Are Red Wings this bad? Do we dare ask?

Some stats suggest Red Wings not as bad as record, but lack of goal scoring remains constant

DETROIT, MICHIGAN - FEBRUARY 17: Philipp Kurashev #23 of the Chicago Blackhawks celebrates his second period goal with teammates while playing the Detroit Red Wings at Little Caesars Arena on February 17, 2021 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) (Gregory Shamus, 2021 Getty Images)

What we saw in Friday night’s 7-2 loss to Florida suggests the Red Wings are much, much worse than we could have imagined they would be.

It was a total regression from the tighter, more competitive games against the Panthers just a week ago. Is this for real?

Some team stats

Everyone likes to grab onto a stat, tweet it out and then collect the likes, without context.

Well, let’s actually take a closer look at some team stats for Detroit.

Power play:

  • Through 19 games this season, the Red Wings have a power play conversion of 6.7% -- the league average is 20.62%. Somehow this is not the worst in the league -- Minnesota is at 6% on the power play, but they’ve played six less games than the Red Wings.
  • It’s important to note, then, that the Red Wings have had more power play opportunities than the league average this season. They’ve scored just 4 times on 60 power play opportunities. The league average is 11 goals in 52 opportunities -- 20.62%.
  • Last season -- one of the worst in Detroit history -- the Wings had a power play conversion of 14.9% through 71 games played. The league average then was 20.03%.

Detroit’s power play is one of the most damming stats for the coaching staff, in my opinion. I don’t know how you can justify such a bad PP unit when you’re supposedly putting your best five players out on the ice for at least half of the man advantage. If nothing else, you’d think you could pop in a few PP goals to, at the very least, boost the confidence of your top players -- such as Dylan Larkin, who has zero power play goals this season. Zero. Last season, 5 of his 19 goals were on the PP.

How many times can Jeff Blashill say “we just need to score” before something more has to change? How can five professional hockey players fail to convert on PPs so horribly for so long?

I can’t imagine this helps Steve Yzerman sleep at night.

Stay with me here, because things take a little turn.

Goals for/against per game

  • A dismal 1.95 goals per game for the Red Wings this season -- no surprise here.
  • Last season, through 71 games played mind you, the Red Wings averaged 2.0 goals per game. Like I said, no surprise.
  • However, Detroit is averaging 3.32 goals against per game right now -- this is surprising. There are six teams with worse goals against per game averages this season, including the Pittsburgh Penguins (8-6-1) and Washington Capitals (8-4-3). The difference is they score goals.

These GF/GA stats suggest to me that the Red Wings are not that far off from having a few more wins -- they just need some players who can actually finish. Imagine a top tier forward and a top tier defenseman who could join the PP for Detroit. Someone. Needs. To. Finish. Anthony Mantha used to be one of those guys. Right? (Mantha has one PP goal this season, 6 last year).

We’ll get to shooting and save percentages, but first we have to look at “high-danger scorings chances for” because this might hammer home what I’m getting at.

HDF -- high-danger scoring chances for

This is what they consider an “advanced stat” that includes shot attempts from the slot area and rebounds, approximately. Yes, if we are thinking about rebounds, well this takes those into account.

  • The Red Wings are in the TOP 10 in the league in terms of HDF -- they are at 54. Yes, I had to do double and triple takes on this stat.

HDA -- high-danger scoring chances against

This must be terrible for the Red Wings, right? Nope. Nearly 60% of HDFs are in their favor, and then:

  • The Red Wings are 21st in the league in terms of HDA -- they have had 38 HDAs and just 7 have converted to goals against. This is fine, and it’s due largely to an amazing team save percentage -- see below.

Team shooting percentage (5-on-5)

  • The Red Wings have a team shooting percentage of 6.9% this season -- the league average is 7.9%. Last season Detroit finished with a 5.9% shooting percentage.

This is really, really bad. Why can’t they have a better shooting percentage if they’re getting quality chances?

Save percentage

  • The Red Wings do not deserve a goalie: The team is right at the league average with a .921 save percentage.

Thomas Greiss and Jonathan Bernier are putting in work. The Red Wings crease is a lonely place right now.

And with all of that, one last stat couple to make us cringe and wonder: Expected goals for (xGF) and actual goals for (aGF).

xGf and aGf

Expected goals for (xGF) takes into account where shots are taken from, for and against, compared to the league-wide shooting percentage for that shot location. More simply: It’s the statistical chance of the unblocked shot to become a goal.

