The Chicago Blackhawks head to Little Caesar’s Arena for the first time this season to face the Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday night.
The Red Wings are now officially in Year Four of The Yzerplan and this season has to be considered a disappointment overall.
After a significant amount of “time to go for it” free agent signings last summer — forwards Andrew Copp, David Perron and an improperly utilized by the Blackhawks Dominik Kubalik (a hill I will forever die on), as well as the possession black hole that is defenseman Ben Chiarot — Detroit was expected to take a major step forward this year and contend for a playoff spot.
That hasn’t happened.
Detroit is currently seventh in the Atlantic Division, 13th in the Eastern Conference and six points back of the Penguins (with four teams sandwiched in-between) for what would be the final Wild Card spot.
Credit where it’s due: GM Steve Yzerman recognized this team wasn’t where he wanted them to be and made a few shrewd moves as Detroit became somewhat surprising sellers at the deadline. Yzerman did a nice job in flipping young-ish defenseman Filip Hronek and a 2023 fourth-round pick to the Vancouver Canucks for a 2023 first-round pick and 2023 second-rounder. After extension talks stalled, he moved forward Tyler Bertuzzi to the Boston Bruins for a 2024 first-round pick and 2025 fourth-rounder. And as it became abundantly clear the relationship between the front office and forward Jakob Vrana had substantially frayed, he managed to get a 2025 seventh-round pick and an AHLer for him from the St. Louis Blues.
One player not leaving the Red Wings anytime soon is center Dylan Larkin, fresh off signing an 8-year, $69.6 million extension. The 26-year-old Larkin is Detroit’s captain, leads the team in scoring this season with 23 goals and 36 assists in 62 games, has led the team in scoring five of the six years since he became a regular in 2017-2018, and is arguably the Wings’ most important player.
After getting major contributions last year from rookie skaters Moritz Seider and Lucas Raymond, both players have experienced a bit of the proverbial sophomore slump this season.
Seider’s regression seems easy enough to identify: when anchored to Ben Chiarot, his shot share is a dismal 42 percent and his expected goals percentage is about the same at 41.38. Since Seider has been paired with Jake Walman, his expected goal share has jumped all the way up to 59.26 percent and his shot share is a far more acceptable 50.14. Seider was bumped off the Wings’ top power play in favor of Hronek earlier this season, and now that Hronek is gone, he’s been elevated back to the top unit, which should give his offensive numbers a bump.
Raymond is in an extended scoring drought — with only one assist in his last 10 games — and a portion of that can be attributed to Chiarot as well. Raymond and Chiarot collided during practice on Feb. 10, which caused the winger to miss the next eight games, and he hasn’t scored since returning to the lineup on Feb. 27.
Detroit hasn’t made the playoffs since the 2015-16 season — which was the final year of their 25-year streak. They’ve had six different top 10 picks since then. They have a young, strong nucleus now. They may have gotten their goalie of the future, Ville Husso, for a third-round pick and created a top-tier defenseman out of Jake Walman by rescuing him from the scrap heap. They made a bevy of notable free-agent signings when they felt like the time was right and yet ... they’ll be watching the playoffs from their couches, just like the Blackhawks are.
Just a reminder that there’s no blueprint or timeline for any of this.
The last time the Hawks and Wings saw each other was way back on Oct. 21 in game four of the season and both teams look a lot different since then.
Let’s go Hawks.
Tale of the Tape (statistics from this season)
Blackhawks — Statistic — Red Wings
43.13% (32nd) — 5-on-5 Corsi For — 45.38% (29th)
39.85% (31st) — 5-on-5 Expected goals for — 47.15% (22nd)
2.48 (32nd) — Goals per game — 2.95 (22nd)
3.54 (24th) — Goals against per game — 3.25 (20th)
54.1% (3rd) — Faceoffs — 49.0% (21st)
16.9% (29th) — Power play — 20.1% (21st)
76.2% (22nd) — Penalty kill — 77.7% (19th)
How to watch
When: 6:30 p.m. CT
Where: Little Caesar’s Arena, Detroit, MI
Radio: WGN 720