We’re less than a week into the regular season and the red flags in Detroit and Philadelphia are waving relentlessly through the cold winter skies, riots have engulfed the narrow city streets, and citizens are calling for the heads of Mike Babcock and Peter Laviolette…
Okay, perhaps that isn’t entirely accurate. Let’s just say my latest english teacher would appreciate the use of hyperbole.
Regardless, the start to 2013 has been appalling for two of the NHL’s more consistent teams. The Red Wings, playoff participants in 21 consecutive seasons, have just one win in three tries, with that victory coming over the reigning bottom feeders of the league in a shootout. Even more absurd, the Flyers are winless in three games and have been outscored 11-to-3.
It’s early in the campaign, but something is undeniably wrong with each club. And, it certainly doesn’t take a brain surgeon to figure this one out. Detroit and Philadelphia are painfully bad on special teams. Like a child attempting to walk for the first time, the men on the ice for each side are lost. It’s that bad.
Between the two squads, they have combined to convert on just 1-of-30 power play opportunities to this point in the season. For all of you non-math majors out there, that is a staggering 3.3 percent success rate with the man advantage. That leaves the Flyers at 27th in the league, while the Red Wings are comfy in last with easily the worst numbers in the NHL.
Maybe they just have an emphasis on defensive consistency, right? Absolutely not. To this point, Detroit and Philadelphia have each given up six power play strikes and have surrendered a short-handed goal. Not surprisingly, they both rank in the bottom five on the penalty kill as well.
Let’s put this failure in perspective for a moment. In Detroit, the Red Wings have given up more goals (1) to opponents that are facing a 4-on-5, then they have scored (0) when they have the advantage in their favor. Obviously, they are the only professional team in such a predicament — Philadelphia isn’t far behind with a ratio of 1-to-1.
The numbers highlight the value of success on special teams. In fact, when studying league statistics, it is easy to realize that the three teams (Pittsburgh, Columbus, Ottawa) that rank in the top ten in both penalty killing and power play percentage have combined to go 5-0-1 this season.
Luckily for Detroit and Philadelphia, over time children learn to walk. They grow to become experts at the task. However, in a shortened season, the margin of error is much more slim then in most years. The perennial playoff contenders now have 45 games to fix what appears to be a major issue.