The Detroit Red Wings‘ road to a 23rd-consecutive playoff berth got a little bit tougher Tuesday after they dropped to eighth place in the Eastern Conference after a 3-2 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets. Gustav Nyquist continued to produce, giving Detroit two goals, but sloppy defense cost them a chance at moving four points ahead of Columbus with 10 games to play.
Nyquist has been the most productive goal-scorer for the Red Wings all season. He notched his 26th and 27th goals, which gives him 10 more than his closest teammate, Daniel Alfredsson. He has been one of few Red Wings who hasn’t dealt with major injuries this season and has been the reason they’ve won a handful of games this year. He produces offensively, but it’s clear that not having Henrik Zetterberg on the ice takes a lot of the direction out of their play.
Nyquist has helped his linemates out lately as well, and they’re not very heralded players. Riley Sheahan and Thomas Tatar have seen much more playing time than they might have expected before the season started, but their line has scored in 12 of the Red Wings last 17 games. Their line has been the most productive, which is an indictment on the veterans.
Pavel Datsyuk has the ability to lead the team with his play when Zetterberg is out, but he missed the season finale against the Blue Jackets and has played in just 39 games this season. He may return for the last few games of the season, but he’s been dealing with injuries all season and it’s hard to imagine he would be an impact player over the final stretch.
Detroit was in seventh place in the Eastern Conference with 80 points heading into the game, with Columbus two spots behind them with 78 points. They now sit in the final playoff spot in a three-way tie with Columbus and the Washington Capitols.
Aside from Datsyuk and Zetterberg, the Red Wings were missing Jonathan Ericsson, Justin Abdelkader, Thomas Jurco, Daniel Cleary, Stephen Weiss and Mikael Samuelsson. The Red Wings’ age is showing with all the games they’ve missed, but at least there’s a bright spot in their talented young replacements. They have been the Red Wings’ biggest contributors all season, but they’re going to need some of the veterans to step up their play if they hop to jeep their playoff streak alive.