The Detroit Red Wings are waging a mental war against themselves. That battle is greater than any fight that Detroit has faced from opposing teams over the past six contests.
This is because the Red Wings are without a win in those six games. The Wings have done everything from blowing two-goal leads to coming back to force overtime with under a minute to go.
Yet they still can't find a way to win in either regulation or the shootout.
But it shouldn't be considered a problem just yet, and here are some reasons why.
The Participation Point
Call it whatever sounds best, but the fact of the matter is that Detroit is still picking up points in the standings, despite not winning a game in over two weeks.
Thanks to the overtime/shootout-loss point, the Red Wings are still in a playoff position, despite winning just nine of 21 contests.
This is consistent with data from previous seasons (excluding last year's lockout-shortened season), which shows that teams like the 2011-12 Florida Panthers made the playoffs with just 38 wins in 82 games because they had 18 overtime or shootout defeats.
The Los Angeles Kings also made the playoffs that year by winning less than half of their games. They won the Stanley Cup.
Admittedly, it is difficult for fans to get excited about losing—and one could make an argument that teams shouldn't be rewarded for losing. For now, Red Wings fans should rejoice that Detroit is still relevant in the playoff picture after not winning in what seems like forever.
Turning the Corner
Shootout losses and overtime losses are different than regulation losses in one key area. That area is that the team that loses played well enough to get into overtime or a shootout but lost what is normally a 50-50 event.
The Red Wings haven't just been getting by in these shootout losses, but instead, they have been taking it to teams for large portions of some of the games in this recent winless streak.
Detroit has had a lead in five out of the six games in this winless streak and has never trailed by more than one goal in any game until late in games.
Bottom line is that Detroit has to turn a corner sooner rather than later, as they have picked up their consistency across the board despite the winless streak.
The Third Period
The Red Wings seem to play well for 40 minutes each game and then give the game away in the third period. That has been the theme of this six-game winless streak and has been a problem all season.
While it is imperative that teams play a 60-minute hockey game if they want to win on a nightly basis, the Red Wings have built some two-goal leads going into the second intermission in multiple games during this winless streak.
If we hadn't gone through the last five-six games, this point would be pretty good...Right now it's tough; we can't find a way to win a game. I think we battled hard tonight. It was a back-to-back game and we found a way to come back at the end. Overall, I think it's a good point, but we were right there to get two points.
Zetterberg and the Red Wings may be frustrated, but sooner rather than later, they have to shore things up in the third period and turn the corner.
Plain and simple, it has become difficult to watch the Red Wings over the last two weeks because they have not been playing traditional Detroit Red Wings hockey.
Fans will be quick to judge the Red Wings' season as a failure if the team does not achieve a higher playoff spot in what has turned out to be a largely weak Eastern Conference. But the point to take home from this six-game winless streak is that the Red Wings have played just 21 games this season.
There are 61 games left.
There is plenty of time to right the ship, and the Red Wings picking up points in their last five consecutive games means that although they aren't winning, they are where they should be in the standings.
That place is in the playoff picture.
While it is far too early to begin talking playoffs, it never hurts to be the team being chased in the standings rather than the one doing the chasing.
Points in the standings that are picked up in November go a long way to helping a team's cause come March and early April.
Hopefully at the end of the season, this shootout/overtime loss streak will be something that Detroit players and fans can laugh about.
All statistics via NHL.com.
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