The Detroit Red Wings, despite the fact that they’re playing without Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, Jonathan Ericsson and a host of others, just continue to win late in the season. As a result, they’re in good shape, even as once-imposing teams like the Toronto Maple Leafs and Washington Capitals limp to the finish line.
After being left for dead a few separate times, the Red Wings managed to win two critical games over the weekend against the Maple Leafs and Tampa Bay Lightning and a huge game Wednesday night aganist the Boston Bruins to get themselves back into the drivers seat for a wild card birth. They did so by relying on contributions from rookies and veterans alike.
Weeks ago, in this very column, I pleaded for fans to sit back and simply enjoy the push for the playoffs. Considering all the injuries and inconsistency the team was fighting over the last few months, chances were that making the playoffs would be a major challenge. These weren’t the Red Wings of old, relying on line after line of future hall of fame players to get the job done.
Instead, we’ve been introduced to the heroics of Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar and company. Daniel Alfredsson has stepped up when the team has been void of veteran leaders. Thrilling wins like a road triumph against the Minnesota Wild, Sunday’s over the Lightning and a dramatic victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins have been exhilarating, and have given the team a jump in their step late in the season.
Wednesday’s victory against Boston belongs in a whole different category. In spite of getting badly outshot, the Red Wings hung together and scored two opportunistic goals in the third period to take the lead. Tomas Jurco scored a gritty goal in front of the net from a scramble, and Nyquist pounced on a puck, sped in and scored quickly making Zdeno Chara look bad. It was a stunning, come from behind win against the Eastern Conference’s best team.
These last few weeks have not only been fun, but have shown that Detroit can be a major force should they reach the playoffs. Each game they’ve been playing has been a virtual playoff game, and Detroit has been coming out on top lately. They’ve also managed to deliver excitement along the way.
Red Wings Wheel: Gustav Nyquist. Much like Pavel Datsyuk, we’re running out of superlatives for Nyquist, who scored his 28th goal of the season on Wednesday and looked good doing it. He’s been aggressive, attacking and has stepped up in the absence of plenty stars to contribute on the score sheet. Nyquist is likely the next big star the Red Wings are developing.
Red Wings Heel: Discipline. With as much good as Detroit has done offensively and defensively, the team still takes a few too many penalties. the Bruins had four power plays on Wednesday, and likely should have scored on two instead of one. Detroit has to tone down some of the over-aggressive play, because good teams will make them pay
Stat To Know: 28, the amount of goals the Red Wings have scored since an ugly 4-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks on March 16. Some of their better games? Five goals against Pittsburgh, four against Montreal and Toronto and three against the stingy Bruins. Offensive outputs like that combined with relatively solid defense has helped Detroit finally assume dominance in the wild card race and pick up points when they’ve badly needed them.
What’s Next: The Red Wings (should) get a break, considering they get a visit from the terrible Buffalo Sabers on Friday night. Then, it’s off to Montreal for a Saturday night showdown with the Canadiens.
Max DeMara is a senior editor at The Detroit Sports Site. You can find him on Twitter @SportsGuyTheMax