Nobody knew it, but the Detroit Red Wings game on Tuesday night was over before it even began. Why? Detroit was playing the Philadelphia Flyers on the road, which is a locale the Red Wings have not won in since the 1997 Stanley Cup finals. History was going against them.
After a rough 5-0 whitewash, things will stay that way at least until Detroit’s next trip to the Keystone State. The Red Wings were playing without Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk and Johan Franzen, who was a late scratch. Despite playing a solid opening 20 minutes, they fell apart in the final two periods in dramatic fashion.
Much like last year, and the year before that, and the year before that, the Red Wings cannot find any consistency. For three games, Detroit looked like they had put it all together mentally. A dramatic shootout victory over Chicago was quickly followed by a dominating win over the Montreal Canadiens. Then, Detroit collapsed against the Florida Panthers in the third period.
Now, there’s the paradox of Tuesday night’s effort hanging in the balance. Injury excuses aside, the Red Wings desperately need to string together a few wins in a row for confidence alone. The Montreal game could have served as a catapult forward, but Detroit lost a lead against Florida and are back to square one after being blanked by the Flyers. The young players are playing well. Depth is starting to show.
The Red Wings should, however, have more points to show from their improved play and largely improving health. Efforts like Sunday’s and Tuesday’s drag the team down mentally because they’re constantly failing to protect leads or playing from behind. That takes a toll on a group which then begins to force sluggish efforts. It’s not easy to constantly play catch up after blowing leads.
Desperate to find points prior to the Olympic break, from Friday’s game against the Washington Capitals on, Detroit must find a way to put their past mistakes behind them and string together a few victories.
Game Of The Week: Detroit at Washington, Sunday. The second of a home and home series with the Capitals, the Red Wings play in the nations capital on Sunday afternoon in a touted game after taking on Washington Friday night from Detroit. If the Red Wings could get points in both games, that would be huge for their confidence. Both teams are in a statistical dogfight in the Eastern Conference.
Stat Of The Week: 5, goals allowed by Detroit in the last two third periods they have played. The Red Wings need to play better in the third period whether they have a lead or not, and work harder to lock teams down and keep them off the scoreboard. Giving up so many goals late in games isn’t going to help the team turn things around and get badly needed points.
Red Hot Wing: Riley Sheahan, F. Sheahan has come into his own since playing on Detroit’s roster, contributing four points in five games. He made a nice pass against Montreal that led to a goal, and has been puck hungry around the net. It’s been refreshing to see the Red Wings develop a big power forward capable of playing gritty and tough.
Dead Wings Doghouse: Jonas Gustavsson, G. In the absence of Jimmy Howard, Gustavsson has done a nice job holding down the fort, but the last two games have been rough. He allowed five goals in Philadelphia after allowing four against the Panthers. If Howard isn’t ready for action this weekend, Gustavsson will have to be better in order to give Detroit a chance.
Atlantic Charting: The Red Wings have 57 points, which is good for an eighth place tie in the Eastern Conference and fifth place in the Atlantic Division.
Max DeMara is a senior editor at The Detroit Sports Site. You can find him on Twitter @SportsGuyTheMax