Red Wings finally rising on special teams
Detroit – If an NHL team ranks in the top 10 of both special teams – the power play and penalty kill – it stands to have a good chance of making the playoffs.
That’s the rule of thumb, anyway, and generally proves accurate.
The Red Wings weren’t close last season – and didn’t make the playoffs.
There’s a long way to go until the playoffs, but the Red Wings are showing significant improvement on both units.
They’re sixth on the penalty kill (84.6 percent) after ranking 16th (80.8 percent) last season. On the power play, the Wings rank 14th (18.9 percent) after finishing 27th (15.1 percent) last season.
It’s the payoff for a lot of work the Red Wings did on both units in training camp.
More: Red Wings’ scoring threat Martin Frk out vs. Flames
“I said we have to have elite specialty teams and the penalty kill is in that range and we’d like to get the power play into that top-10 range,” coach Jeff Blashill said Tuesday. “If you have a top-10 penalty kill and power play, you give yourself a better chance to be a playoff team.
“We’re going to keep striving for that.”
The power play simply hasn’t had many opportunities lately.
The Red Wings had none during Saturday’s 2-1 shootout loss against Columbus, and more than two power plays only once in the previous five games before Saturday.
“We’ve had no power play hardly,” Blashill said. “When either group gets a chance, they have to have an extraordinarily high level of urgency because we are just not getting very many, so we can’t feel our way into the power play.
“We’ve got to be ready to execute right away.”
Said forward Tomas Tatar: “We saw it last year, you can’t expect to make the playoffs when you lose on the power play and have to be off the charts on 5-on-5. We know how important it is. The PK has been good, so we have to pick it up on the power play.”
The penalty kill has been aggressive and regularly disrupting opposing skaters, but forward Luke Glendening, one of the key players on the penalty kill, credits the Red Wings’ goaltending with Jimmy Howard and Petr Mrazek.
“They’ve been fantastic in those situations,” Glendening said. “We’ve been a little more aggressive, and we’ve put emphasis on faceoffs, killing some time off, but the goaltending has been outstanding.
“We’re not where want to be yet, but it’s just a matter of getting better every day and keep moving up.”
FLAMES AT RED WINGS
Faceoff: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Little Caesars Arena
TV / radio: FSD-Plus / 97.1 FM
Notable: The Flames defeated the Red Wings 6-3 last week in Calgary. ... LW Johnny Gaudreau is off to a great start offensively with 17 assists and 24 points.