Henrik Zetterberg Leading Detroit Red Wings to Recent Success

2003 Season: Player Henrik Zetterberg of the Detroit Red Wings. (Photo by Bruce Bennett Studios/Getty Images)

At 36 years old, Henrik Zetterberg is not the same player that won the Conn Smythe Trophy in 2008 after totaling 13 goals and 14 assists on the way to winning the Stanley Cup. Hank, as he is known by fans and teammates alike, has forgotten his age and the toll that 19 seasons of hockey have put his body through. His 20 points through 27 games leads the team, and his six goals are tied for second behind Dylan Larkin‘s team-leading eight. He has been the key reason behind the Detroit Red Wings recent success.

Regaining His Old Form

In his season plus as coach of the Red Wings, Jeff Blashill has shown a propensity for switching up line combinations in an attempt to increase scoring. This has lead to Zetterberg playing with many different teammates throughout the season. The lack of continuity hasn’t seemed to bother ‘Z’ as he has shown scoring and point numbers that he hasn’t reached since the 2010-2011 season.

Many thought that his numbers would drop off as more of the scoring punch would have to come from his stick. He has seemed to embrace being the top dog tag once again. Throughout his career, Zetterberg has been about a point-per-game player for the Red Wings. Last season was his worst season since ’03-04 when he tallied only 43 points, but also did so in 21 less games. He also had a career worst minus-15 rating by seasons end, which was 45 points worse than his peak season of ’07-08. He has rebounded considerably this year, with a plus-5 rating at the time of this article. The analytics seem to agree with his improved form.

Zetterberg one of few Red Wings with positive Corsi Numbers

Hockey analytics, and analytics in general for that matter, are a hotly debated topic throughout the sports world. There is a firm divide between old school general managers and front office personnel, and the young up-and-coming general managers who see analytics as the way of the future. Of Red Wings players who have played in at least half of the teams games, Zetterberg is the only player with a positive Corsi For Percentage at 50.3. Anthony Mantha and Brian Lashoff are the only two others players with positive Corsi For numbers, and they have only played 12 and two games respectively. Zetterberg also leads the team in Fenwick For percentage at 50.7, and is second among players to play every game in PDO at 102.1

Zetterberg Playing even Better During Stretch of Points in Seven of Eight

The world today is one of “what have you done for me lately?”. If success isn’t present or evident in the near future, changes are usually made. Blashill seems to be a firm believer in this idea. He changes the line pairings before almost every game, and continues to tinker with them during the course of a game. So far, his most consistent player has been Zetterberg, who after last season’s dreadful numbers seemed to have his best playing days behind him.

He struggled to start the season, but has rebounded nicely over the past eight games. Detroit was able to get points in seven of their last eight, moving them within two points of the final wildcard spot in the Eastern Conference. Zetterberg has eight points in their last eight games, including multi-point games against the New York Islanders and New Jersey Devils. His advanced stats back up these numbers as he has posted a 56.7 CF% and a 57.8 FF%. Mike Green has also contributed to the Red Wings recent success, posting a CF% of 52.3 and a FF% of 52.4 while tallying two goals and three assists over that time.

Can Detroit Continue its Stretch of Recent Success?

Detroit has been hit by the injury bug a lot this season. They have already had at least six players miss time with injury, yet still have managed to keep themselves within striking distance of a playoff spot. Once players start to come back from injury, Ken Holland and Jeff Blashill will have decisions to make within their roster. Keeping Mantha and Andreas Athanasiou in the lineup will provide the team with the speed and youth that an aging roster desperately needs to stay competitive. The question will be if Blashill and Holland will be willing to make veterans like Drew Miller and Steve Ott healthy scratches. Regardless of what happens, its certain that for the Red Wings recent success to continue, Henrik Zetterberg will have to be leading the charge.

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