A very formidable January, which saw the organization go 9-2-2 into the All-Star break, has the Detroit Red Wings poised for what's been so rare in recent years: a real playoff push. And this isn't like last season, where Detroit hung around through January before getting stomped by the Ottawa Senators in back-to-back road games days before the deadline. This season, it feels like the Red Wings have some substance to the notion of qualifying for the postseason.
A large part of Detroit's December defensive deficiencies were solved or, at the very least, masked by the stellar play of goaltender Alex Lyon. The Detroit Red Wings need to continue to focus on team defense to help out their netminders, but having a goalie who can steal a game every now and then can really boost the team's confidence and overall morale. Far too often, goals against came in bunches throughout the first half of the season. It wasn't until January that the Red Wings failed to win a game in which they hadn't scored four or more goals; that all can't fall on the goaltending or the defense; it's more of a reflection of the entire team. Things have quickly changed since Lyon took over the cage, and he will continue to be the workhorse in goal for the Detroit Red Wings until he falters. Veteran Ville Husso will serve as the primary backup moving forward, leaving James Reimer in the press box unless an injury occurs.
Since becoming the clear No. 1 option for the Red Wings, Lyon has posted a 13-6-2 record with two shutouts backed by a stout .922 save percentage and a 2.51 goals against average. Lyon's 21 starts this year is a career-high break the previous number of 14 he made last season with the Florida Panthers.
Derek Lalonde hopes the Detroit Red Wings become buyers at the NHL trade deadline.
The thought of finally becoming buyers at the NHL deadline is a breath of fresh air. The Detroit Red Wings have been rebuilding for years now, and the process will continue, but it's nice to be in a playoff position in the second week of February and a team that will potentially add over the next month. Detroit hasn't qualified for the postseason since 2015 and currently sits with 58 points on pace for 95, which should be enough to secure a wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.
Head coach Derek Lalonde went on 97.1 The Tickets' Stoney and Jansen with Heather show on Thursday and talked about how he hopes Yzerman adds a utility forward, someone who can play center and the wing. Lalonde was swift to mention that it's more of a wishlist thing than reality, knowing that Yzerman is still in the rebuilding process and will be reluctant to trade off any young assets or draft capital to add a rental when it seems Detroit has been overachieving a bit.
"He’ll do the right thing if it makes sense, but I think it’s more important if it makes sense going forward," said Lalonde. "So (another forward) will be the wishlist, but I think we’re also realistic on, we’re still in the middle of a process here, which is the right thing to do." I do think, as a group, why we’re having success is the patience and leadership of Steve Yzerman over time," said Lalonde. "You have to build through the draft. This isn’t done overnight. Are we ready to be a legit Stanley Cup contender? I don’t know. We’re probably overachieving on where our talent is, which is a huge credit to our guys. So I think we’re probably still going to build this thing."
For me, the forward that fits the mold of what Lalonde hopes to add is veteran Adam Henrique. Henrique, 34, is in the final year of his current contract that averages $5.8 million annually. The former Windsor Spitfire can play center or the wing, and he's a very responsible 200-foot player. At 34 years old, he doesn't fit the overall vision of the Red Wings, but if Yzerman is looking for a trustworthy rental and willing to give up the assets to acquire him, he'd be a perfect fit. Henrique has notched 15 goals and 33 points this season and is a plus-1 through 49 games, averaging over 17 minutes per night. His 15 goals would place him third on the Detroit Red Wings behind Dylan Larkin (23) and Alex DeBrincat (18). Although Detroit has a ton of depth scoring (the Red Wings have ten players with double-digit goals on the season), they still lack upper-tier secondary scoring. The Red Wings rely on scoring by committee, so adding another reliable forward who is in great shape, can win faceoffs, and play in all situations on a 25-goal pace isn't the worst idea.
The asking price for Henrique is on the rise with Elias Lindholm and Sean Monahan off the board. It might be too steep for Yzerman and the Red Wings, but they must at least join the conversation. Also, I wouldn't rule out Detroit changing directions and selling off assets if the wheels completely fall off in February. If that were to happen, the players to monitor would be Patrick Kane, Shayne Gostisbehere, Daniel Sprong, and David Perron.