NHL Central Division Misery Index: Red Wings, Predators are perfectly, miserably matched

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Ryan Ford, Detroit Free Press
·7 min read
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It’s the stoppable force vs. the movable object.

Yes, the inverse of the ancient paradox, “The unstoppable force vs. the immovable object,” will be on display this week as the Detroit Red Wings host the Nashville Predators.

We were already looking forward to the two-game series starting Tuesday between the Wings and the Preds — the Central Division’s two worst teams by a fair bit, even as they're both coming off wins Saturday — in a “dueling trainwreck” sort of way; this is the Central Division Misery Index, after all.

Let’s go to the numbers …

The Predators can’t score, with just 39 goals in 17 games; the Wings are worse, with 39 goals in 20 games.

The Wings can’t stop anyone from scoring, averaging 3.2 goals against per game; the Preds are worse, giving up 3.4 per game.

Detroit Red Wings right wing Anthony Mantha crosses the path of Florida Panthers goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky during the first period Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2021, in Sunrise, Fla.
Detroit Red Wings right wing Anthony Mantha crosses the path of Florida Panthers goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky during the first period Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2021, in Sunrise, Fla.

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The Preds have gotten just eight points (three goals) out of their second highest-paid player, Matt Duchene; the Wings have gotten three points (no goals) from their highest-paid player, Frans Nielsen (who was put on waivers over the weekend), and nine points (five goals) from their third highest-paid player, Anthony Mantha.

And then there’s those special teams.

The Wings have gone 12 games without a power-play goal, last scoring with the man advantage 7:26 into the third period on Jan. 28 against Dallas. (For comparison, Florida’s Patric Hornqvist has three power play goals since then — solely against the Wings.)

It’s the longest single-season streak without a power play goal for the Wings since the 1939-40 Wings went 19 games.

Meanwhile, only 17 teams in the past 50 NHL seasons have gone at least a dozen consecutive games without a power-play goal. Only nine have gone 13 games over that span, with the 2017-18 Calgary Flames checking in as the most recent. (The 1977-78 Cleveland Barons set the record in the NHL’s post-Original Six era with 16 straight, from Feb. 4-March 11, 1978. That was so bad, the city gave up on hockey; the Barons merged with the North Stars franchise for the ’78-79 season. So it could always be worse, Wings fans.)

Of course, the Preds have been almost as hapless on the penalty kill, with 19 power play goals allowed in 17 games, and a 68.3% penalty kill. (The Wings aren’t much better, at 71.2%.) You have to go back to 1982-83 for the last NHL team with a penalty kill under 70%. (That would be the L.A. Kings, who allowed 92 power play goals in 80 games, with a 68.6% kill rate. Then again, those Kings had 10 shorthanded goals. These Preds have none.)

And that’s with Nashville going four straight games without allowing a power play goal. In other words, they’re due.

And, maybe, so are the Wings.

But while we wait to see which unit flops first at Little Caesars Arena, let’s run through the Central Division’s Misery Index in Week 6, from the least miserable to the most:

8. Hurricanes

This week’s record, goal differential: 3-0-1, +9.

Last week’s ranking: 6.

Carolina Hurricanes center Vincent Trocheck (16) celebrate a second period goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning at PNC Arena on Feb. 20, 2021.
Carolina Hurricanes center Vincent Trocheck (16) celebrate a second period goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning at PNC Arena on Feb. 20, 2021.

Vincent Trocheck’s goal Saturday against the Lightning gave him 300 points in his career, making him the most successful Vinny to set up shop in the South since (My Cousin) Vinny Gambini. (Unfortunately, he’s got a ways to go to be the most successful Vincent in NHL history. There’ve only been two other forwards, but they were pretty decent — Mr. Lecavalier was a No. 1 overall pick who finished with 949 points, while Mr. Damphousse had 1,205.)

7. Panthers

This week’s record, goal differential: 3-1-0, +7.

Last week’s ranking: 4.

Three wins with a combined 17 goals scored, followed by a one-goal loss, is a pretty good week. Then again, that one loss was to the Wings, so….

