Helene St. James Detroit Free Press
Published 6:03 AM EDT Mar 18, 2019
The Detroit Red Wings spent the weekend enjoying something that’s become rare: a winning feeling.
There isn’t likely to be much more of that as they embark on the last three weeks of the season — and that’s ultimately for the better of the organization.
The Wings’ 2-1 victory over the New York Islanders on Saturday at Little Caesars Arena was only their second victory over the last 14 games. With Los Angeles losing to Florida, it bumped the Wings to 29th place in the NHL standings, above only the Kings and the Ottawa Senators. The gap between the Wings and Senators remained the same, as Ottawa banked two points by beating Toronto on Saturday. The gap between the Wings and the Devils narrowed, as New Jersey lost to Colorado on Sunday.
While the Wings should want to win as a team, it’s better for the organization if they finish low in the standings, because it improves their odds in the April 9 draft lottery that will reveal what teams pick first, second and third overall.
Here’s a look at the final stretch of the season for the Wings, Kings and Senators.
Lose for Jack Hughes: Where Red Wings currently sit in NHL draft lottery
Record: 25-37-10, 60 points.
Home games: New Jersey, Boston, Pittsburgh, Buffalo.
Road games: N.Y. Rangers, St. Louis, Vegas, San Jose, Buffalo, Pittsburgh.
Wings buzz: The Wings’ roster has been depleted by trades (Gustav Nyquist, Nick Jensen) and ailments (Mike Green, Jonathan Ericsson, Justin Abdelkader and likely Trevor Daley, who missed Saturday’s game with a lingering back issue). Add to that a commitment to playing newcomers Ryan Kuffner and Taro Hirose. That’s a lot of inexperience to have in the lineup.
Opponent buzz: The Bruins, Penguins, Blues, Sharks and Golden Knights all have something to play for as they jockey for playoff positioning. They’ll view the Wings as a bankable two points. Jimmy Howard loves playing at Madison Square Garden, but last season’s outing still resulted in an overtime loss.
Prediction: Wings win two games and lose one in overtime/shootout, finishing with 65 points, 30th in the standings and good for the No. 2 spot in the lottery.
More: Meet the Red Wings’ opponents in the final 10 games
Record: 25-41-6, 56 points.
Home games: Buffalo, Florida, Toronto, Tampa Bay, Columbus.
Road games: Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, New York Rangers, Buffalo.
Sens buzz: The Senators traded Mark Stone, Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel at the deadline, subtracting three of their top four scorers. They’ve won three games since Feb. 25, one more than the Wings. They’ve scored more goals than the Wings (26 compared to Detroit’s 17) in that stretch. The Senators have motivation to not finish with the best odds to pick first overall, because their first-round pick belongs to Colorado, courtesy of the 2017 trade that netted them Duchene in the first place.
Opponent buzz: The Flames are playing for first place in the Western Conference. The Lightning is trying to top the 1995-96 Wings’ record of 62 victories. The Blue Jackets are fighting for a playoff spot. The Maple Leafs have home ice to play for. The Oilers are still within reach of making the playoffs and avoiding the embarrassment of missing the postseason for what would be the 12th time in 13 seasons.
Prediction: Senators win three games, finishing with 62 points, 31st in the standings.
Record: 25-38-8, 58 points.
Home games: Winnipeg, San Jose, Anaheim, Chicago, Calgary, Vegas.
Road games: Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver, Arizona, Anaheim.
Kings buzz: The Kings were relatively quiet at the trade deadline, moving Carl Hagelin and Oscar Fantenberg. They’ve gone 2-6-2 since. It’s been a disappointing season for several players, most notably Ilya Kovalchuk (14 goals, 16 assists), who was scratched Saturday.
Opponent buzz: The Jets are playing for first place in the Central Division. The Sharks and Flames are neck-and-neck for first place in the Pacific Division. The Knights can still reach home ice. The Coyotes are fighting to stay in the playoff picture. The Blackhawks are within reach of a playoff spot.
Prediction: Kings win four games, finishing with 66 points, 29th in the standings.
Record: 27-37-9, 63 points.
Home games: Washington, Boston, Arizona, Buffalo, St. Louis, New York Rangers.
Road games: Detroit, Carolina, Florida.
Devils buzz: The Devils have lost eight of their past 10 games, but six of their final nine games are at home, where they are 17-12-6.
Opponent buzz: The Capitals and Bruins are trying to shore up home ice, and the Hurricanes and Coyotes are trying to stay in the playoff picture.
Prediction: Devils win three games to finish with 69 points.
[ Jack Hughes is the ‘generational’ talent who could help save Hockeytown ]
Contact Helene St. James at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames. Read more on the Detroit Red Wings and sign up for our Red Wings newsletter.
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