DETROIT – The Detroit Red Wings have reached the halfway point of the 2013-14 season and there are two noticeable trends they hope change in the second half – injuries and lack of success on home ice.
Just when the injury bug seems to be behind them, the Wings are back recalling players from Grand Rapids.
Currently seven players – Darren Helm (groin/shoulder), Stephen Weiss (hernia), Danny DeKeyser (groin), Pavel Datsyuk (lower-body injury), Jonathan Ericsson (ribs), Johan Franzen (concussion) and Jonas Gustavsson (groin) – are on the shelf.
Then there’s the Wings’ inability to win on home ice, where they’re 6-10-7 so far.
“We’ve obviously played a lot better on the road than at home,” Daniel Cleary said. “It’s weird how that goes sometimes. I don’t have an answer for that. We (recently won) 23 in a row at home and next thing you know we’re 6-10-7, obviously that’s not good enough.”
Conversely, Detroit is 13-4-3 on the road.
“Sporadic,” Cleary said when asked to describe how team has played in the first half of the season. “We had a lot of blown opportunities. We’ve been with the injury bug for a little bit, probably more than a little bit. We obviously have to get going here.
“We’ve played well in a couple game spurts and then we have a game that’s just kind of in the dumps,” Cleary continued. “Then we start over again. We need to get a run together. There were times when we played very well and weren’t winning and then when we got it back we maybe we only keep it together one or two games. We thought we had it going pretty good and then the (New York) Islanders came in here and laid it to us. For our standards and how we play, our system and personnel we have it’s just not up to par for us. The onus falls on the players.”
Heading into play Sunday, Detroit is fourth in the Atlantic Division (19-14-10, 48 points) and sits in the top wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.
Here are the positional grades for the halfway point of the season.
Forwards: B (first quarter, B-)
The Wings have done enough to piece things together enough up front and find a bit of success.
Despite missing a good chunk of time, Henrik Zetterberg (14 goals, 22 assists), Datsyuk (15 goals, 17 assists) and Daniel Alfredsson (11 goals, 19 assists) continue to lead the team in scoring.
The concussion Franzen suffered came when the power forward seemed to be getting his offensive touch back.
And then there’s Helm who continues to have no luck when it comes to injuries. He’s played just 16 games this season.
Perhaps we’ve learned why things haven’t been going so well for Weiss, who has two goals and two assists, after having to undergo sports hernia surgery. He’s expected to return after the Olympic break.
Daniel Cleary, who got a one-year deal worth $1.75 million from the Wings a day into training camp, appears to have found his game in the New Year. He’s logged over 17 minutes of ice time over the last two games and has looked like a threat offensively.
Tomas Tatar, who couldn’t find a regular role at the start of the season, is the bright spot of the crop of youngsters on the roster. He has eight goals and eight assists, which ranks him sixth on the team in points.
Luke Glendening and Tomas Jurco appear to have bright futures within the organization.
Defensemen: B+ (first quarter, B)
The Wings have had to play a majority of the season without two of their top three D-men – DeKeyser and Ericsson – in the lineup.
That gives guys like Brendan Smith, Kyle Quincey, Jakub Kindl and Brian Lashoff a bit of a pass since they have to fill more of a role than what they should be.
Those four are a combined minus-23. DeKeyser and Ericsson are a combined plus-10.
Recently called up Alexey Marchenko is a plus-2 after just one game.
Niklas Kronwall, who deserves an A+, is fourth on the team in scoring with four goals and 24 assists and is a plus-7.
Goalies: B- (first quarter, C+)
Jimmy Howard was simply spectacular in Saturday’s win over the Dallas Stars, making 44 saves.
That’s something the Wings need more of their Olympic-bound netminder, who is 7-9-8 with a 2.65 goals-against average and a .911 save percentage.
Gustavsson’s numbers as a backup are still impressive – 11-3-2; 2.39 GAA; .914 save percentage. But again it’s a matter of health with him, just like it was last season.
After winning his first game, Petr Mrazek has lost two straight.
Coaching: B- (first quarter, B+)
Hard to judge a coaching staff that has to deal with this many injured players, so the lack of success at home and the special teams units dip have to be looked at.
“We had higher hopes when the year started in terms of points at the midway mark,” Wings general manager Ken Holland said. “We’ve lost a number of points in shootouts, overtime. That’s a lot of points.
“We’ve been very good on the road, very disappointing at home,” Holland added. “We’ve played hard, we’ve been inconsistent, especially at home. We’re leaving points on the board. We haven’t really had our team together, it seems a lot like last year.”
The Wings power play has dipped the most. In the first half of the season it ranked seventh overall (21.5) and currently is 16th (18.2).
The penalty kill ranked fifth overall (86.1) in the first half and currently is seventh (85.3).