a single power play goal on the road is concerning and inexplicable. While every other team has registered at least three road power-play goals, the Wings still have a goose egg in that column. Aside from not scoring on the road on the power play, the Wings have allowed two shorthanded goals, making the situation even worse.

Overall, the Wings rank 25th on the power play, clicking at a paltry 14.4 percent.

On the other side of the coin is the Wings’ inability to keep the puck out of their own net when shorthanded. Like the power play numbers, the road penalty kill numbers are also very ugly.

The Wings currently rank 20th overall in penalty kill percentage, but they are a measly 28th on the road, killing only 70.7 percent of penalties. Admittedly, injuries to key penalty killers like Darren Helm and Valtteri Filppula have hampered the unit. However, the Wings still have solid defensive players like Zetterberg, Datsyuk, Justin Abdelkader, Drew Miller and Patrick Eaves.

Like the power play, the penalty kill is much better at home, ranking 15th in the league. However, with more road games left than home games, the Wings must get their penalty kill fixed or the season will slip away.

Detroit currently sits in the seventh spot in the Western Conference, so they are already in a tenuous situation. If they cannot address their special teams’ woes on the road, expect the impressive playoff streak to end. If that streak does end, the Wings will have to look no further than their play on the road and blame their lack of execution on special teams.

 

Follow James on Twitter @JT3sticks

 

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