After officially being eliminated from playoff contention, the Detroit Red Wings enter the final ten games of the regular season starting on Tuesday. The Red Wings will play ten games in 18 days, including three at home and seven on the road.
With a record of 18-13-6 at home, the Red Wings enter the final stretch 16th in winning percentage (.568) at home.
Road games for the Red Wings have been a sore spot for the team. With a road record of 10-21-3, the Red Wings currently sit 31st in road winning percentage (.338). The schedule moving forward is difficult for Detroit, but playing for rosters spots on an improving young team is what the players are currently playing for.
Combine the two records, and the Red Wings are 28-34-9, good for the 24th spot in the overall NHL standings. As it stands, the Red Wings will likely pick in the Top 10 once again this season. With any Draft Lottery luck, and the Red Wings haven’t had any over the past five years, the Red Wings could move into the Top 3 and pick an essential player for the rebuild.
The Stretch Run
On Tuesday night, the Red Wings will start their final gasp at a season with a home game against Ottawa. Detroit lost two games to Ottawa last week and will be seeking revenge against a team that sits below them in the league standings. The team will go on the road and play in Carolina and New York (Rangers) before returning for a home game against Florida next Sunday afternoon.
The Red Wings will once again travel to the Sunshine State to play Tampa Bay and Florida on the 19th and 21st before playing their final home game of the season next Saturday against Pittsburgh.
The final six days of the season have Detroit traveling to New Jersey on Sunday, April 24th, for a matinee affair. The team will then travel to Toronto, where Tyler Bertuzzi will miss a game again because of vaccination non-compliance. Detroit’s final game will be Friday, April 29th, with a return to New Jersey.
What we can expect
The Red Wings played two outstanding games to start the week against Boston and Winnipeg. The pressure seems to be off the team, and the players are beginning to regain their confidence. Players like Dylan Larkin, Lucas Raymond, Tyler Bertuzzi, and others will continue to play an important role for the remainder of the schedule.
Moving forward, the schedule is challenging for the Red Wings, as seven of their final 11 games will be played against teams in the top nine in the NHL standings. Combine the difficulty of the games with most games on the road, and it will be almost impossible for the team to move up in the standings.
Losing most of these games is not what the players want, but Detroit will conceivably move into the top eight for the draft if the Red Wings lose more than Buffalo over the final stretch run. Improving the odds to get into the Shane Wright Sweepstakes would go a long way in moving the needle forward in the rebuild.
What is most important during these final three weeks is that the Red Wings play competitive hockey. It doesn’t matter if they win or lose. The month of March and early April was difficult for both the players and fans. Changes will occur during the summer, whereby players are added and subtracted, prospects will emerge and prove they are ready to make the leap to the next level, and possibly a coaching change will occur.
It was certainly not a lost season; young players took on significant roles, veterans were moved out, and at least one player was waived. Next season looks promising, and only time will tell what General Manager Steve Yzerman has in store for the beleaguered Red Wings.