The Detroit Red Wings are in a position that they haven’t been in years: the playoff bubble. In terms of points, the Red Wings have the last wildcard spot in the east, and are just outside in winning percentage. So can the Red Wings actually find themselves playing in the post-season?
According to most stat-based projections, it’s still pretty unlikely. The Athletics recent playoff projections give the Red Wings a 95 percent chance to miss the playoffs. Moneypuck gives Detroit a 21 percent chance to make it and FiveThirtyEight give them 11 percent.
Perhaps the biggest challenge for the Wings will be outlasting more veteran teams also fighting for a spot in the wildcard. Currently, Detroit is the last wildcard spot, just below the Pittsburgh Penguins and just above the Boston Bruins (although the Bruins have a higher winning percentage). A team powered by younger talent like the Red Wings can struggled with inconsistency and lack of experience, while groups like the Bruins and the Penguins are more than familiar with the post-season and what it takes to get in.
Also, there are a other teams that could sneak their way into the conversation. The Columbus Blue Jackets and the Philadelphia Flyers both have 29 points, just four away from the Wings. To this point, Detroit has been better than both, but there is still plenty of time left in the season for that to change.
If the team does sneak into the wildcard spot, it’ll be off the backs of the rookies and the captain. Alex Nedeljkovic has been essential for the team this year, pulling out the occasional undeserved win (Detroit’s 2-1 win in Boston is the clearest example, where the Wings put up just 16 shots on goal and the Bruins had 42) and valiantly guarding the crease. Moritz Seider has been an extremely bright spot on a struggling defense (Detroit gives up 3.35 goals per game, which is ranked 24th in the NHL), providing an offensive upside while still providing the best defensive play on the roster. Lucas Raymond has been electric on the top line with Tyler Bertuzzi and Dylan Larkin. His 28 points lead all rookies in the NHL. Larkin is having a heck of a rebound year, leading the team in points with 29 and centering the elite top line. Those four need to continue performing at elite levels if they want to keep Detroit in contention in March.
No one really expected Detroit to be in the playoff conversation in late December, but here they are. No one expects Detroit to actually find their way into the post-season – can they shock the league again?