On the surface, it appears the Red Wings are in a semi-comfortable position, but with the way things are going in the Eastern Conference, you can’t discount any possibilities.
Detroit is a month away from punching its ticket to the Stanley Cup Playoffs for a 25th consecutive season, and with 17 games remaining in the regular season, it has a four-point lead on the conference’s second wild card spot. The closest challengers are the Philadelphia Flyers (71 points), who handily beat the Blue Jackets on Saturday night to remain alive in the postseason chase.
The Red Wings come to Columbus on a bit of a stumble having lost back-to-back games to the Chicago Blackhawks. There’s no shame in that with the Blackhawks playing as well as any team in the league right now, but as time winds down, the Red Wings need to pile up points and make sure their four-point cushion only grows as the season gets older.
Columbus seeks a bounce-back of its own following a 6-0 loss in Philadelphia on Saturday night, a game in which nothing seemed to go right for the Blue Jackets. They fell behind early and were down 4-0 after two periods, and adding insult to injury was a dearth of scoring chances to get them back in the game.
The Blue Jackets are 9-2-2 in their last 13 meetings with the Red Wings. The two teams will face off again on Mar. 17 at Nationwide Arena to wrap up their three-game season series.
The Blue Jackets and Red Wings met at Joe Louis Arena on Feb. 23 in a nationally-televised game on NBC Sports Network. Boone Jenner scored his third goal in two games on a late first period wrist shot that beat Petr Mrazek to the near side, but the Blue Jackets’ offense stalled from there.
A miscue on the power play allowed Detroit to tie the game in the third period courtesy of a Riley Sheahan shorthanded goal, and despite a couple of chances for Columbus later in the period, the game required overtime and then a shootout. Sheahan supplied the shootout winner for the Red Wings in what was a tight-checking game on both sides with a limited number of opportunities.
If not for Chicago rookie Artemi Panarin, 19-year-old Dylan Larkin might be walking away with the Calder Trophy (he still may win it, but at this point, it appears to be Panarin’s to lose). The Waterford, Michigan native and former University of Michigan Wolverine has made an instant impact in his rookie season with the Red Wings, and currently leads Detroit with 19 goals.
A first-round pick of the Red Wings in 2014, Larkin is the centerpiece of the next generation of Red Wings hockey. He’s got blazing speed and high-end skill to go with it, and his 39 points are two shy of captain Henrik Zetterberg for the team scoring lead.
Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill has plenty of options with this budding superstar – he can play him at center or on the wing, and he’s a lethal weapon in 3-on-3 overtime.