The Wings started to stake their claim on that 8th spot with a big win over the No. 2 team in the Western Conference on Sunday, their fourth in five games. The win pushed them into the eight seed, just a point above the Calgary Flames.
So, naturally, Tuesday night's game against those pesky Flames was BIG. Detroit was facing the team they are currently neck-and-neck with for that final, coveted, playoff spot. A win distances them from the Flames, and a loss allows Calgary to leap frog them again.
The Wings might be predominantly healthy, finally, but one of their biggest problems all season long haunted them again on Tuesday against the Flames. Healthy or not, the Wings have a problem closing teams out, finishing games, and/or suffering major collapses.
Leading 2-1 going into the third period, and the Wings somewhat in cruise control, the Wings gave up three unanswered goals to the Flames, and wound up falling 4-2 in the end. As I mentioned, the loss puts the Flames in the 8th spot and the Wings on the outside looking in with just 16 games to play (including one more against the Flames next Monday).
So what about those disturbing collapses? The Wings have lost 23 games this season, and Tuesday's disappointing loss marks the 11th in collapsing fashion. That's NOT including the four times the Wings have been shutout this season (three 3-0 losses and one 6-0 loss). In those 11 games, the Wings have at least had somewhat of a handle on the game and then utterly fell apart. Here's a breakdown of those games, including some other tough L's and games of note (aforementioned collapses are in bold):
Game 1: allowed final three goals (in the 2nd period) and lost 4-3 to the Blues.
Game 2: allowed final three goals to end the game (two in the 2nd period and one in the third) and lost 5-3 to the Blues.
Game 5: allowed five unanswered goals and lost 6-2 to the Sabres.
Game 8: allowed a goal in the final three minutes and lost in OT to the Coyotes.
Game 9: allowed final three goals (one in 2nd and two in the third) and lost 3-1 to the Avalanche.
Game 49: allowed final two goals in the 3rd and lost 3-2 to the Capitals.
Game 50: allowed final two goals in the 3rd, but won in a shootout vs. the Wild.
Game 51: allowed final three goals (one in the 2nd and two in the 3rd period) and lost 3-2 to the Kings.
Game 52: allowed final three goals (two in the 3rd period and game winner in OT) and lost 5-4 to the Coyotes.
Game 53: allowed final three goals (one in the 2nd and two in the 3rd period) and lost 5-2 to the Wild.
Game 58: allowed final four goals (three in the 2nd and one in the 3rd period) and lost 4-3 to the Kings.
Game 63: allowed four unanswered goals before Wings scored meaningless goal in 3rd period and lost 6-3 to the Canucks.
Game 65: allowed two 3rd period goals, but held on to win 5-4 vs. the Blackhawks
Game 66: allowed final three goals in 3rd period and lost 4-2 to the Flames.
The Red Wings are healing on the injury front from what it seems, but they'd be a lock in the playoffs right now if it weren't for their sluggish play late in games. I don't know if this is a pattern for Wings losses in previous years, but it's a new feeling to me this season (and maybe it's happening all over hockey this year, I don't know). All I know is, it seems the Wings aren't playing at a high level for a full 60 minutes on more nights than not. Further proof being the plenty of Wings wins that have come as a result of late surges after sleep skating through the first couple of periods. With just 16 games left, I expect to see a little more urgency out of the team that hasn't missed the playoffs since I was just a wee lad.
Wings play again on Thursday against the Wild. Nine of their final 16 games will be at The Joe where they are 17-10-5.