The Detroit Red Wings find themselves with a record of 2-2-0 after four games. This has to be a welcomed record for Red Wings fans after playing the Carolina Hurricanes and Columbus Blue Jackets. The Red Wings will now travel to Chicago to play the winless Blackhawks. Let’s take a look at what to expect in this weekend’s two game series.
Offense — Chicago
The Blackhawks have scored nine goals over their first four games, with Alex DeBrincat, Dominik Kubalik, and Patrick Kane leading the way, while Jonathan Toews remains sidelined. Kane and DeBrincat are still two very dangerous players, that can steal the series if the Red Wings fail to keep them in check. Outside of the aforementioned players, the Blackhawks have little scoring prowess. Prowess aside, the Blackhawks are doing a good job at getting pucks to the net, averaging 31.5 shots on goal/game. The average shot total for Chicago surprised me, but averaging 2.25 goals for/games played (GF/GP) suggests that they are not high percentage chances. The Red Wings will benefit if this trend continues.
Offense — Detroit
The Red Wings are able to boast that they roster the league’s leading goal scorer in Bobby Ryan. Outside of that, the offensive output for this team has been disappointing. They have averaged under 25 shots/game through the first four, and the same 2.25 GF/GP as Chicago. The Red Wings did show some offensive life in their last game against Columbus getting scoring from three different lines in their 3-2 victory. There are not many teams that the Red Wings have more forward depth than, but Chicago is one of those teams. It will be interesting to see what the lines look like against Chicago, as distributing the top end scoring may allow the Red Wings to showcase this advantage.
Defense — Chicago
The defense for the Blackhawks today, will not look the same in just a couple of years. Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook are still on this team, but are nearing the end of their careers. Adam Boqvist, the 8th overall pick by Chicago in 2018 headlines the future of this group. This group may be slightly better than their offensive counterparts, but is still top five in the league in shots against/games played (SA/GP). It is also safe to assume that the scoring chances they allow are quality scoring chances since they have the leagues largest goals against/games played (GA/GP) average at five. The Red Wings as a result should see ample chances in this series.
Defense — Detroit
Much of the same mentioned about Chicago’s defense can be said about Detroit’s. It is more in flux, than not, with many faces in the next few years turning over. The newly revamped defense includes just one player that has top pairing skill in Filip Hronek. The rest of the defense consists of steady players that on good teams would be the fifth, sixth, or seventh option. As such, they are allowing the 12th most SA/GP. This group will have their hands full with Kane and DeBrincat, but otherwise should be able to hold their own in the series.
Goaltending — Chicago
Of all of the position groups discussed, this is the least experienced. The three goalies in the tandem: Malcolm Subban, Collin Delia, and Kevin Lankinen for the Blackhawks combined have started just 86 NHL games. None have taken the league by storm in their limited time, as they lead the NHL in GA/GP as mentioned above. The save percentage for this group also points to their inexperience, as all have a save percentage under .900. This is another area that the Red Wings should be able to exploit in the matchups this weekend.
Goaltending — Detroit
What a tale of two situations we see between these two teams. The goaltending duo of Jonathan Bernier and Thomas Greiss have been the bright spot for the Red Wings through four games. The two have played nearly identical statistically to this point, as they are right next to each other in league save percentage rankings at 13th and 14th. If Jeff Blashill continues his goalie rotation, both players should get a shot to face this team as well.
The goal of every hockey team is to win every time they step out on the ice. But this weekend will offer the Red Wings a rare opportunity this season. The Red Wings should enter this series with the realistic expectation to sweep it. They are deeper at every position group. Hockey is always tough, as we have all seen teams dominate a game, just to lose due to “puck luck”. If the Red Wings are looking forward to their trip to Dallas, which would be hard to believe this early in the season, they could walk into a trap. If they play with the even-keel approach we have seen in three of four games, they should take care of business and head to Dallas above .500.