  • The Red Wings -- yes, the Detroit Red Wings -- are among the top FIVE teams in the league in terms of xGF. They sit up there with teams like the Toronto Maple Leafs and Vegas Golden Knights.
  • However, in reality, the Red Wings only have 27 actual goals for (aGF) this season at 5-on-5, placing them in the middle of the NHL.

They generate chances, they get their shots, and they don’t score. Fun. Remember, Mathias Brome has 0 points through 17 games played. Yep, that’s all we need to know.

With the knowledge offered by these stats, it’s tough to point the finger at the players or the coaches. Honestly, who is to blame here? If the team is actually being put in better situations to win games than the record suggest, what gives? Is Blashill right all along when he repeats execution, execution, execution?

One game at a time

It’s easy to lose hope after a game like Friday night’s. The Red Wings got down early, and you know it’s over when that happens. The feeling of despair sets in, but there are statistics that they can hold onto and try to build upon.

If I’m Larkin, I’m trying to stay positive and reminding my teammates that they must keep generating their chances. They must continue to get better at finishing, and when they don’t finish they need to focus on generating that next chance, and the next one.

If I’m Blashill and his coaching staff, I’m focused on the power play, the power play and the power play. If he can’t get his NHL team to score on the PP, what can he do?

The Yzerplan

Here’s how I see the “Yzerplan” right now:

  • Trade players at the deadline (April 12) to collect more assets (draft picks and prospects). Same as last season.
  • Assess the coaching situation right at the end of the season. No, I don’t expect any coaching changes this season. If there is, it’s personal. It means Blashill has lost the room. I don’t see that right now.
  • Focus on the prospects who are on loan in Europe -- defenseman Moritz Seider should be playing for the Red Wings next season. Lucas Raymond will be in North America, at least.

Yzerman has been Detroit GM for two drafts, folks -- the rebuild is just now beginning. The dumpster fire is still raging and there is no way to put it out right now in the middle of this pandemic-stricken season. The best he can do is sell off some of the fuel at the deadline again.

Trust the Yzerplan, because what else is there to do? It took a decade to get Steven Stamkos a Cup ring in Tampa. Yzerman became Tampa GM in May 2010. The Lightning, who were in a much better position with a better roster than the Red Wings have now, missed the playoffs two of the next three seasons.

That’s it. That’s where we are and it’s not a lot of fun. I hate to say it. Last year, we thought it couldn’t get worse. But it always can, and it kind of has, even though I think the Red Wings are a better team than their record suggests.

Remember, 11 Red Wings players become UFAs at the end of this season. That includes Henrik Zetterberg’s $6 million cap hit.

One game at a time right now.

📅 Coming up:

  • 5 p.m. Saturday vs. Florida @ Little Caesars Arena (NBCSN)
  • 7:30 p.m. Tuesday vs. Nashville @ Little Caesars Arena (FSD PLUS)
  • 7:30 p.m. Thursday vs. Nashville @ Little Caesars Arena (FSD)

From the Dear Red Wings Discussion Board:

As noted, Mathias Brome now has 0 points in 17 games played in the NHL. The 26-year-old was signed out of Sweden last spring. It was a one-year deal, a chance for Brome to see if he could cut it in the NHL.

Randy writes:

“When is (Blashill) going to give up on the Brome project? ZERO points in 16 games and he is getting as much ice time as any other forward. Why is he getting any PP time?? The PP is 0-30 or something now, so he is playing a forward with zero points to fix that and Larkin on the bench? Steve is letting him tighten the noose around his own neck. Like I said in an earlier post, no one will question the GM when he pulls that trigger. I just hope we don’t lose the players mentally before he gets the axe.”

As I’ve repeated: I don’t expect any coaching changes before the season is over. I know everyone wants that, but I really don’t know what that fixes right now.

The problem with Brome is he was signed to play this year. Yzerman did that, not Blashill. If anything, Blashill is trying desperately to help Brome gain some value for Yzerman. It’s not working, but I am not sure what else he can do.

We’re talking about a team that needs to place value on current players so they can try to get something in return. If Brome starts scoring, he could be a nice piece of trade bait in the spring as he carries a relatively low $925,000 cap hit and will still be an RFA at the end of the season.

Join the discussion here.

Current injuries

  • Tyler Bertuzzi remains out -- he has not played since Jan. 30. He had just scored 4 goals in four games when he suffered his upper-body injury. Still no sign for his return. The Red Wings lack any sense of identity without him in the lineup.
  • Vladislav Namestnikov is “tending to a undisclosed issue”, and it is unclear if he will be in the line up Saturday.

About the Author:

Dave Bartkowiak Jr. is the digital managing editor for ClickOnDetroit.