Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Ranking every game the 2019-20 Red Wings lost by four or more

The NHL is still trying to figure out how to handle the draft they’re hoping to have in three weeks, because hey, no rush. The most recent idea involves a revamped lottery that would guarantee the Red Wings one of the top two picks, even though the existing rules would give them about a 50 percent shot of falling to fourth.

If you’re like most fans, your first reaction to hearing that plan was “Oh right, the Red Wings exist.” Your second thought may have been “That’s not fair.” But your third thought was probably something along the lines of “Well, if anyone deserves a thumb on the scale, it’s this year’s Red Wings because I seem to recall that they were very bad.” You recall correctly.

The 2019-20 Red Wings were indeed bad. They didn’t just lose, and lose often, although they did that. They also lost big. On fourteen different occasions, the Red Wings lost a game by four goals or more.

If that seems like a lot, it is. It accounts for over 10 percent of such games in the NHL this year, even though the Wings are just one of 31 teams. It’s nearly twice as much as the next teams on the list (the Sharks and Devils, both with eight). Several truly bad teams didn’t come close, like the Senators (six), Sabres (five) and Kings (just three). The Red Wings managed 14, nearly one in every five games they played.

I think that’s an accomplishment worth celebrating. I’m serious. In this watered-down modern NHL, where parity has flattened the majority of teams into nearly indistinguishable lumps of mediocrity, this year’s Wings broke through. Sure, it was to the wrong side of the ledger, but it was still a breakthrough.

Today, as we prepare ourselves for the potential dawn of the Alexis Lafreniere era in Detroit, let’s look back on a season for the ages. We’re going to rank and relive each of the 14 times that the Red Wings lost by four or more.

Some people are going to see this as taking a run at the Red Wings, or kicking them when they’re down. But if anything, I think it’s the opposite. NHL history is packed with forgettable bad teams, the kind that slogged their way through a disappointing season that barely anyone even notices. Eventually, it happens to everyone. Somebody’s got to finish last every year, after all. If it’s your turn to be bad, why not be really bad? Embrace the identity. Really explore the studio space.

The Red Wings did. Let’s remember how, as we count down the worst of those 14 blowouts. And to get a Detroit perspective, I’ve asked Max Bultman to weigh with thoughts on a few of these.

No. 14. Canucks 5, Red Wings 1 (Oct. 15)

This was just the sixth game of the season, and the Wings were actually off to a decent start, winning three of five. I’m not sure if that makes this game better or worse, since it’s kind of like finding the first crack in the foundation of a house you later realize is made out of paper mache and raw spaghetti noodles.

Still, it was a decent start, to both the season and this game. Dylan Larkin scored 30 seconds in and the Wings held that lead for almost an entire period. But the Canucks tied it late in the first, and a pair of powerplay goals in the second let them pull away.

Depressing postgame quote: “It was a great first shift for the Detroit Red Wings but not a lot went right after that.” – The lead on the writeup of the game. OK, but the first shift was good, right? We can build on this.

No. 13. Rangers 5, Red Wings 1 (Nov. 6)

As a lifelong Leafs fan, I know that a lowkey awful moment in any rebuild is when you go up against another rebuilding team that’s already further along than you are. There’s really no good result. If they win, well, they’re better than your team and a reminder of how far you have to go. If they lose, geez, how can you be years into a rebuild and still be bad enough to lose to us? It’s not fun.

The Wings played the Rangers reasonably tough, staying even after one and even outshooting them 36-31 on the night. But they give up two powerplay goals, a clown car of a shorthanded goal off a 1-on-3 rush and an empty netter on the way to a 5-1 loss.

Fun fact: After this loss, the Wings launched a five-game point streak, by far their longest sustained success of the year. There may be hope! (There is no hope.)

Max says: I’m surprised this one wasn’t higher. At that point in the season, this game seemed to epitomize their habit of playing a tight game for a period, then getting derailed by a flurry of goals and the game being functionally over in a flash. But maybe I just remember the night so clearly because they made a midnight trade for Robby Fabbri afterward.

Depressing postgame quote: “You go through all the stats and all that stuff, even strength we’ve actually been a pretty good hockey team, to be honest with you. I know there’s been lots said about us defensively but if you look even strength, I think we’re in the top 15 in the league of expected goals-against, that kind of stuff.” – Jeff Blashill. Well, that settles it: advanced stats don’t work.

No. 12. Devils 5, Red Wings 1 (Nov. 23)

Six weeks in, the season had already gone sideways for both teams. That had been largely expected in Detroit, while New Jersey’s early collapse was a bigger story. That led to some speculation that this game was a must-win for Devils’ coach John Hynes because we were already at the point where losing to the Red Wings felt like a fireable offense.

The two juggernauts played to a scoreless first, and Detroit grabbed an early lead in the second before heading into the final frame tied 1-1. That’s when it all fell apart for the Wings, who surrendered four third-period goals. The last of those comes with just 11 seconds left, narrowly qualifying this game for our list.

Also, Anthony Mantha gets hurt and misses three weeks, so they had that going for them.

Depressing postgame quote: “We’ve been really porous defensively the last couple of games and that’s not good enough.” – Jeff Blashill. Coach is right, boys, we need to find a way to get to just moderately porous.

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