The Detroit Red Wings got a big, almost must win last night against the Minnesota Wild. The win pulls the Red Wings up to the Philadelphia Flyers, who are now tied with 89 points. There is a catch here though for the Red Wings. The Flyers have more games left on their schedule than the Red Wings do. The Flyers have six remaining, while the Red Wings only have four left. Further, the Bruins beat the Blues last night to earn 90 points on the year. In other words, there isn’t much room for error for the Red Wings. They won last night, but that isn’t the end, there is a lot of work to do.. and some luck to go their way.
The Wings have made the playoffs in 28 of the last 30 seasons, including 24 in a row between 1991-2015. That is some serious run and the Red Wings are in danger of it ending in the coming week. There is one guy who desperately doesn’t want that to come to an end: rookie head coach Jeff Blashill. You figure, every coach before him for the last 24 years has reached the playoffs. The head coach that came before him, Mike Babcock, who will be behind the other bench tonight, made the playoffs with the Red Wings every year.
Babcock will try and set up a road block against his former team tonight in Toronto. The Wings played last night, but they have no time to treat this as just another game. They have four games left, well, all four of those games they need to leave it all out on the ice. The Wings and Leafs are one of the bigger rivalries in hockey, and how fitting that this is one of the biggest games for the Red Wings this season. I’m sure when the league made up the schedule, they were hoping this game was going to mean something. And while there is nothing on the line for the Leafs, except of course improving their odds to earn the 1st pick in the draft, the Wings have everything on the line.
Blashill has to be feeling the nerves light up. He does not want to be the first coach in Detroit to not make the playoffs in over 24 years. This being his rookie year behind the bench. The Wings have had a topsy-turvy season. I think that goes for any team striving to make the playoffs at this point. And yes, I do feel that some of it has to do with coaching. The Wings have some experience on the team and then there is a lot of inexperience leading the team. Gustav Nyquist and Dylan Larkin are ushering in the future in Detroit, while Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg are the veteran leaders on this roster. Johan Franzen has been out since October, so he is one critical piece that the Red Wings have had to operate without. Let’s see how things unfold tonight in Toronto between the Red Wings and Maple Leafs, an Original 6 rivalry.
Detroit Red Wings vs. Toronto Maple Leafs NHL Pick
The Maple Leafs staked out a nice blueprint for a couple weeks there, for how they hope to play next season. The Leafs went 5-1 over mid-March, and looking like a pretty good hockey team. However, in reality, winning is hurting them more than anything. Let’s give them credit though, the Leafs are one of the most banged up teams in the NHL. They weren’t expected to be great at full health, so playing a chunk of the season without Joffrey Lupul and James Van Riemsdyk didn’t help either. Lupul has been a mainstay at the hospital the last two seasons. Promising young Russian Nikita Soshnikov has been out for the last week as well and is questionable to return tonight.
If the Red Wings come out and play hard tonight they should win this game, just from a talent perspective. With Mike Babcock coaching the Red Wings in this spot, I would have felt real comfortable in them tonight. The way I see it, this could be a dagger in the Red Wings tonight, despite the win last night. They are not in control of their own destiny, rather, they need to pick up some points while hoping the Flyers choke away their two-plus game advantage during the remainder of the schedule. I expect the Wings to be focused, not only with their season on the line, but against a rival. The Red Wings keep the pressure on the Flyers and stomp the Leafs Saturday night.
PICK: RED WINGS TO WIN -135