March 10, 2013; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall (55) during the first period against the Columbus Blue Jackets at the Joe Louis Arena. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Keys to Red Wings' Playoff Push: Defense

The Red Wings’ defense has been called into question this entire season. Which, of course, is no surprise. You don’t recover overnight from the loss of one of the greatest defensemen of all time. You’re going to see all the mistakes, all the tiny fragments that seem to be coming unraveled. And in a condensed season, everything is magnified beyond reason.

The defense, however, is not as terrible as everyone thinks. Yes, it is still sub-par, especially for Red Wings standards, but it could be a heck of a lot worse.

The main problem this season has been the amount of injuries plaguing the blue line. With Carlo Colaiacovo going down early and staying out until just a few games ago as well as Brendan Smith missing some games and Kyle Quincey suffering a broken jaw, the Red Wings had to scramble to find suitable replacements, resulting in picking up Kent Huskins, who was traded before the deadline to the Philadelphia Flyers, and calling up Brian Lashoff.

With the addition of Danny DeKeyser, there are one too many defensemen to choose from. It’s a constant rotation. Every game is a dance of “Which defenseman is sitting out this game?”

There’s little to no consistency.

Niklas Kronwall‘s plus/minus rating is the second lowest on the team at -9, tied with Dan Cleary and just ahead of Brian Lashoff. That’s not to say that their play is sub-par at all; Kronwall’s actually looked solid this season and Lashoff has seemed more sure of himself with every passing game. And for quite a while this season, Quincey was leading the team in plus/minus.

Smith, while not as good as many had hoped, has been relatively solid, save for those moments of rookie mistakes. Ian White has been a little shaky, but he’s also had a lot of time to talk to the media with every game he’s been scratched. And I wrote an article earlier about Jonathan Ericsson and how much he has improved this season; he’s just the perpetual kicking horse of the team (or one of them) and sometimes it’s hard to see the quality defenseman beneath those mistakes we all like to put under a microscope.

DeKeyser has only played two games and was on the ice for St. Louis’ only goal in last Sunday’s game. Aside from that, he seems to play with a cool head. He makes the simple plays, doesn’t try to get too fancy with anything, and skates very well. Give him some NHL time under his belt, and we could have a Brian Rafalski/Brad Stuart mix of a defenseman on our hands again. That’s something we sorely need in the near future.

The defense is not completely lost. There are still moments of brilliance, moments that we like to reflect on and sigh a little. If the organization can find some sort of consistency in the next game or two – or at least be able to tighten everything down and be able to hold onto a one-goal lead – then all hope is not lost.

A tighter defense and a more consistent offense and this team will float into the playoffs.

Up next on keys to the Red Wings’ playoff push: Goaltending!

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