We’d normally make a joke here about how the Panthers have the fourth-best record in the NHL but have already piled up six of their eight scheduled games against the Wings — but of their three losses in regulation, two have come against Detroit. They might be the only team glad to not play the Wings for the next five weeks.

6. Blackhawks

This week’s record, goal differential: 2-1-0, +1.

Last week’s ranking: 5.

Your weekly reminder that Patrick Kane is still pretty good, even at age 32. He’s tied for fifth in the league in points and produced a Hall-of-Fame highlight goal with his slow-motion spinning goal against the WhalersHurricanes on Friday. Kane is just one of two players in their 30s among the top 10 in points this season — Washington’s Niklas Backstrom, at 33, is the other — and if he keeps this up, it’ll be his fifth top-10 finish in six seasons.

(Oh, you wanted misery? Imagine being Carolina defenseman Brett Pesce and trying to deal with that move.)

5. Predators

This week’s record, goal differential: 1-1-0, -1.

Last week’s ranking: 2.

With the Preds’ victory over Columbus on Saturday, Pekka Rinne became the winningest goalie in NHL history against the Blue Jackets, with 22 wins against the franchise. Not too shabby, considering it was his first win over Columbus since April 2018. (Not very far down the list: Ex-Red Wing Manny Legace, who had 18 wins over just seven seasons with Detroit and St. Louis.)

Feb 20, 2021; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Nashville Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne (35) reacts as Columbus Blue Jackets left wing Nick Foligno (71) deflects the puck in the air in the first period at Nationwide Arena.
Feb 20, 2021; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Nashville Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne (35) reacts as Columbus Blue Jackets left wing Nick Foligno (71) deflects the puck in the air in the first period at Nationwide Arena.

4. Blue Jackets

This week’s record, goal differential: 1-2-0, -3.

Last week’s ranking: 7.

Columbus somehow went the whole week without coach John Tortorella benching a star player. The Hockey Gods apparently thirst for Blue Jacket blood, though, as half their goalie tandem – 26-year-old Latvian Elvis Merzlikins — left the ice* Saturday with a “week-to-week” upper-body injury.

*You thought we were going to say “left the building,” didn’t you?

MISERY INDEX FLASHBACK

WEEK 5: Roses are Red (Wings), Jackets are Blue

WEEK 4: Red Wings goalies stop, collaborate and listen

WEEK 3: Wings far from alone in 'Heartbreak Hotel'

WEEK 2: It's not a rivalry until you start talking cat urine

WEEK 1: What if the Big Ten and SEC had a hockey-playing baby?

3. Red Wings

This week’s record, goal differential: 1-2-1, -7.

Last week’s ranking: 3.

On Wednesday, coach Jeff Blashill was clear: “I think the biggest thing is you can’t be satisfied with close losses.” On Friday, the Wings lost by five goals. Which, uh …. mission accomplished?

Panthers goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky defends Red Wings center Dylan Larkin in the second period of the Wings' 2-1 win on Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021, at Little Caesars Arena.
Panthers goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky defends Red Wings center Dylan Larkin in the second period of the Wings' 2-1 win on Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021, at Little Caesars Arena.

2. Stars

This week’s record, goal differential: DNP.

Last week’s ranking: 1.

The Stars had all four home games for the week wiped out because of the winter storm that crushed Texas, leaving them with 44 games to play in 78 days. We joked in January about trying to backload the schedule for when Ben Bishop and Tyler Seguin return from injuries, but, uh, this might be taking it a bit too far.

(We had a joke about the NHL drawing postponements for cold and delaying another game for “excessive sun” on Saturday, but then Gary Bettman dropped the line of the week: “Sunshine has always been our enemy.” There’s a reason he gets all the boos at Stanley Cup time, eh?)

1. Lightning

This week’s record, goal differential: 0-2-0, -6.

Last week’s ranking: 8.

You have to go back to March 7, 2019, to find the last time a team other than the Hurricanes shut out the Lightning (as they did Saturday and Jan. 28). Don’t expect to see the Bolts at the bottom of these rankings for long, is what we’re saying.

Contact Ryan Ford at rford@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @theford.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: NHL Central Division Misery Index: Red Wings, Predators a perfect pair