Wings ride special teams
Last season, the Detroit Red Wings' special teams were more like not-so-special teams. The power play ranked 21st in the NHL, a depth that the franchise hasn't been at since 1982-83. The penalty-kill ranked seventh, but had to recover from a very slow start. The penalty-kill went from 79 percent efficiency in the first quarter to 88 percent in the second half of the season. The power play operated at 11 percent over the first quarter and finished at 17 percent.
This year, however, special is back.
Five of the Red Wings' nine goals this season were scored by the power play. Only two goals have been scored by opposition special teams including one short-handed marker.
"It's important to get off to a good start," said Detroit's Dan Cleary. "With good special teams, you can win games coming from behind, control the lead, change momentum. … Success now in the NHL, special teams has to be high. We were great two years ago in both departments. Last year we slipped a little, especially on the power play."
Entering Wednesday's game against Calgary (7:30 p.m., FSN), the Red Wings rank sixth in the league in power-play efficiency (26 percent) and seventh on the penalty-kill (92 percent).
Wednesday's opponent, the Flames, presents a challenge for the Red Wings' penalty-kill. Calgary's power play has been even hotter than the Wings', scoring at a 27 percent rate. Defensemen Adrian Aucoin and Dion Phaneuf man the points and Jarome Iginla makes himself a fixture in front of the net.
"The Calgary Flames have one of the best power plays in the league at this point statistically, so we're going to have to be real good," said Babcock. "Both Aucoin and Phaneuf on the back can really shoot the puck."
Despite the strong power play, Calgary is off to a 0-1-1 start thanks in part to a porous penalty-kill that ranks 28th in the league.
The Flames are averaging 2.5 power-play goals allowed per game. Combine that with Detroit's effective power play and Calgary could be in trouble if it takes penalties Wednesday.