Shootout success masking the degree of Red Wings’ struggles

Jeff Veillette
March 17 2017 12:42PM

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PHOTO CREDIT: MATT KARTOZIAN / USA TODAY SPORTS

Last night, the Detroit Red Wings played an up and down game against the 29th-place Arizona Coyotes, that eventually led to a shootout on road ice. Once again, the squad from Motor City came out ahead in the skills competition, winning it 1-0 and the game 5-4 thanks to a first round goal from Gustav Nyquist and timely saves from Petr Mrazek. The win bumped Detroit up to 27-3-11 on the season, good for 26th overall with 13 games to go.

The win allowed the Red Wings to continue to be the only undefeated team in the shootout this year, moving them to an astonishing 8-0 record. Their success there is a funny thing. On one hand, those on team tank would prefer that those extra points went away; the team isn’t Colorado levels of bad, but it would be nice to have significant odds to win the Draft Lottery. For others, it’s hard to get used to the idea of the post-playoff streak Red Wings, and having a few bright spots to look forward to throughout the year make the points a worthy sacrifice. Of course, many would have preferred if these wins came in more competitive seasons to get them closer to division wins, but for now, they’ll do.

But just how much of an impact does that perfect record make on the standings? As it turns out, an astonishing amount.

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This brings to light an incredible statistic: not only do the Red Wings have more shootout wins than any team in the league, those wins account for over a quarter of their victories. When focusing just on games of actual hockey won, a much different picture is painted. Detroit has the second fewest regulation wins in the entire league, one behind Arizona and just one ahead of the Colorado Avalanche. Add in overtime wins to create the statistic best known as ROW, and their 3-1 loss to Colorado earlier this week put them into dead last in the league.

You heard that correctly. In the simple stat of “who won the most games of actual hockey”, the Red Wings are at the bottom of the pack. While they don’t sit far off at 19, Detroit is the only team in the NHL that hasn’t hit 20 ROW yet.  By comparison, seven teams have at least doubled them, and nearly two-thirds of the league has already hit 30.

With that in mind, maybe the shootout really is doing more than just giving fans something to be happy about. Given that many believe it to be a game of luck (only the Wings and Arizona are three wins above 0.500 in the shootout, let alone eight, and 1st overall Washington is 1-5, their success in this regard might be hiding just how bad this team has been this year. Their pace of 22 ROW isn’t quite on pace to be the worst of this pocket-era (the 2013/14 Sabres had just 14), but it’s possible that their good luck might become bad luck when it comes to the position where they’ll draft the first significant component of this new-found rebuild.

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Managing Editor of Hockey Content at the Nation Network. Just here so I'll get the opposite of fined. If you'd like to collaborate or simply have a question, email me at jeff@veillette.me