Detroit Red Wings’ Special Teams Aren’t So Special


Feb. 5, 2013; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Red Wings forward Henrik Zetterberg (40) gets away from Calgary Flames defender Jay Bouwmeester (4) in the first period at Joe Louis Arena. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to Detroit where our special teams have officially gone from suck to blow. Thanks, Lonestar.

Currently the Red Wings boast the 25th ranked power play by being able to convert on their chances only 12.2% of the time. Last season the Red Wings had the 22nd ranked power play with a conversion rate of 16.1%.

So what is the problem with the power play?

Is it the coaching? Jeff Blashill was signed as the head coach of the Griffins participially because the power play wasn’t very effective for the Wings last season under his tutelage. Tom Renney was then brought into Detroit to reinvigorate the power play like he did in Edmonton last season. Needless to say this has not happened.

Could it be the zone entries? The Red Wings have had trouble carrying the puck into the offensive zone on the power play. Opponents know what the Red Wings are doing and tend to hold the blue line very well. If the Wings change to a dump an chase strategy the defence always seems to beat the Wing to the puck.

Are there not enough pucks on net? Once then Wing do gain control of the puck in the zone they prefer to wait until they have the perfect scoring opportunity, which leads to 30 seconds to a minute of passing followed by one shot. There have been too many power plays this season where the Red Wings have not even gotten a shot on net and that is inexcusable.

February 1, 2013; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Red Wings left wing Johan Franzen (93) screens St. Louis Blues goalie Brian Elliott (1) on a goal by Detroit center Pavel Datsyuk (13) in the third period at Joe Louis Arena. Detroit won 3-5. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Was losing Tomas Holmstrom really this big of a deal? Sure Holmstrom was one of, if not the best net front presence to ever play in the modern era, but does his big butt really make that much of a difference for the Red Wings power play abilities; it seems to be so. Johan Franzen has been doing his best to emulate Holmstrom, but he is not consistently screening the goalie well enough.

What about the defence? Losing Nicklas Lidstrom was a huge blow to the power play, but forget about that. Damien Brunner a forward has been playing defence for the Wings on the power play. This causes a huge match-up problem if the opponents are able to take the puck up the ice as Brunner’s is not used to or aware of his defensive positioning at times and it costs the Red Wings. Outside of Brunner, the Red Wings defence have allowed two short-handed goals against and countless other opportunities in which Jimmy Howard had to bail them out.

On the other side of the ice, the Red Wings penalty kill has been atrocious; killing only 69.8% of their penalties and ranking 28th in the NHL. Last season the Red Wings penalty kill was at least respectable at a 81.8% kill rate, which ranked 18th in the NHL.

Why has the penalty kill been so terrible this season?

Obviously the Wings two best penalty killers in Brad Stuart and Nicklas Lidstrom are no long with the team, but I believe it goes deeper than that.

Are the defensive injuries hampering the PK? The defence has been in a constant rotation. Losing Jonathan Ericsson for a few games definitely hurt the penalty kill, but the addition of Kent Huskins has helped. Brian Lashoff has been good and bad for the Wings on the penalty kill. He can block shots, but also makes rookie mistakes and leaves his man open at times. Having a healthy Huskins and Ericsson certainly helps the defence.

Jan 19, 2013; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Blues right wing Vladimir Tarasenko (91) shoots and scores his second goal of the game as Detroit Red Wings defenseman

Kyle Quincey (27

) defends during the second period at the Scottrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports

Is it because of Kyle Quincey? Yes, he hasn’t done well 5 on 5, let alone on the penalty kill.

Or is it the coaching? Bill Peters is in his second season coaching the Wings defence and penalty kill and his system is obviously not working this season. The Red Wings allow opponents to keep the puck on the outside, which is good, but they don’t pressure the team at all, which is bad. This causes long shifts for the penalty killers and once tired the other team seems to be able to get plenty of scoring opportunities. Last night the Red Wings had a penalty kill shift that lasted a minute and a half because of this.

The truth is all of these problems have plagued the Wings over first nine games of the season and there is only one more question to ask. Can the Red Wings special teams be salvaged?

Maybe. We will have to wait and see, but the good news is it can’t get any worse.

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