1. Inconsistency: The Red Wings have been one of the streakier teams thus far in the season. After rattling off three straight wins two weeks ago, the Wings went on a five game losing streak. This past weekend, they rebounded with two straight wins against the Predators and Canucks. While the Wings are from out of the playoff hunt this season, they can’t afford many more five game skids if they hope to make the postseason.
Detroit is susceptible to streakiness at both ends of the ice; some games goaltending doesn’t show up, others Detroit can’t seem to find the back of the net. The Wings need to figure out how to get some team consistency and go on a nice run in order to start jockeying for good positioning in the playoffs.
2. Do the IR Shuffle: Injuries have been a huge part of the 2013 NHL season, and the Wings haven’t escaped unscathed. Just as Ian White and Mikael Samuelsson returned to Detroit’s line-up, Todd Bertuzzi and Johan Franzen were both placed on IR. Bertuzzi and Franzen represent a good deal of Detroit’s size up front, and will leave Detroit’s forward corps shorthanded for the time being. Players like Jordin Tootoo and Justin Abdelkader will have to step up their physical presence to make up for the loss of these big-bodied power forwards.
3. Two Game Winning Streak: After a dismal five game losing streak, the Wings are back on track with two straight home wins over the Nashville Predators and the Vancouver Canucks. Detroit won both games in convincing fashion: a 4-0 shutout win against Nashville on Saturday, and a huge 8-3 victory over the Canucks on Sunday. Howard got the nod both games with Gustavsson injured, and is getting back in form after a couple rough starts.
Can the Wings harness this momentum and find some success on their next road trip? If they keep scoring at the rate they did this weekend, that shouldn’t be a problem.
4. New Number one Nik: There’s a new Nikolas running Detroit’s defensive corps. With the retirement of Nicklas Lidstrom prior to the 2013 season, the top defensive spot had been vacated, and someone would have to step up to fill it. Niklas Kronwall has started to assert himself as the number one point man on this Red Wings team. With a goal and two assists on Sunday, Kronwall is now the highest scoring defenseman the NHL, with 16 points through 19 games.
He has proven he has what it takes to be the Red Wings number one defenseman, and if the Wings find significant success this year, could be a sleeper candidate for the Norris trophy.
5. Rejuvenated Power Play? On Sunday against the Canucks, Detroit scored three PPG on just five opportunities. Prior to the game, Detroit had been two for 16 in their past six games with the man-advantage. Hopefully this isn’t just a blip on the radar, because Detroit’s power play has been atrocious without Lidstrom this season. The man advantage has always been one of the Wings’ strong points, helping them to success through the past two decades. If Detroit can be even half as efficient on the PP as they were on Sunday, it bodes well for the team’s success this season.