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Defense and Goaltending Are Making the Detroit Red Wings Competitive

Yahoo Contributor Network

COMMENTARY | The defense -- and more noticeably Jimmy Howard -- gave the Detroit Red Wings a chance to end the Chicago Blackhawks' point streak on Sunday, March 3.

However, a late delay of game penalty by Jonathan Ericsson hurt the Red Wings as the Blackhawks scored on the power play and eventually won in a shootout.

Despite the loss, I like what I'm seeing from the defense as of late. In the past five games, the Red Wings have allowed seven goals, which is an average of 1.4 per game.

There are two things I'm noticing about the defense that wasn't prevalent at the beginning of the season: Defenders are blocking shots and sticks are disrupting scoring chances.

Against the Blackhawks, defenseman Brian Lashoff had five blocked shots, and at least two of them were on penalties the Red Wings killed early in the game. The Red Wings had 16 blocked shots.

The defense is getting in shooting lanes and making it hard for opposing teams to get pucks on net.

When the defense doesn't get in the shooting lanes, they are getting sticks on the puck to disrupt scoring chances.

Kyle Quincey and Ericsson had key stops to keep the Blackhawks off the scoreboard early in the game.

I was critical of Quincey and Brendan Smith at the beginning of the season when Quincey had a minus-4 in the first three games and Smith looked uncomfortable playing at the NHL level.

However, Quincey was a plus-10 in the month of February and now is plus-11 on the season.

Smith is a plus-4 on the season, but he also missed 11 games in February with a shoulder injury.

The defense is by no means what it has been in the past, but it is starting to come along as players get healthy and line combinations can stay consistent.

Goaltending also has kept the Red Wings competitive.

In the past four games Howard has started, he has a 0.948 save percentage and a 1.48 GAA with one shutout and one shootout loss.

The game against the Blackhawks easily could have been a rout had Howard not performed exceptionally well.

Unfortunately, the same could be said for Corey Crawford as he stood on his head once the Red Wings offense picked up steam.

The defense and goaltending will need to stay solid if the Red Wings want to secure a playoff spot.

Tom Mitsos is a Michigan native who covers the Detroit Red Wings for the Yahoo! Contributor Network. He also is a high school sports reporter at MLive Media Group. You can follow Tom on Twitter @tom_mitsos.

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