The Detroit Red Wings are currently in the first wildcard spot in the east, just ahead of the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Boston Bruins – but a playoff berth still seems unrealistic. With a tough December schedule ahead, the next few weeks will prove whether this young team is ready for post-season play.
The playoffs seem like a distant memory in Detroit. 2015-16 was the last time the Wings made the playoffs, where they fell 4-1 in the first round to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
If Detroit sneaks in this season, the results would likely be the same – a first round bounce. However, this time around, the franchise is in a different position. When the Red Wings lost to Tampa Bay in ’15-’16, it was the third straight first-round exit for Detroit. The loss felt inevitable – the Wings had been on the decline for years, and the playoffs seemed more like a consolation prize for resisting a rebuild.
But a playoff berth this year would mean everything – proof that the Yzerplan is in fact working (although the performances of Lucas Raymond and Moritz Seider are pretty convincing). Is it likely? Not at all. With teams like Boston and Pittsburgh right on their heels, it’s unlikely that a young Red Wings team can outlast veteran squads in the coming months.
However, Detroit will be playing meaningful hockey in December. That hasn’t happened in quite some time. In fact, the coming schedule will show if the Wings are playoff contenders or pretenders.
The slate is a brutal one. In the month of December, the Red Wings will play only one team with losing record – the underperforming New York Islanders. They’ll have to battle with some of the best teams in the league, including the Carolina Hurricanes and the Colorado Avalanche.
If Detroit manages to hover around a .500 winning percentage in the next few weeks, a spot in the playoffs would be very plausible. The coming month will tell fans just how far ahead of schedule Detroit is this year.