The Detroit Red Wings are 2-2-1 so far in January, with impressive wins over the Dallas Stars and Los Angeles Kings mixed in with losses to the Anaheim Ducks and San Jose Sharks and a Winter Classic shootout loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs. One thing all five of those games have in common is that the Red Wings have failed to score on the power play, despite having at least four chances per game. Even one power play goal would have made a huge difference for Detroit in the losses to the Ducks or Maple Leafs, as a lack of offense with the man-advantage is starting to cost the team points in the standings. They are 0-for-21 over that five-game stretch, which is their worst slump of the 2013-14 season.
While it isn’t the only reason for power play struggles, injuries to Pavel Datsyuk and Daniel Alfredsson likely have a lot to do with the recent lack of production. Datsyuk leads the Red Wings with five power play goals and Alfredsson has three goals and nine points with the man-advantage. In the absence of those two stars, head coach Mike Babcock has had to adjust lines and that has led to captain Henrik Zetterberg seeing a lot of time on the first power play unit with Gustav Nyquist and Todd Bertuzzi, while youngsters Tomas Tatar and Riley Sheahan have been getting action with Dan Cleary on the second unit. Johan Franzen is also a force on the power play, but he has been sidelined since Dec. 15 with a concussion. It’s time for someone to break through before the Red Wings slip lower than their current league rank (20th, 16.7 percent), especially with a crucial stretch against top Western Conference teams on their upcoming schedule.
When Tom Renney was brought in as an associate coach two seasons ago, one area he was supposed to work on was the power play. The Red Wings were 22nd in the league (16.1 percent) the year before Renney arrived, and while they showed slight improvement (15th, 18.4 percent) last season they are now right back where they were before. As they barely hang on to a playoff spot, both Babcock and Renney should be feeling pressure to improve things. The next three games won’t be easy ones for Detroit to break through in, either, as they face the New York Rangers (eighth in penalty kill percentage), Kings (ninth) and St. Louis Blues (fifth).