NHL on NBCSN: Red Wings power play is next step in the rebuild

NBCSN’s coverage of the 2020-21 NHL season continues with the Wednesday Night Hockey matchup between the Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings. Pre-game coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

For the first time this season, the Red Wings have taken points in consecutive games.

Detroit fell in overtime to the Blackhawks 3-2 on Monday night, earning just one point but it came on the heels of a win over Nashville on Saturday.

That’s not the funnest benchmark to cross a quarter into the shortened season, but, in a rebuild a team has to take the victories it can find.

Ahead of their Wednesday Night Hockey matchup with the Blackhawks, the next area of focus for the Red Wings has to be the power play.

Detroit hasn’t tallied a man advantage goal since Jan. 28 and have scored just four all season on 53 chances. For rebuilding clubs, sometimes the power play can be the entry point back into contention, taking advantage of being gifted chances while things aren’t working five on five.

The Red Wings haven’t had such luck.

Red Wings power play shot attempts, via InStat

On Monday against Chicago, the Red Wings had just two chances but generated a single shot on goal. Detroit’s 27.2 shots on net per game is the third lowest in the league as it is, which isn’t going to help the second-lowest ranked man advantage in the league.

Detroit’s measly four goals aren’t even the fewest; Minnesota — who hasn’t played in two weeks — and New Jersey — also off for an extended period of time — each have garnered just three.

It’s still a concern, and for a team that’s seen a little bit of progress in other areas, it has to be the next shoe to drop.

[PRE-GAME COVERAGE OF BLACKHAWKS-RED WINGS BEGINS AT 6:30 P.M. ET – NBCSN]

“Certainly that’s been a continued sore spot,: head coach Jeff Blashill said after Monday’s game. “We have nights where it looks not bad and then we go backwards again. We’ve used lots of different guys in different situations, given a lot of different people opportunities, and not enough people have grabbed it.”

Three of the four Red Wings power play goals have come from Tyler Bertuzzi, who was injured at the end of January. Detroit hasn’t scored on each of its 26 power plays since, and Bertuzzi won’t be back for Wednesday’s contest.

Even with his return upcoming, relying on a single player to carry the entire unit isn’t sustainable.

“We have to find way to get it going,” Red Wings captain Dylan Larkin said. “I think we’ve done an OK job getting it set up. We just have to find a way to get it around the net. We’re too much to the outside.”

It’s not a lack of chances; Detroit’s 53 power play chances are the seventh most in the league.

Maybe some of their woes come from a lack of netfront presence, despite some clear offensive talent on the roster. Just five shots have been deflected towards net on the Red Wings power play all season, and just three of them have actually reached the goalie.

Red Wings power play deflections, via InStat

A lot of the earlier season power play struggle can be attributed to zone entry issues, but as the charts show, there’s little presence in front of the net even when Detroit is generating shots.

As Larkin said, they’re being held to the outside a bit too much, and certainly not much is coming from the slot.

The Red Wings have started to find a bit of an identity, playing in one-goal, tough contests, even if the results are still lacking. The next step towards meaningful improvement would come from a power play regarded as at least a bit of a threat.

“You struggle between going back to the drawing board and changing things all the time, and then you have no chemistry at all,” Blashill told reporters. “And then that definition of insanity of continuing to do the same thing and expecting a different result.”

NBC Sports will premiere Doc Emrick – The Voice of Hockey, Presented by Discover – detailing the illustrious career of U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame member and eight-time Sports Emmy Award winner Mike ‘Doc’ Emrick – on Sunday, February 21 at 5 p.m. ET on NBC.

Marisa Ingemi is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop her a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow her on Twitter @Marisa_Ingemi.

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