With injuries mounting, the Wings could be in trouble


You’re probably aware that the Detroit Red Wings have a rather impressive playoff streak going.

You may also be aware that the streak is in jeopardy. The Wings barely made it 25 straight last season, and then Pavel Datsyuk went to the KHL. Playing their last year at Joe Louis Arena, it almost just feels like the end of a great era.

The Wings did start out pretty well this season — 6-2-0 after eight games — but with injuries mounting, they’re only 8-8-1 heading into tonight’s game in Washington.

“We know we have to win games to get back into the race here,” captain Henrik Zetterberg said, per MLive. “It’s still early, but we don’t want to drop back too far.”

The Wings are currently three points back of a wild-card spot, and four back of third place in the Atlantic Division.

According to the analytics, they are simply not a very good team. Almost a quarter of the way through the season, only the Coyotes have a lower score-adjusted Corsi than the Wings, who are tied with the Islanders — and that’s not the kind of company you want to be keeping.

While puck possession isn’t everything in hockey, there are certain things that need to be done in order to win in spite of not owning the puck.

Early on, the Wings were surviving largely on goaltending, buoyed especially by the surprising play of Jimmy Howard. He’ll get the start tonight, his first since giving up five goals in Saturday’s 5-0 loss to Montreal. Petr Mrazek, meanwhile, has allowed four goals in each of his last four starts, all regulation losses for Detroit.

The Wings had also been surviving on opportunistic scoring, including four goals on just 13 shots by Thomas Vanek. But after seven games, Vanek had to be placed on LTIR, and then Andreas Athanasiou and Darren Helm got hurt too. Combined, those three have 12 goals, more than a quarter of the team’s 42 total.

With that in mind, it would be nice for the Wings if guys like Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, Justin Abdelkader, and Anthony Mantha could start chipping in a little more. This is a particularly big opportunity for the latter, who at 22 needs to start proving he can score at the NHL level.

After tonight’s game, the Wings return home for a winnable match-up Sunday against Calgary.

“You can’t keep losing games if you want to be a team battling for the playoffs,” Zetterberg told reporters after Tuesday’s 4-3 loss to Tampa Bay.

And it really is as simple that.