DETROIT – Steve Yzerman is not one to simply talk for the sake of talking -- we’ve known this for decades.
So when he does start speaking, specifically about the status of his Red Wings, we listen closely.
“The progress I see from last year to this year -- and it’s still really early -- the progress I see is a much harder team to play against, defensively, we’re playing much better collectively,” the Red Wings GM said during a virtual conference Monday with the Detroit Economic Club.
Cool, but I argue it’s not that early -- we’re 20 games into a 56-game schedule -- I’ll get to that in a bit here.
Anyway: As we talked about last weekend in the “Are they this bad?” piece, there are some numbers to back up Yzerman’s optimism.
- Team PDO (shooting % + save %) is up: 99.5 through 20 games this season vs. 97.2 through 71 games last season.
- Percentage of high-danger scoring chances (HDF%) is up more significantly: 58% so far this season compared to an embarrassing 43% last season.
- Scoring chances in their favor -- also up: 55% of scoring chances are in their favor so far this season compared to 45% last season.
Save percentage is up this season for the Red Wings, albeit slightly -- .926 this season compared to .913 in 2019-20 -- tough to read into that too much right now. In this case, I agree with Yzerman that it is too early. They are getting very good goaltending, even in the face of terrifically bad defensive breakdowns. That is what we call getting bailed out.
I also agree it’s too early to examine too many players on this roster -- remember how we tried to do that with Anthony Mantha. I imagine player performance was what Yzerman was referring to when he said it’s still “really early.” Any GM would want to see bigger sample sizes from players on this roster so he can get a better understanding of their value.
As Yzerman alludes to, a lot of the statistics in the Red Wings’ favor right now do point to a better defense this season compared to last season. We expected as much, mostly because we couldn’t imagine it being much worse. Yzerman did upgrade the blue line over the offseason, and it has shown.
Yzerman could boast a better Red Wings offense, too, but with the team failing to score in all situations -- 5-on-5 and, of course, that dismal power play -- it’s tough to say they’re any better up front. The team’s shooting percentage of 6.9% remains below the league average of 7.8%. Last year they finished with a horrible 5.9 save percentage -- league average was 7.6%.
One day the Red Wings will score goals again, right? They’re getting opportunities, sure, but without goals, what do you really have? At least Mathias Brome finally scored.
Yzerman seems to believe he can fix goal scoring later. He’s focused on defense and building a team that is “harder to play against.”
I’ll trust the Yzerplan -- one game at a time.
📅 Coming up:
- 7:30 p.m. tonight vs. Nashville @ Little Caesars Arena (FSD PLUS)
- 7:30 p.m. Thursday vs. Nashville @ Little Caesars Arena (FSD)
- 8 p.m. Saturday vs. Chicago @ United Center (FSD)
- 7 p.m. Sunday vs. Chicago @ United Center (NBCSN)
- Tyler Bertuzzi -- He’s still out and it remains unclear for how long.
- Vladislav Namestnikov -- They’re calling him questionable for tonight’s game.
- Troy Stecher -- Meanwhile, Stecher is nursing a lower-body injury. He’s also questionable for tonight’s game.
- As always, the injury list is updated here.
Note: Lucas Raymond is hurt
Yzerman also shared an update Monday on 2020 1st-round pick Lucas Raymond -- he’s hurt and is expected to miss eight weeks. The injury apparently happened during a game the other day:
Lucas Raymond took a hit early in the 3rd period, did not take another shift after leaving the ice in discomfort. pic.twitter.com/J6I50LSSBn— IcehockeyGifs (@IcehockeyG) February 18, 2021
Raymond has 18 points through 34 games played this season with Frolunda HC in Sweden.
Both of these players are of course expected at Red Wings training camp later this year.
More: Red Wings headlines