Home stretch to prove pivotal in Red Wings' season
Detroit — The defining point in a regular season, the turning point of whether it’ll be a success or not?
It’s difficult to say that definitively about any season for a pro hockey team — or any pro sports team, for that matter — what with the long schedules involved and inevitable up and downs of a season.
But fans love to single out certain parts and put more emphasis on a part of the schedule.
And the Red Wings are certainly approaching such a part of their schedule.
They have 13 of their next 15 games at home, at Little Caesars Arena, where the new arena still feels very, very new because the Red Wings have only played five games there.
So, if the Red Wings are going to make a move, to be a viable threat to make the playoffs, these next few weeks is as good a time as any.
Not that home ice will guarantee any NHL team success.
“Like every night in this league, you better come out and compete like crazy,” said coach Jeff Blashill during the just completed 2-2 four-game road trip. “You have better have great detail just to give yourself a chance to win. (But) it certainly doesn’t guarantee a win.”
The Red Wings (8-8-1) have played 12 of their first 17 games on the road. Considering the huge disparity, the fact they are still at .500 — they happened to go .500 on the road, too, at 6-6 – can be considered a positive sign, for a team many analysts probably felt would be already buried.
“We’re doing a good job on the road of keeping it simple, and when we get opportunities, for the most part, we’re burying them,” goaltender Jimmy Howard said.
But now they must do the same things at LCA.
The Red Wings weren’t a very good team at Joe Louis Arena last season, going a mediocre 17-17-7. The lack of success at home contributed to the overall problems and ultimately missing the playoffs.
The defining point of this Red Wings’ season?
Too early, really, to say that. But these next 15 games are crucial for a team trying to find its identity.
You aren’t surprised with Anthony Mantha leading the Red Wings with eight goals. Mantha was a prolific goal scorer in junior hockey, dominated the American League toward the end of his stay in Grand Rapids, and is scoring goals again at the NHL level.
But Martin Frk, second on the team with six goals (tied with Frans Nielsen)?
That’s a mild surprise.
Frk scored three goals in the first four games this season and then didn’t score again in 10 games before scoring in the last three games.
With the return of Andreas Athanasiou, and Blashill shuffling his lines, Frk wound up playing on the fourth line where some of his offensive characteristics might have been miscast.
But Frk still was on the power play — three of his six goals have come on the power play — and lately he’s been playing on scoring lines again, where his lethal one-timer can be best utilized.
He’s played a little bit more, which has helped, but I just think when Frk is playing with confidence, he’s a dangerous player,” Blashill said.
The Red Wings were off Friday, reaching Detroit early in the morning upon returning from Calgary.
… With Petr Mrazek getting the start in Calgary, it’s likely Howard will get the start Saturday against Columbus.
… One Red Wings forward in a slump: captain Henrik Zetterberg, who has three points (all assists) in the last 10 games.
BLUE JACKETS AT RED WINGS
Faceoff: 7 p.m. Saturday, Little Caesars Arena.
TV/radio: Fox Sports Detroit/97.1 The Ticket.
Outlook: The Red Wings open a long home stand against Columbus … The Blue Jackets won all three games against the Red Wings last season … D Zach Werenski (Grosse Pointe/Michigan) is among the best young defenseman in the NHL.