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Every point matters for Wings

Playoff race starts early in log-jammed Western Conference

Friday, 03.15.2013 / 6:23 PM ET / News
By Bill Roose  - Managing Editor | DetroitRedWings.com
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Every point matters for Wings
The Red Wings and captain Henrik Zetterberg need two big points tonight in Edmonton. Zetterberg has three assists in two games against the Oilers this year. (Photo by Gregory Shamus)

EDMONTON – With more than 30 percent of this season’s Western Conference games going beyond 60 minutes to determine a winner, teams are leap-frogging each other in the standings at a dizzying pace.

Through Thursday’s schedule, 60 of the 199 conference games played have been three-point contests with each team receiving a point for reaching overtime, while the team that wins in overtime of a shootout gets an additional point in the standings.

Parity among league teams in this compressed 48-game schedule is the main culprit for the jostling in the standings, especially in the Western Conference where only eight-points separates the No. 4 seed from the bottom.

Whatever the reason, it’s setting the stage for high drama as a madding playoff race is definitely underway in the wild, wild West. With six weeks remaining in the regular-season, the Red Wings are also entering unchartered water. Fight for a playoff berth is new to the Wings, who annually have been among the conference’s top performers. But this year, the Wings are scratching for every single point that they can get to keep their league-best 21-straight playoff appearances alive.

A week ago the Red Wings – who are 2-5 in overtimes/shootouts this season – were the fourth seed in the West. But after getting just one point in their last three games, the Wings are the ninth seed as they prepare for tonight’s game against the Edmonton Oilers at Rexall Place.

“The league is close, and the three-point nights are making it a tighter race,” Wings forward Patrick Eaves said. “I knew there were a lot of three-point games, but I didn’t know that it was up that much.”

For whatever reason, overtimes and shootouts in the West are up by more than 10 percent over the Eastern Conference, where 40-of-200 games played through Thursday have gone beyond 60 minutes.

The conference standings certainly reflect the overtime/shootout statistics. The West standings are much tighter with only eight points separating No. 4 and No. 15. Contrastingly, the playoff race in the East isn’t as cramped with 19-points wedged between the fourth and 15th seeds.

Even with just two games on the Western Conference docket tonight – No. 10 Nashville plays at No. 14 Calgary – the Red Wings will wake-up Saturday in Vancouver somewhere between No. 5 and No. 10.

“We can’t be worrying about other teams, it’s about getting the job done here with the 20 guys that are dressed, night in, night out,” forward Jordin Tootoo said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re in the lineup or out of the lineup, everyone has to be on the same page. Two days ago we were fourth, and next thing you know we’re ninth, so we just have to worry about us.”

There has been some talk over the years to have the NHL move to a point system that rewards winning. Right now there are two Western teams – Vancouver and Nasvhille – who remain in the thick of the playoff hunt as each has five shootout losses.

Currently some European leagues and the CCHA in the United States use a 3-2-1 system that awards three points for each win in regulation or overtime, and one point for an overtime tie. Games tied after 65 minutes advance to a shootout with the winning team receiving an extra point in the standings.

But Tootoo doesn’t think change is necessary.

“You see the parity now because of the three-point games. For me personally, it’s about winning,” he said. “When you win more often than not, good things are going to happen. I think it’s fine, personally, it’s not a big deal.”

The Wings aren’t hitting the panic button, but there needs to be an emphasis on winning, and doing so in regulation.

“You never want to giveaway another point, especially this year,” Eaves said. “We need to get as many points as we can, trying to get some sort of separation just because there’s such a logjam.

““We still have a ways to go. We just started the back end of the schedule, but it is so tight. If you don’t play a game you can move down significantly, so it’s just the way it is. We have to win the games when we play.”

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose

SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - NYR 82 53 22 7 248 187 113
2 y - MTL 82 50 22 10 214 184 110
3 x - TBL 82 50 24 8 259 206 108
4 x - WSH 82 45 26 11 237 199 101
5 x - NYI 82 47 28 7 245 224 101
6 x - DET 82 43 25 14 231 211 100
7 x - OTT 82 43 26 13 232 208 99
8 x - PIT 82 43 27 12 217 204 98
9 BOS 82 41 27 14 209 201 96
10 FLA 82 38 29 15 198 213 91
11 CBJ 82 42 35 5 227 248 89
12 PHI 82 33 31 18 212 223 84
13 NJD 82 32 36 14 176 209 78
14 CAR 82 30 41 11 183 219 71
15 TOR 82 30 44 8 206 257 68
16 BUF 82 23 51 8 153 269 54

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
H. Zetterberg 77 17 49 -6 66
P. Datsyuk 63 26 39 12 65
T. Tatar 82 29 27 6 56
G. Nyquist 82 27 27 -11 54
J. Abdelkader 71 23 21 3 44
N. Kronwall 80 9 35 -4 44
R. Sheahan 79 13 23 -3 36
D. Helm 75 15 18 7 33
D. DeKeyser 80 2 29 11 31
S. Weiss 52 9 16 -2 25
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
J. Howard 23 13 11 .910 2.44
P. Mrazek 16 9 2 .918 2.38

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