Goaltending The Red Wings feel comfortable with veteran Jimmy Howard inside the crease. Howard is coming off of a down year but some of his struggles can be attributed to the constant shuffling of the players in front of him and, unsurprisingly, a string of injuries and illnesses that cost him time in both the regular season and playoffs. The 2.66 GAA and .910 save percentage he posted were well below his career numbers and far worse than the 2.13 and .923 he put up in 2012-13. Howard has recovered from the hand, knee and hip injuries that slowed him last season and should return to form. The team’s backup, Jonas Gustavsson, also returns after a season where he started 27 games. He did not fare much better in net with a 2.63 GAA and .907 save percentage but the Red Wings did manage to go 16-5-4 in his starts. The team hopes to see a lot less of the Swede in net this season. Power-Play Although injuries clearly limited the Red Wings’ power play, struggling with the man advantage is nothing new in Detroit. Their 17.7 percent success rate, which ranked 18th in the league, was not much worse than the 18.4 they finished with in 2012-13 and a bit better than the 16.1 from the season before. Instead of units one and two, the Red Wings may refer to their power-play units as young and old. When healthy, Datsyuk, Zetterberk and Fransen form an impressive unit but they rarely got the chance to play together last season. Despite their extensive missed time, and when you include Kronwall and DeKeyser, they accounted for 22 of the team’s 50 power-play goals. The second unit could see the youngsters Sheahan, Tatar and Nyquist paired together. They all gained valuable experience when they saw time on the power-play last season and combined for 10 goals of their own. Penalty Kill Pavel Datsyuk Dave Reginek/NHL/Getty Images The Red Wings’ penalty kill fared a bit better than their power-play. They killed off 83.1 percent of their opponents’ power plays and that ranked 12th in the league but their inexperience showed in the number of penalties they committed. The Red Wings were short handed 296 times, fourth most in the league. Darren Helm has speed to burn and he put it to good use on the penalty kill where he can always recover position and helps keep teams honest because he is a threat to turn any misplay into a shorthanded opportunity.. Fellow center Luke Glendening put in hard minutes on the penalty kill as a rookie and that effort should help assure him a spot on this year’s roster. DeKeyser was also key to killing penalties and it will be another factor in him turning his two-year deal into an extended stay with the club. Three Questions 1. Can the Detroit veterans stay healthy for one more run? It was a struggle to extend their playoff streak to 23 seasons and 24 will be just as tough. Alfredsson is already banged up and may call it quits, but the season really relies on Datsyuk, Zetterberg and Franzen. It’s unlikely they’ll play a full season but they’ll only need around 50 games from each to reach the postseason. 2. Will Jimmy Howard bounce back from last season? Not only did Howard have a revolving door of a lineup in front of him but he was also playing through his own injuries. Even his playoffs were cut short by a bout of the flu. He’s been very reliable in three of his seasons as a starter in Detroit and there’s no reason he shouldn’t have another solid season in him. 3. Does Detroit have enough young talent to rebuild while winning? Last year was a bit of a rebuilding year, and the Red Wings still managed to reach the postseason. They got excellent years out of Nyquist, Tatar, Sheahan and Jurco but that might not be enough. Anthony Mantha is a prospect expected to contribute in a big way but his season will be delayed by injury. Prediction After squeezing into the Eastern Conference’s final playoff spot, the Red Wings are hoping things will break better for them this season. They have some young talent but the team is still relying on their veteran players to carry them. It’s no surprise when older players get injured, but if they can manage to stay healthy Detroit could see themselves push into the second round.
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