Three areas the Detroit Red Wings need to improve during the second half of the season

If the Detroit Red Wings don't want to become playoff pretenders, they must clean up a few areas of their game.
Brian Bradshaw Sevald-USA TODAY Sports
2 of 3

The Detroit Red Wings need to tighten things up defensively in the second half of the season.

Detroit's defensive woes this season have been both disheartening, catastrophic, and even monumental at times. There are plenty of examples, but the one that stands out in my mind is that catastrophe at home against the lousy Sharks. Detroit squandered a 4-0 second-period lead in the blink of an eye, allowing two short-handed goals on the same power play and then another one right as their power play opportunity expired. I don't want to center out Jake Walman, but let's say it wasn't his best night. Although this slide will mostly focus on the defensive pairings, Detroit's forwards could also focus on being more responsible in their own zone. Team defense needs to be addressed, even the simple stuff; when a defenseman pinches, he must be replaced by a forward. I know it's basic stuff, but it hasn't always happened. Detroit's wingers need to be stronger on the boards, winning puck battles, especially on their own end, and ensuring that the puck exits the zone. The centermen need to dive that middle lane and not mismanage their defensive zone coverage; far too many times, they've left an opponent alone in front of the goal.

Back to the defensemen; let's start with the first pairing. Walman has had an up-and-down year for Detroit and has even found himself as a healthy scratch, but he currently seems to be playing some of his better hockey again. Walman's play is critical to Detroit's success. He's paired with Moritz Seider, and the Red Wings count on his offensive contributions and shot-blocking ability at the other end. Walman needs to take a bit more of a calculated risk during the second half of the season, but it's a fine line between risk and reward. Walman's nine goals are impressive, but he needs to be more aware of the situation and know when it's right or wrong to push the envelope in the offensive zone.

That goes for Seider as well. Detroit has given up so many odd-man rushes this season, leading to whoever is in the net digging the puck out of the back of their net far too often. Walman and Seider have also turned the puck over in the defensive zone far too many times, trying to make more of a unique zone exit rather than making the simple play. The second pairing of Jeff Petry and Ben Chiarot have also struggled in this aspect, but it's usually after they've been hemmed in chasing for a minute or more. That second pairing, although nowhere near perfect, has performed much better of late, but there is a reason they're the second pairing. Watching Petry play on a nightly basis has undoubtedly led to me having an ulcer. Chiarot has performed much better in his second year with the organization than last year.

Like Petry, I have many of the same feelings when I watch Justin Holl. I never liked the signing, but I admit, I became impressed with Holl's play early on in the season. That notion has since faded. Holl used his size to be a physical contributor on the backend, but as the season has gone on, his three-year deal worth $10.2 million seems too rich for what he provides. Although the Detroit Red Wings continue to rotate Holl, Petry, and Olli Maatta, I feel it should be more of a Holl/Petry rotation moving forward. Ideally, general manager Steve Yzerman looks to upgrade the backend by making a trade ahead of the deadline, but before doing so, the Red Wings will need to show their boss that they will remain in the thick of the playoff hunt.

I appreciate Shayne Gostisbehere's offensive proficiency, but he's a liability during five-on-five play. The veteran defenseman is a team-worst minus-17 on the season. Again, 15 of his 27 points have come on the power play. Still, he needs to be paired with a very good defensive defender who can help cover up his lack of defensive zone coverage and overall defensive deficiencies. Rather than see this defenseman rotation continue, I'd prefer to see Maatta paired with Gostisbehere full-time. Remember how well Maatta and Filip Hronek performed last season? Perhaps Lalonde can find the same success with Maatta and Gostisbehere if they are given time to build up the continuity needed. to be an efficient third pairing.