Detroit is running away with the Central Division, the Western Conference and the overall NHL lead. How do the Wings do it, year after year after year? Here are the top 10 reasons the Red Wings continue to be better than everybody else:
10. Detroit’s per-game goal differential of plus-1.1 is more than half-a-goal (per game, people!) better than the next-best team (Ottawa, plus-0.6 goals per game).
9. Every team in the NHL is within one win of at least two other teams. Except Detroit – the Red Wings have 41 victories, six more than runner-up Dallas (35).
8. The Wings unleash the most shots per game (34.4) while surrendering the fewest (23.6). Detroit, in fact, has been outshot only five times in 56 games this season. (Strangely enough, the Alex Ovechkin-powered Washington Capitals are second, having been outshot 17 times.)
7. If Detroit has a good first period, look out. The Wings have the second-best winning percentage in the NHL when they score first in a game (.833), and the best winning percentage when they’re leading after the first period (.882). Heck, as long as Detroit even shows up in the first period, the team does OK: the Wings also have the fifth-best winning percentage when they’re trailing after the first period (.375).
6. Typically, good teams have better records in games decided by two or more (or, three or more) goals. Detroit is no exception. By far, the Wings have the best record in the league in games decided by two or more goals, at 10-3 (.769 winning percentage). In games decided by three or more goals, Detroit is also No. 1, winning nearly nine out of 10 such contests, with a 17-2 mark (.895). Colorado and Pittsburgh, at 10-4 (.714), have the second-best records in games decided by two or more goals, while Vancouver’s 9-4 mark (.692) is second-best in three-goal games.
5. Detroit, along with Columbus and Nashville, is plus-6 in games in which it shuts out the opponent versus being shut out. The Wings have only been blanked once this season, which is tied with San Jose for the league low.
4. Henrik Zetterberg. Despite missing seven games with a back injury, Zetterberg is six points off the pace for the NHL scoring lead. With 33 goals and 70 points in 51 games, his career-bests of 39 goals and 85 points are sure to fall. Along with fellow offensive whiz Pavel Datsyuk, Zetterberg leads Detroit’s forward corps into battle every night.
3. Nicklas Lidstrom. The Wings captain leads the league in plus-minus (plus-43) and leads all defensemen in assists (48) and points (55). He’s second among D-men in ice time (27:16) – behind surprising NHL leader Jay Bouwmeester of Florida (27:20) – and fourth in shots (150). Beyond that, though, Lidstrom continues to excel in every area of the rink and remains the driving force behind the Wings. The only question is how much longer he’ll stick around. Lidstrom, in the hunt for his sixth Norris Trophy, will turn 38 at the end of April.
2. Chris Osgood and Dominik Hasek. Who knew a goaltending tandem with a combined age of 78 could be so effective? Osgood, the gap-toothed kid in Detroit’s crease at 35 years old, is the only netminder in the NHL with a goals-against average below 2.00 (OK, it’s 1.99, but still…) and has a ridiculously gaudy win-loss record (22-5-2). Hasek, meanwhile, recently turned 43, but is No. 2 behind Osgood in GAA (2.07) and also sports a victory-heavy record (19-7-3). There’s no shortage of experience in the Wings net and it doesn’t look like it really matters much who starts in the playoffs. Both keepers have won the Stanley Cup as the No. 1 goalie in Detroit before – Osgood in ’98 and Hasek in ’02.
1. The dressing room. Experience, intangibles, X-factors, winning attitude, strong team core…whatever it is, the Wings have got it by the bushel. It started with the emergence of Steve Yzerman in the late 1980s, bubbled and stewed in the early ’90s before finally boiling over with Stanley Cup championships in 1997, ’98 and ’02. A lot of the pieces of those teams are still in Detroit’s dressing room and the culture of winning has been fully instilled. The Wings are the best because that’s what they expect of themselves, in every game from September to June.
For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.